Welcome All Newcomers

This week we start reading the book of Leviticus. It is fraught with information about sacrifices that can seem meaningless to the modern person. This week I wanted to focus on one section to see if we could learn something relevant to our lives. We read that when a leader sins, he brings a he-goat as a sacrifice (Leviticus 4:22-26). But a commoner is charged to bring a she-goat or a lamb in the same circumstance (Leviticus 4:27-35). What is the purpose of the commoner and the leader bringing two different offerings? What is the reason that we allow the commoner to bring either a goat or a lamb?

To explain this I wanted to share with you a great custom I heard a couple of years ago quoted in the name of Danny Siegel. Synagogues put out two color cups for their Kiddush receptions after services. The Rabbi announces that all new comers are invited to partake of the blue cups so that all of the people with the white cups know to whom they should introduce themselves. This custom allows the community to be welcoming, without forcing the newcomers to feel like outsiders; you are always welcome to pass and take a white cup.

Similarly, in our week’s portion we read that the commoners could have the option of which sacrifice they wanted to bring. In either case, the priest would know they were outsiders, but it need not be as public. They could choose to pass and bring a goat.

It seems to me that we, the leaders of our community, sin all the time by not being inclusive to newcomers. All too often, when we make an effort to bring people in, it has the reverse effect of indicating them as outsiders. I invite you to join me in finding new ways to make people feel welcome in our community.  Surely, there is no great sacrifice in making our community more inclusive.

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