The End of Purity

In BeChukotai, this week’s Torah portion, we read about reward and punishment. If we follow the laws we get rain and if not no rain. This week also marks the end of the book of Leviticus. 

As we come to the end of the book I think back to the start of it. On the start of Leviticus there is a fascinating midrash that says, “Rav Assi said that young children began their Torah studies with Leviticus and not with Genesis because young children are pure, and the sacrifices explained in Leviticus are pure, so the pure studied the pure.”(Leviticus Rabbah 7:3.)

I understand why people might think that the story of Genesis is too nuanced to be a young child’s initiation to learning. But, just because we are not starting off with the Garden of Eden does not mean that we should start off with all of the blood and gore and guts of the sacrifices of Leviticus.

The word “korban” (sacrifice) derives from the word that means “that which is brought close.” Bringing a korban was not just the process of giving something up to the Tabernacle or Temple, but the process of becoming closer. Maybe this is what we need to be teaching our children.

What is the implications of coming to the end of Leviticus? There is a certain purity in the belief that everything should be fair. I would suggest that belief in reward and punishment is itself part of, but also maybe the end childhood. As we mature we realize that the world is not so simple. 

Hazak Hazak V’Nithazek– From strength to strength we move on to the book of Numbers and the next phase of education. 


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