The framing of the Yom Kippur ritual in Torah is fascinating and disturbing. In the Torah the Yom Kippur ritual, which is actually the one off desert ritual of cleansing the Tabernacle of sin, which was then converted by the Holiness code, and then the Rabbis, into the annual Yom Kippur Temple ritual, is introduced with the following verses:
וַיְדַבֵּר ה׳ אֶל מֹשֶׁה אַחֲרֵי מוֹת שְׁנֵי בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן בְּקָרְבָתָם לִפְנֵי ה׳ וַיָּמֻתוּ
וַיֹּאמֶר ה׳ אֶל מֹשֶׁה דַּבֵּר אֶל אַהֲרֹן אָחִיךָ וְאַל יָבֹא בְכָל עֵת אֶל הַקֹּדֶשׁ מִבֵּית לַפָּרֹכֶת אֶל פְּנֵי
הַכַּפֹּרֶת אֲשֶׁר עַל הָאָרֹן וְלֹא יָמוּת כִּי בֶּעָנָן אֵרָאֶה עַל הַכַּפֹּרֶת
And God spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron’s two sons when they came forward before God and died. And God said to Moses: “Speak to Aaron your brother, that he not come at all times into the sacred zone within the curtain in front of the cover that is on the Ark, lest he die. For in the cloud I shall appear over the cover.”
As one of the great Hassidic masters says: והספיקות רבו/and the questions are many. In these two verses, God speaks to Moses twice, וידבר ה׳ and then ויאמר ה׳, but only after the second introduction “and God said to Moses” do we hear what God said. Aaron only had two sons, so would it not have been enough to say Aaron’s sons rather than Aaron’s two sons? The verse says that God spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron’s two sons. This might imply that it was immediately after the death of Nadav and Avihu—but that happened a while ago, and God has said many things between then and now. Also, speaking of Nadav and Avihu, why did the Torah not mention them by name rather than just saying Aaron’s two sons? Why is the incident of Nadav and Avihu’s deaths described as בקרבתם לפני ה׳ וימותו/when they came forward before God and died, rather than offering an explanation for why they died as in Leviticus 10, where it says that they brought foreign or strange fire before God? The verse here seems to be saying that they merely came “close to” God, or “came before” God and they died.
Why do we read the book of Jonah on Yom Kippur?
This is not a new question. There is a mini library of scholarship ancient and modern on this question. However, there is also a previous question to be asked, upon which there is another library of scholarship: What is the book of Jonah?
The Book of Jonah was summed up nicely by the Veggie Tales folks: Jonah was a prophet, oooh oooh/ But he never really got it, sad but true. and if you watch it you can spot it, a-doodley-doo!/ he did not get the point!
However, this brings in its wake the further question: Why are all the human characters vegetables, and yet the animal characters are still animals?
So there is still room for us to ask the question: What is the book of Jonah? Is it a book of prophecy like Isaiah or Jeremiah? Is it a narrative like Samuel or Kings? Is it something else? Continue reading
The good news is that Los Angeles has declared a State of Emergency on homelessness. This will enable the city to focus $100 million in resources towards housing those on the streets and preventing others from falling into homelessness. The bad news is that there has been a homelessness crisis for years. In fact, for much of that time, the city was part of the problem. At the beginning of the summer, City Council passed an ordinance which allowed LAPD or other city workers to confiscate (“steal”) the private property of people living on the streets—including their ID and medicines. While the summer in the poverty and homelessness committee of City Council has been spent in an attempt to gently walk back parts of the ordinance (which our mayor didn’t sign, but did not veto, and therefore it became law), the basic idea that being homeless is a criminal activity deserving of punishment still stands.
It is therefore a positive development that the same Council members from the Homelessness and Poverty Committee, were those who were, with the mayor, announcing a state of emergency. One, however, remains skeptical. In the last budget, approximately $100 million was allocated for homelessness. However, out of that $81 million was for LAPD while only $13 million was for homeless services. Criminalizing and jailing homeless folks will not solve the problem. This morning, the mayor again promised $100 million for fighting homelessness, and again said that $13 million would be put towards housing. In Los Angeles’ insane housing market, when there is not enough existing housing stock to house all those who need housing, $13 million is woefully inadequate. Luckily, along with members of the business community (a lot of the same folks who opposed the $15 an hour wage) there was a strong showing of housing and homeless advocates at the press conference this morning, to remind the mayor and the council that we will be keeping a wary eye on where the money ends up, and whether the community has serious input into those decisions. Continue reading