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TSAV (LEVITICUS 6:1- 8:36)

TSAV (LEVITICUS 6:1- 8:36)

Today we had our second meeting of our Trans/Nonbinary book club for my synagogue ( I am writing this a few weeks after the reading of Tsav, because I am behind on my entries). We were meeting in person for the first time, which was great. There were 5 of us, plus our cis-het rabbi, so 6 total. It felt pretty incredible that I had sort of imagined this thing into existence and now I was heading into the second meeting of it. This week we were talking about the first chapter of the book The Soul of The Stranger, which covers the beginning of Genesis. The rabbi was saying how even though shes read the Torah many time, each time she re reads it a different part stands out to her, or a part has new meaning. In my yoga practice I read and then immediately begin again the Yoga Sutras. For many years it was ONE sutra that stuck out to me, ne sutra that seemed most important, most dominant, and then after a while, that sort of shifted and other sutras would stand out, other things would become more meaningful for a while, new depth would be explored in new places, etc. And I was saying, on our way to book club, the same is true of the Torah- That for a while I felt really focused on Genesis and the words at the beginning. But now my focus, maybe through writing about it, or just sheer repetition, has shifted and new interest has popped up in other places and on other things.

But what is sort of interesting this week is, we get this command from g-d:

The fire on the altar shall be kept burning, not to go out: every morning the priest shall feed wood to it, lay out the burnt offering on it, and turn into smoke the fat parts of the offerings of well-being. A perpetual fire shall be kept on the fire, not to go out.” (Lev 6:5- 6:6)

In WTC this week Rabbi Claire Magidovitch Green tells us that this ner tamid, this perpetual light that we are commanded to keep in Lev 6:5/6:6 “burns as the visible expression of the heated devotion of a people to its God”.

When I said that there was ONE single sutra that stuck out to me for years, it was Sutra 1.14, which varies by translation, but is something like this:

You must practice for a long period of time, with no interruptions, with a feeling of love.”

That sounds a lot like the ner tamid. Especially when you think about the yogic niyama (inner practice) of Tapas, which is your internal fire- your inner drive, your heat. But, as WTC asks, (so appropriately as I stumble along in my yogic practice and my Leviticus reading) “How do we keep in touch with that spark of inspiration that keeps us true and focused?” How do we read this and feel any relevance? How do we do it with love? How do we read Leviticus, or even Genesis (like we did in book club today) and make it our own?

I think things like community can help. They help to bring the stories into our own lives. Talking and sharing help us make sense of our own experiences. And sharing the reading makes it a community effort, but can also make the personal more meaningful, more rich. Reading it together, practicing the interpretation together, makes it come alive in a new way. That’s at least one way that I felt, in a very real way today, to stay in touch with it.

I think its just a process, a practice. Like yoga. Like reading the torah every week even though sometimes it makes less sense. In TQ, Noach Dzmura points out that the “eternal” part of the word really might mean something more like “well-tended”, referring to a relationship “that changes and grows”, reminding us that our ner tamid is “a flame that must be tended regularly, incessantly.”

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