Sunday, May 6, 2012
My Weekly Parsha Article For Noahides on Noahidenations.com:
Parashas Acharei – Kedoshim: Shem – The Father of The Priesthood
Rabbi David P. Katz
In this week’s Torah Portion we become acquainted with the famous idea that a Noahide who engages in Torah is compared to the High Priest, [Bava Kama 38a] as the Verse states, [Vayikra 18:4-5] “My Judgments you shall do and My statutes you shall keep – to go with them I am Hashem Your God. And you shall keep my Laws and my Judgments that you will do them [i.e. the] Man and Live in them – I am Hashem!” The Talmud in Bava Kama then learns out that the Torah is unique in its usage of the term, “Man” as opposed to a specific type of Man. Thus when any Man learns Torah, all are equal and unique in the eyes of God; both Priest of the Highest and the Noahide…and every type of Man. This begs the question: what really is a Priest and where does the Priesthood come from? We get our first good look at the Priesthood at what could be the essence of the entire Torah: Shem / Malki Tzedek and his meeting / exchange with Abraham. The Midrash relates to us that as Abraham received the Laws of the Priesthood from Shem in the passing of the Blessings between the two, Abraham by means of these Laws merited the revelation of the Torah in its entirety. Likewise, as the Laws of the Priesthood are found in Vayikra, the middle, or the heart of the Torah, Torah ideas such as the Noahide who is compared to the High Priest is an aspect of revelation that contains the entire Torah. The story between Shem and Abraham took place on the Temple Mount after Shem had the privilege of stepping onto the New World as its Priest after the Flood in the merit of his Kindness (חסד) with the animals and his promise to God to fashion the World with principles based on Righteousness (צדקה). Thus after some 400 years of Shem teaching and spreading Torah as High Priest of the World based out of Mt. Zion, Shem finally found his long lost relative – someone that would understand Shem’s Universal message and essential Torah: Abraham. The secret was that the only way this rite of passage could take place would be under the direction of the Laws of the Priesthood. With Shem as the fully functioning and experienced Priest, he was ready to plant the seeds of Torah for eternity, and all he needed was a candidate to express his kindness and righteousness to; Abraham was more than ready! With Shem ready for this monumental meeting amongst Men, the only missing component was the vessel by which could reach Abraham with the full thrust of what was to take place: The Giving of the Torah at its first stage in History.
It is precisely this point where Shem was able to initiate a Primordial Innovation to the Torah to ensure its Taking: A Blessing! By engaging in Blessings between the two, (a Blessing is contained in Shalom / Peace) the Laws and full Revelation would take place. As Abraham (who took the position of novice to Shem) took the Liberty to Bless Shem first, Shem seized the moment to Bless in return, to Bless God properly, and to correct Abraham’s order of operation. The platform was then set for Abraham to take the Priesthood by understanding the proper conduct of a Priest by Shem’s behavior and his “rebuke” to Abraham. By understanding that God must at all times be Blessed first, the essence of the Torah was then given to Abraham in the vehicle of Laws of the Priesthood; It was Shem’s innovation and Blessing to which this possible.
The two Men then acknowledged each other, God, and the Place in the Holiest of terms, as they had just changed The World for all of time in Jerusalem, and brought success and completion to Shem’s mission he undertook while exiting the Ark. Abraham, who was in Awe of Shem’s Torah (and therefore received revelation of God) decided to contribute by naming the location Yirah (Jeru) while Shem, the Master Craftsman of the Blessing, Priesthood, and the Giving over, appropriately named the Place Shalom (Salem, i.e. “Malki Tzedek the King of Salem). With both of them being full of respect and honor of each other, they saw this as a mutual Blessing and heartfelt admiration, one that would be seen as the opposite of a contradiction (in naming the Place two different names); rather it was the expression of the Will of God! From that moment onwards, the site was referred to “Jerusalem”, as it is until this day and forever onwards. The Torah further clarifies their bond by “ambiguously” stating that “he” gave “him” a tenth of everything (which is in connotation of giving to the Priest). The Zohar notices this unique word choice and states, “[wait!] Who gave to Who!? – The idea being that both were now on equal terms, and once the Akeida (Binding of Isaac) would take place, Abraham would then become the Father of the Kingdom of Priests, and it would be Shem who would teach this [Abraham the Priest] to Isaac, from the mouth of the original Priest, Shem!
Later, at Mt. Sinai (where Shem would be waiting in a quasi-state for 1300 years) the offspring of Shem and Abraham would receive the Torah (this time from the mouth of God) and take upon themselves to be a Kingdom of Priests. However the connection between both types of Priests, Noahides and Jews would be eternal, as it would be a Noahide (-Aravnah the Noahide, who sold Zion to King David) who would be in control of the Holy of Holies – The Abode of the High Priest! Yet we see that the Noahides are directly connected to the heart of the Priesthood, and the goal of which learning Torah brings upon a Man: revelation of God.
Just as Aaron, the High Priest was able to innovate, even to the ears of Moses, and Pinchas, the offspring of Aaron, who was able to innovate the unique Law of morality (the slaying of Zimri and Cozbi) which was beyond Moses’ awareness as well; so too the Noahide takes his firm grasp in his ability to innovate the Torah as well. For when the Noahide, who learns the Torah as it was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, in the Hebrew, or “Ever” aspect to Shem and his original Torah, he enjoys the company of God, and God enjoys his company. One of God’s delights is to hear innovations in Torah that are taught over to the righteous souls in the Garden of Eden who are awaiting their destination to the World of Truth; Noahide and Jew alike.
The Priest carries a weight of burden on his shoulders, as he must remain Holy and refrain from certain relationships. One proof that this word “Man” comes to us in this Parsha, alluding to the Priesthood, is to look at the very next passage in the Torah, which deals with forbidden relationships. The Noahide in his learning Torah is actually putting his soul in conversion, as he is becoming like the Priest: Holy and in revelation of God (The Torah there clearly says, as a revelation: “I am Hashem!”); which is found amongst the Laws of the Priesthood in the center of the Torah no less! We have Torah and Priesthood in the merit of Shem, but also the unique ability to innovate Torah in vessels of kindness, righteousness, Blessing, Peace, and Awe. The Torah may have been given on Mt. Sinai, among the Nation of Priests, but it is the Princely Nation of Priests, the Noahides, that are destined to open the Books to a whole new level of innovation in a union of Priests (Jew and Noahide), as the Craft of Torah was specifically placed for eternity, within each and every Noahide, going back to none other than Shem himself.