The kohanim weren’t the only ones waiting impatiently for the 7 days of miluim. The entire Jewish people have spent these days waiting with bated breath. In fact, the 8 occasionally tedious, detail-filled chapters of Vayikra have been pregnant with dramatic tension, saturated with feelings of uncertainty and guilt. Can the sin of the golden calf really be overcome? The book of Shemot had ended with that question still alive, even after the construction of the Mishkan. The Divine presence had rested on it, but in a way that allowed no space for human entrance. In Vayikra, Moshe himself has engaged with God’s presence, has heard His voice- but he is clean of the blemish of that great sin. How can the Jewish people as a whole renew their relationship with God?
Vayikra has been laying the groundwork, with exquisite detail, and its core message is hinted at by a strangely anachronistic Midrash.
Aharon’s final act before succeeding, with Moshe, where Moshe had previously failed, is to bless the people. The Torah doesn’t tell us what he said. The Midrash fills in the lacuna with words that are only written much later, in the book of Bamidbar. It’s not all that unusual to suggest that Aharon would recite the priestly blessing at this point, but perhaps it holds a deeper message as well.
A fascinating aspect of Birkat Kohanim as it is practiced is the halacha’s insistence on the integrity of each parties’ role in the blessing. Chazan, kohen, and congregant each has their part to say, which must be said without interruption. The peace of the priestly blessing is embodied first and foremost by giving each person their space and their say.
When you read the account of the dedication service in chapter 9, you get the same sense of the significance of each party fulfilling their role- Aharon, his sons, the people. The sin of the golden calf resulted from an unhealthy focus and reliance on their leader to sustain their religious life. What the Mishkan does is not to remove that entirely, but to place a religious leader within a system which demands, which is conditioned on, the active participation of the people. Only this participation can return the God’s Divine presence to the nation.
This is my own little insight about the 929 chapter of the day, in 300 words or so. I’d love to hear your comments and start a conversation
What’s 929? A near-impossible challenge of consistency. A song of Jewish unity. A beautiful project worth checking out. Learn more at 929.org.il