An old saying teaches that we believe what we see, but the reverse is often true: we see what we believe.  And what we believe is often coloured by the stories we’ve learned. In less than two weeks, we are going to celebrate Pesach, Passover. The most important mitzvah for Pesach is to share knowledge with the next generation. But why?

When Abraham told the story of one God creating the universe, the idea of history—the belief that we can learn from our past—was created. After all, if there were many gods, as so much of the ancient world believed, what happened yesterday might have no bearing on today, because we might be dealing with a different god.  But with one God there could be one plan and one set of rules, so learning from the past—from yesterday, from our parents, or from the lives of our ancestors—became both possible and essential. It is no wonder that the TaNaCh, our Bible, not only records the victories of the Jewish people, like the hieroglyphics do for the Egyptians, but also our failures.  We must learn from both. Peoples, nations, cultures, faiths: all have stories that inform their vision and help shape their thinking.

For many Christians, the world is seen through the story of death and resurrection. For many Muslims, through the image of spiritual struggle and war. For Jews, our vision is one of leaving the slavery of the past, wandering through the wilderness of the present, and moving toward the promised land of the future.

Significantly, while so many other peoples speak of “the golden age of the past,” Judaism’s story puts the best of times in the future.  It is the Jewish vision that laid the groundwork for the belief in messianic times for so many people of the world. So important is the Jewish belief in the power of stories—and in particular, our Jewish story—that four times in the Bible we are commanded to tell our story to our children, whether or not they ask to hear it.

Our Pesach Haggadah translates this mitzvah into the story of four children—for a good reason. Jewish teaching explains the verse “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”—as opposed to “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”—as a lesson that each of us must find their own way to connect with the Jewish people, its history and with faith until that “faith relationship” becomes personal.  The lesson of the four children teaches us that we must work to understand each individual and hear each question before we respond. Otherwise, we may be providing answers important to ourselves, not those important to our students or children. Our hope is that all our children—every Jew and non-Jew alike—will be connected to our people, our history and our God.

Shabbat Shalom Rabbi Adrian M Schell
(Source: Lauren Eichler Berkun)

Torah Reading Shabbat Vayikra

Leviticus 1:1-5:26 Reading Lev  4:1-21
(Plaut 666; Hertz 417)

Haftarah: Isaiah  43:21-44:23
(Plaut 682; Hertz 424)

 In our weekly Torah portion God instructs Moses on the five different kinds of sacrifices that were to be offered in the sanctuary: * The olah or “burnt offering” was a voluntary sacrifice that had a high degree of sanctity and was regarded as the “standard” offering.

* The minchah or “meal offering” was a sacrifice made of flour, oil, salt, and frankincense.

* The zevach sh’lamim or “sacrifice of well-being” was a voluntary animal offering from one’s herd, sometimes brought to fulfill a vow.

* The chatat or “sin offering” was an obligatory sacrifice that was offered to expiate unintentional sins.

* And finally the asham or “penalty offering” was an obligatory sacrifice that was required chiefly of one who had misappropriated property.