Gluten Free Judaism

Thursday, 21 July, 2022 - 9:14 pm

What happens when many of the ingredients for a good dish are off the table for whatever reason? Usually, the improvised replacements don’t live up to the billing and the dish is hardly worth eating. C’mon, if it is gluten free, sugar free, and free of whatever else, is it not then going to be taste free?

In this week’s Torah portion, we find Moshe beseeching G-d to appoint a successor so that the Jews are not left as “flock without a shepherd.” Immediately following this, G-d commands Moshe to instruct the Jewish people regarding the daily, Sabbath, and holiday offerings. Here is how it is phrased, “Command the children of Israel and say to them: My offering, My bread for My fire offerings, a spirit of satisfaction for Me, you shall take care to offer to Me at its appointed time.”

Rashi offers an interpretation from the Sifri Midrash of the juxtaposition of these two narratives by employing an analogy. A princess was on her deathbed. She begged her (commoner) husband to take care of the kids when she is gone. He replies, I want you to instruct the kids to take care of me and not disgrace me. Moshe (the princess) begs G-d (the husband) to take care of the kids (the Jewish people) by ensuring that they have a caregiver. To which G-d replies by asking Moshe to instruct the Jewish people to “take care of Him” by bringing the offerings.

The Rebbe points out that by employing the analogy of a commoner husband for G-d, the Sifri is emphasizing the idea of how much G-d “wants/needs” the relationship with us. Calling the offerings “My bread” implies that G-d “wants/needs” His relationship with us, like a human being needs food to survive. The offerings represent the human devotion to the will of G-d, causing G-d to declare, “A spirit of satisfaction for Me, that I spoke, and my will was fulfilled.”

What happens when the ingredients are off the table? We no longer have a temple and the offering have been discontinued for two millennia. Our sages state, that the set time for prayer has taken the place of the offerings. Isn’t that as tasty gluten free, sugar free, dairy free blintzes?

To which Hashem replies, “Absolutely not!!” Our humble prayers of 2022 are as desirous and fulfilling to Hashem as the offerings of the Temple era. Whether it is a simple Mincha on a Wednesday afternoon or the Neilah prayer on Yom Kippur day, Hashem looks with eager anticipation as we take the opportunity to engage in our relationship with Him. So if we are ever feeling inadequate or dispensable, we should remember how much Hashem values our simple prayers as we connect with Him.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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