Lovable Sinners

Friday, 30 July, 2021 - 1:00 pm

This morning on the news, the meteorologist reported on a cold front that is arriving Monday, which will drop our temperature all the way down to the high eighties – low nineties. What a break!! The heat has been so bad, that weather is an actual legitimate conversation topic.

Yet, although one would hardly notice in our area, technically summer has turned the corner. The days are starting get shorter, and the nights longer. In fact, the Talmud says that the 15th of Av (last Shabbat) is the day that “the sun’s power begins to weaken” – meaning that the days get shorter and there is less sunlight. (Since ours is primarily a lunar calendar – the phenomenon is observable to a greater degree when the 15 of Av falls in mid-August, unlike this year when it was in late July.)

Since that is the case, in times of the Holy Temple, they would not use any wood that was cut after that date for the woodpile on the altar. In the Temple only the best supplies may be used. Wood that contains some moisture is more likely to become wormy. So only wood that was cut while the sunlight was most potent, was allowed to be used. At some point during the second Temple era, the community could not afford to keep the Temple supplied with enough wood that met the criteria. Individual families began to supply the wood from their own personal stockpiles. The day that they brought the wood to the Temple would be regarded as a family holiday.

There was one particular family whose shift to supply the wood began on the 20th of Av. What was unique about them, was that they were depleting their wood supply at a time when it could not be restocked until next spring. So their contribution to the Temple came with a significant sacrifice on their part.

If we consider this further, we realize that the altar was used minimally for the communal offerings, which benefitted the entire Jewish people. Primarily, the altar was used for individual offerings brought mostly for purposes of atonement. So here we have a family that is willing to deplete their own supply at significant cost, just to help some sinners find atonement. They might have said, “Sinners, bring your own wood. Why is your atonement my problem?” But this was not their attitude. In fact, not only did they supply the wood, they did so happily amid jubilant celebration.  

The lesson is obvious. Our love for each other should be so powerful that we are willing to help another person, even one who might be deemed less deserving, often at great cost to ourselves. Any we must do it with joy.  

Shabbat Shalom, and, may I be the first to wish you to be inscribed and sealed for happy, healthy, and sweet new year of 5782!

Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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