Saturday, May 02, 2009

On Ezra, whom I didn't know that well...

...having moved away from Da Slope just after 9/11, when he was still just a bright, sweet, but quiet 8-year-old, but I was reading a commentary on the parsha, and trying to come up with a connection. So here's a strained connection, which I hope will provide some comfort, if you're not turned off by my fake-o gematria.

So at the beginning of the parsha, Aharon the High Priest is given instructions on how to enter the Holy of Holies, after two of his sons died in an excess of religious zeal. And he is told to enter "with this", ba-zot. The whole verse being, "With this shall Aaron enter the Holy: with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering." Why the extra "with this"? It would have sufficed to say that Aaron shall enter the Holy [Area] with this offering and that offering. With "this" must signify something else, something extra.

Menachem Recanati, the 13th-century Italian Kabbalist, suggests that it's a question of allusion, in the midrashic style, quoting Vayikra Rabbah. He looks for other verses, other contexts, in which "Bazot" seems extraneous, and he finds that it seems to indicate a whole series of merits that a Kohen Gadol, a high priest, would have upon assuming the office.

He would have merit from learning the Torah "This is the Torah...", indicating the Oral Torah; he would have merit from his circumcision (the first mitzva any Jewish boy is involved in), "This is My Covenant", indicating he can rely on the covenant of circumcision; from the Sabbath, as "Happy is the man who does This Shabbat", because the Sabbath Queen is all-welcoming, all-including; in the merit of the Jerusalem of Heaven, "This is Jerusalem"; in the merit of the Sons of Jacob, because Jacob had told them "this is your merit, that you live together;" in the merit of Judah, who fights for all of us; in the merit of all of Israel, "for your height is compared to the date palm," because the date palm includes both male and female gendered flowers;

Further, his merits for acts as a priest: for tithes, for wave-offerings, for daily offerings -- with all of these, he holds them together in his mind as one solid edifice on which he can rely, so that he need not enter the Holy Area alone. As the Song of Songs says, "where does your beloved turn? she turns to seek you." So too the High Priest enters the Holy on Yom Kippur with his merits supporting him, consciously bringing them together in his mind to strengthen himself for his encounter with Chapel Perilous.

The gematria of "bazot" is 408. Factorize that, you have 24 x 17. (I don't know to what extent traditional gematralators used factorization, but I do - that's what makes it fake-o) Ezra was in his 17th year, and he left us in the 2nd month (Iyar) on the 4th day of the month. But he did not go alone, quiet, into that good night.

From everything I've seen on the blogs of his friends (see links in previous post), he was that good person, sensitive, talented, loving of his family and friends, striving in Torah and art and music and life. He brought the edifice of his merits along to support him. I only wish he could have seen the edifice, perhaps it might have brought him comfort - but most of us never perceive our own merits, only our own faults.


Litvak said...

""for your height is compared to the date palm," because the date palm includes both male and female gendered flowers;"

Some clarification is needed.

Perhaps you meant that there are separate male and female flowers - also that they are on different trees?


I assume it is darshened as being akin to separation of genders in our faith?

thanbo said...

Actually, it just says "the date palm includes both male and female." I added "flowers".

I'd assume actually the opposite of you, since it's the drasha for "Knesset Israel" - that the Kohen Gadol enters with the merit of All Israel, men and women. I don't recall anything in the Avodah for Yom haKipurim about the Kohen Gadol atoning for men & women separately.

Litvak said...

Date palms have male and female flowers on separate trees, unlike most plants which have both genders on the same plant. Google can lead you to more info...