As a community leader, it’s hard to find time to care for myself. My daily walks help, and occasionally I’m able to find time to relax, but I’m often so busy that self-care falls by the wayside. However, I’m also exceptionally blessed, because in those moments when I’m giving to others, so many give back to me. Whether it’s chocolate dropped off on a day when I’m feeling down, or a lasagna and bottle of wine left at my door because we’ve got a sick kid, or even a simple text to ask how I’m doing, it’s uplifting to see the genuine care we have for one another in our community. In those moments it refreshes my soul and mends my spirit. Caring for one another – whether parent to child, child to parent, friend to friend, congregant to clergy – is a way in which we humanize, connect, and lift up those close to us.
This act of mutual care appears throughout our Torah, but is poignantly described in our portion this week. In Parshat Tzav, God tells Moses about the sacrifices that the priests are to perform. The sacrifices are divided into two categories: sin offerings and burnt offerings. Sin offerings are offered to atone, while burnt offerings are offered as a way to show devotion to God.
The priests are also to undergo a process of ordination, which will make them holy and allow them to perform the sacrifices. As Aaron and his sons are being readied to lead the people as priests, there is a brief moment when Moses takes them and washes them. This act of cleansing serves both as hygienic and a purification ritual. But the point isn’t just that Aaron and his sons clean themselves; Moses does it for them. Like a bride on their wedding day being pampered, a baby being washed, or our traditional act of tahara, the ritual purification of the dead before burial, the act is tender and intimate, connecting through human touch.
In this chaotic creation of a new society, Aaron and his sons are being pushed forward to lead, and you can imagine the pressure they must have felt. To read that this moment of cleansing and care comes from Moses to his brother and nephews reminds us that our most important job is not to lead or influence others, but to care for them. That is the core of our Torah.