2 Command the children of Israel: send out of the camp any leper and anyone with a discharge or anyone made impure by contact with a corpse. 3 Send both males and females outside of the camp, so they will not defile their camp, where I have sway.Numbers 5
Ostracized for no fault of their own and then repelled for being defiled. Outcast for the sake of the purity of the whole community, they were sent away from the presence of God.
Was it cruel or kind treatment?
26 You will be holy because I, YHWH, am holy and will make you distinct from the peoples for me.Leviticus 20
Far from the holiness that is Israel and even farther from the holiness of God they were separated to protect them from diminishing the holiness of others.
17 Speak to Aaron saying: any man among your descendants that has a defect will not offer the bread offering for God. 18 For every man who has a defect will not make offering: neither blind nor lame nor injured nor paraplegic.Leviticus 21
Moreover, a disqualified priest was moved to the fringes of society. Seeing but not tasting, hearing but not being heard, they had lost their calling and could not change their status. Where are the descendants of these people now? Are their spirits still with us? Or are we also on the outside of the camp and don’t realize it?
Then words of comfort appeared not as burnt offerings but three short phrases to lift our spirits and give us hope.
24 May YHWH bless you protectively. 25 May the presence of YHWH shine on you favorably. 26 May the presence of YHWH bring you peace. Numbers 6
Yet no time was suggested and no place designated for these words to be uttered. When the words reached the ears of our ancestors, they might have sounded like soft rain on the outside of a tent; not the harsh blare on Mt. Sinai but and echo of that “still small voice” that is everywhere yet hardly heard above the din of daily life.
12 And after the earthquake—fire, but YHWH was not in the fire; after the fire—a still small voice.2 Kings 19
We can say these words and find our way back to that moment of contact with all of the cosmic forces that are in the universe. These forces may have sounds or may not – did the day of creation make an audible sound? Or did waves of energy simply begin to emanate and reverberate through space-time?
If we whisper those words softly and earnestly, can they penetrate our imperfect hearts and bring us closer to blessing and peace?
9 And YHWH will rule over all the earth; on that day there YHWH will be one, with a singular name.Zechariah 14
Midrash Harabah and English translations by Rabbi Gail Shuster-Bouskila ©2021
Bring close the day which is neither day and nor night Transcendent One, make it known that the day is yours, as well as the night, Appoint guards for Your city all the day and all the night, Illuminate like the light of the day in the darkness of the night. This is sung at the end of the Pesach Seder in the Ashkenazi tradition because it deals with apocalyptic redemption.