Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
Women and hand drums terracotta, 7C BCE, Jewish Women's Archive. Photo by Carol Meyers, Duke University.
And ye shall not go out of the door of the tabernacle of the congregation in seven days, until the days of your consecration be at an end: for seven days shall he consecrate you. / So Aaron and his sons did all things which the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses.
— Leviticus 8:33/36
Looking beyond sacrifice and priesthood, the book of Leviticus in its fullness is essentially about ritual. Ritual is something western society has neglected over time, living as we do in a sense of urgency and panic, the orientation response firing every few minutes at the ping of the next snapchat or text message alert, skipping potential moments of stillness and reflection, and all in pursuit of success, money, status and other forms of self-interest. Even the sabbath has been co-opted to meet these ends. There is little time left for ceremony, which is a luxury reserved for special occasions such as weddings or funerals. The idea of seven days contemplation for the sake of consecration seems very odd, and almost wasteful. We have better things to do, important places to be.
A Sufi tale comes to mind.1 Mulla had lost his ring in the living room. He searched for it for a while, but since he could not find it, he went out into the yard and began to look there. His wife, who saw what he was doing, asked: "Mulla, you lost your ring inside, why are you looking for it in the yard?" Mulla stroked his beard and said: "The room is too dark and I can't see very well. There is much more light out here."
In seeking the bright and shiny we have perhaps become blind to life's less glaring time signature, seeking instant gratification rather than a more measured, melodic approach. Ritual provides our lives with rhythm, with punctuation. Without it we live in a run-on sentence where life, like the writing from which this analogy is pulled, becomes more and more confusing, boundaryless, full of incomplete, overlapping ideas where deriving sense and meaning becomes very difficult. It may be time to slow down, to punctuate.
During the lockdowns of 2020-21 I found it necessary to create rituals of my own, to create meaning and purpose, and to pace myself. Variously during these times I would read, write, run, draw and pray, each activity at a specific time of day. The running, especially in the ice-cold winter, felt like consecration. Today isn't Moses' time, the pace of life is different. This time is our time—and all time is God's time. The spirit of Leviticus can be lived today even if the implementation is utterly different.
1 From Classic Tales of Mulla Nasreddin. Retold by Houman Farzad, Translated from Persian by Diane L. Wilcox, Mazda Publishers, Costa Mesa, California, 1990.