Home > Rabbi's Message > So Much Originates in Torah

Jews understand the foundational significance of Torah. Presenting the development of the relationship between the Israelites and God, its current relevancy simultaneously continues to teach and inspire us. Containing the stories that inform our collective memory, Torah is also the source of many of society’s cultural references.

This past Sunday, our Religious School students (Yes, Am Echad’s students are continuing to learn remotely!) learned about the Jewish origins of the rainbow in the story of Noah and the flood. There, the rainbow is a reminder to both God and the Israelites of the covenantal relationship. You may have noticed the drawings of rainbows that are appearing in windows and on sidewalks as signs of hope and to thank those keeping us safe, such as first responders and other essential workers who deliver groceries and packages, allowing the rest of us to stay home.

From this week’s double Torah portion of Acharei Mot-K’doshim we have the origin of the term “scapegoating.” Chapter 16 of Leviticus presents some of the ancient rituals of Yom Kippur, including the High Priest’s choosing of two goats, one to sacrifice and one to carry the sins of the people into the wilderness. While the one goat doesn’t exactly “escape” with the sins of the Israelites, it is the origin of the term “scapegoating.” In hard times or when things go wrong, it is not unusual for some to try to blame others for the difficulties. Unfortunately, Jews know that all too well, as historically we’ve been fallaciously accused of many of the world’s ills.

Today, as many of our governmental leaders cope with the issues that face us, some are trying to deflect blame by scapegoating others. Perhaps it would do them well to avoid such attempts at deflection, and take responsibility for their own decisions. It is a lesson from Torah that applies equally well to all of us as individuals dealing with the struggles of our own lives. May we have the patience, insight and self-awareness to deal with the issues we face candidly and forthrightly, and by so doing, reflect the holiness that Leviticus teaches exists in all of us.

Rabbi Bellush