B’ha-alot’cha: Transitional Moments

Each week we invite a different rabbi or Jewish thought leader to write a “Taste of Torah” on the weekly portion – always from a progressive, inclusive perspective. To receive LAASOK’s Taste of Torah by email each week, subscribe to our newsletter.

This week’s author is Rabbi Sarah Smiley.

Rabbi Sarah Smiley is the rabbi at Unified Jewish Congregation of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She enjoys innovating Jewish rituals to help people bring meaning to their lives and having the occasional dance party with her daughter and husband. 

Life is full of transitional moments. This week I celebrate the 13th anniversary, the bat mitzvah per se, of the day I was ordained a rabbi. This week I celebrate my daughter finishing kindergarten and beginning her first week of summer camp. This week I…

Our lives are enriched when we take the time and attention to recognize moments of change. We are familiar with elevating certain significant moments of transition with life cycle rituals such as weddings and b’nei mitzvah, or celebrations for anniversaries and birthdays. But some moments of transition that may not receive the same attention also deserve marking. Judaism has diverse rituals for marking moments of transition both old and new.

In B’ha-alot’e’cha we see a detailed description of a ritual marking a significant transition for the Levites. Before making the sacrifice that would elevate the Levites and consecrate them to God, the text reads, “Let the Israelites lay their hands on the Levites.” We find this kind of procedure also later on in Numbers, where God tells Moses to appoint Joshua as his successor. Whenever this procedure is mentioned in the Bible it means that some kind of authority is being transferred by the person placing their hands on another person or group of people. Even more important than the transfer of power, I think it also shows the significance of having the support of the community in these moments. Neither the Levites nor Joshua had to mark their important transitional moments alone. They were embraced by their community.

When we make changes in our lives, we do not need to do them alone. We each have our own “Israelites” to support us as we mark transitional moments. So when the next joyful or even sorrowful change happens in our lives, let us lean on our communities and allow them to embrace us. If we do, maybe we too will feel as if we are consecrated to God in that moment like the Levites in this week’s Torah portion.

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