A Jewish high school in Texas was the prime example of Judaism and Jewish identity taking precedent over other desires and passions in the world. The Robert M. Beren Academy of Houston’s basketball team thought that they would have to forfeit, as the semifinals games were scheduled on Shabbat. Although the tournament did accommodate the needs of the players following a potential lawsuit by angered parents, the school’s determination to keep Shabbat as the top priority is admirable and shows the value system of the community. This very much relates to this week’s Torah portion, which highlights roles in the community and the traditions and customs that we follow in such roles.
In the Torah portion of Tetzaveh, it moves from last week’s portion of the construction of the “Mishkan”, the Tabernacle, to the priest’s garments, necessary for them to serve in the Tabernacle. The portion opens with instructions regarding the Ner Tamid, the everlasting light that must always be lit outside the inner holy chamber of the Mishkan.
Aaron and his sons are designated as servants in the holy Tabernacle and the clothing they must wear is specified. As priests they are obligated to wear a specific type of pants, headdress, sash, and robe. The high priest must also wear a Choshen Mishpat, the special breastplate, containing stones that represent each tribe of Israel.
God then describes in great detail the process of preparing for ritual slaughter and the roles of the priests. At the door of the Tabernacle they are immersed in a ritual bath, followed by very detailed sacrifices. God also commands that the Israelites bring two sacrifices each day and for the priests to use incense on the alter twice a day.
The portion lays out the role of the priests who will serve in the Mishkan and the role ritual of the Israelite to do their part. Although some specific roles exist in the Jewish community today, our primary role, however, remains to be Jews, first and foremost.
As Jews we sometimes show our pride by wearing a kippah, wearing a “chai” necklace, adjusting our diets, or even living life by Jewish values; the traditions and emphasis that we put in our lives can be drastically different depending on who you ask in any given Jewish community. Like the Jewish high school, it is important for us to recognize our role as Jews, embrace our personal Jewish identities, recognize Judaism as a priority in our lives, and not compromise our beliefs, even when it may force us to miss out on a prestigious title.