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Shemini – A thought for the week by Mike Lewis

This week we return to the serial reading of the Torah and to the Sedra Shemini. We are in the period of counting the Omer and on Friday it will be the ninth day, which is one week and two days of the Omer.

We are also counting the coronavirus “lockdown” which began on 23 March. At least the Omer has a defined period; 49 days ending on 27th to 28th May.

Monday/Tuesday are also Yom HaShoah for which, this year, we can only come together “on line”.  The yellow candles which the shul collected cannot be distributed but most of us will have histories of the places from which our families came. In our own homes it is an appropriate time to memorialise those who did not get away.

This Shabbat, the 24th Nisan, is also the anniversary of the first Shabbat which was celebrated in 1313 BCE. We crossed the Red Sea on 21st Nisan and came to Marah where we received the commandment to observe the Shabbat which we then observed on the 24th.

The Parasha is a “sandwich” of the tragic story of Nadav and Avihu, who were consumed by fire after offering “strange fire” at the altar, placed between the description of the sacrificial rites and the laws of clean and unclean animals. It also contains the words:

And Aaron lifted up his hands towards the people and blessed them

There is a Midrash that the blessing that Aaron expressed was the “Birkat Cohanim” which we know as the priestly blessing. The blessing itself is to be found in Bamidbar, in the Sedra Naso.

בָֽרֶכְךָ֥ יְהוָֹ֖ה וְיִשְׁמְרֶֽךָ:
May the Lord bless you and watch over you
יָאֵ֨ר יְהוָֹ֧ה | פָּנָ֛יו אֵלֶ֖יךָ וִֽיחֻנֶּֽךָּ:
May the Lord cause His countenance to shine to you and favour you
יִשָּׂ֨א יְהוָֹ֤ה | פָּנָיו֙ אֵלֶ֔יךָ וְיָשֵׂ֥ם לְךָ֖ שָׁלֽוֹם:
May the Lord raise His countenance toward you and grant you peace.

In these difficult times may we all receive this blessing, for our families, our community and the world around us.

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