Vayikra tells of the oscillating flow between tameh and tahor, pure and tainted. Actions and events, some controlled by people, others in God’s hands cast the verdict of tuma’a upon the ancient Israelites. Turned away from public gatherings and from the communal feasts, the impure have time and opportunity to pursue their own interests. Without demands, they can meditate, think, and explore the world. The impure can grow, but it is difficult for them to contribute. Society has its own rules and it does not pause as the hermits reflect.
Time passes, wounds heal, and the erstwhile loners seek the company of peers. The prophets return from wandering in the desert and come to Jerusalem to preach their wisdom. Nursing mothers, after months of loving intimacy, want to shape a world where all can care as they did. God welcomes them all back. God calls them all to come to the Temple, to stand proudly at the gates and declaim their commitment to creating community.
A motley array of the sick, the proud, the outcasts, and the monks, all wait in line to perform their final task – a sacrifice. Before the speeches, balls, and performances the debutantes are commanded to reflect for one last moment, and to feel pain. They must give something away, destroy something alive and beautiful, and know that even at this moment there is death.
In every transition, something must be given up. Old opportunities are sacrificed to create room for new ones. Even when we laud a world of togetherness and purity – the value of solitude and quiet is not impeached. The Torah knows that perfection is impossible, and it does not demand it. It only wants us to pause, at the moment of success, and recognize what we have lost.