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    Days of remembrance – Sh’mini

    Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov lived shortly after the Temple was destroyed but had to admit, when thinking back to the sanctuary, that he had forgotten the purpose of two of the Temple chambers, the wood chamber and the lepers’ chamber (Middot 4:5, 2:3).

    Model of the Second Temple

    His lapse of memory is surprising, since other evidence indicates the reason for the two chambers.

    But our generation’s history can suggest an additional, homiletical rationale for the chambers which gave his memory such difficulty.

    Wood denotes burning; we know well the burning of human beings, communities, books and traditions. Leprosy denotes isolation, and we know how frightening it is to suffer in isolation when no-one seems to care.

    Jews dare not forget the burning that destroyed so much; if we fail to record the lives and traditions that were burnt, they die a second death. Nor can we allow ourselves to forget the time we were shunned like lepers.

    Because others showed little concern, we nearly did not survive: and no-one will survive anywhere unless fellow human beings show concern.

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