The Sarx, the Hyrax, and the Lorax
And what makes a pig really unclean...
2 Samuel 6:1-7:17
The hyrax is also called rock rabbit or
small furry mammal. It looks like a robust, oversized guinea pig, or a rabbit with rounded ears and no tail. Hyraxes have stumpy toes with hoof-like nails. It is cute, but not food.
the hyrax, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you
This week's Torah portion has a variety of topics:
1. The holiness of the flesh of the priestly sacrifices
2. The death of Nadav and Avihu for rushing in with strange fire
3. A detailed list of animals that may be considered food or not food
The priest must model for the individual making the unleavened sacrifice by fire that the commandment is to be performed quickly, beside the very altar. The play-on word between matzot (unleavened bread) and mitzvot (commandment) is in the Hebrew spelling, for they are spelled the same. Matzot is the plural of matzah, which must be baked very quickly so that chametz, or leaven, doesn't go to work. In additional to expanding the dough, leaven results in a souring effect.
The longer a commandment is delayed, the more likely that there will be an interference in performing it. A procrastinator who knows what to do and how to do it is allowing the commandment to become sour with each passing hour or day. The delay is likely because there is ambivalence. Some personal desire or benefit must be set aside in order to perform it. The good news is that doing it will reconcile the inner war, so the faster, the better.
By eating the quick bread matzah, the priests demonstrate to Israel the quality of "most" holiness in sacrifice: performing the commandment quickly.
The commandment is holy!
Paul explains to the Romans the war between the sarx (flesh) and the spirit. The spiritual naturally wants to obey the spiritual and holy commandment quickly, yet the sarx resists. This is the point of the holy commandments and the sacrifices, to expose areas in the individual that are still resistant to the Holy Spirit. The sarx has a life-force all its own, for it is fed by the blood, and the life (nefesh) is in the blood. It drives human appetites, emotions, desires, and intellect. Perhaps this is why the hyrax was a specific example of an unclean animals as opposed to thousands of others that could have been listed. They represent prolific sexual activity, which does not reflect the holiness of an Israelite family.
flesh (the soft substance of the living body, which covers the bones and is permeated with blood) of
sensuous nature of man, "the animal nature
which incites to sin,
a living creature (because possessed of a body of flesh
whether man or beast
When a person becomes aware of a commandment and slow-walks or resists it, then "sin" has come to life, like holding a lettuce leaf to a bright light to expose any insects that need to be washed off. The good and holy commandment is the Light that exposes the life of sin in the sarx:
As with the altar sacrifice, the animal sarx is exposed and completely consumed in an olah, resurrection offering. The faster it is consumed by the fire, the better so that the sarx will be put to death. This is where Shmini helps us understand one attribute of an animal fit for sacrifice. Clean animals maintain silence.
Silence is supreme confidence in the salvation of Adonai, and an acceptable sacrifice MUST be silent:
So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good
. Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly
For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of (sarkinos/sarx), sold into bondage to sin.
For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.
But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that
the Law is good
. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my
for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth
. (Is 53:7)
Have you ever watched reruns of Dr. Ky's Exotic Animal ER? Frequent patients are potbellied pigs, who are the noisiest, crankiest, most dramatic patients. They squeal even before they get a shot! Often they have to be sedated even for simple examinations. A pig is another unclean animal unfit for the altar. On the outside, a pig looks clean, for its hooves are cloven, yet if slaughtered, it does not have the extra stomachs and passage for the cud. For this reason, a pig is a symbol of hypocrisy in Judaism. It looks kosher on the outside, but not on the inside. It is not the nature of a pig sarx to maintain silence in suffering.
When Abraham was asked to offer Isaac as an
, there is no record of his words, only his obedience. At Rosh
, which is accompanied by the reading of the
, the binding of Isaac the
forgiveness is not requested as it is ten days later at Yom Kippur. Instead, the entreaty for forgiveness is made with the sound of the shofar, a song of intense spiritual power offered through the horn of an animal. The voice of the shofar freely moved between the physical and spiritual realms at Sinai.
wrote, "A person should be prepared to submit himself or herself as an offering to God. Just as an animal cannot speak, we too, preserve silence. This is the exact point of transformation: we have the capacity to speak but we practice
, p. 75
Tzimzum is a meditative
withdrawing within one's self. Scientists have found that
tree about to yield its fruit will do something that is similar to self-numbing "faint" of a lamb right before
. In measurements of electrical activity, the tree and the lamb will demonstrate a kind of "faint" just prior to the death of the fruit when it is picked or slaughtered.
Isn't this the dreamy picture we have of our sacrifices of prayer in times of trouble?
The sun is shining through the trees, an orchestra plays in the background, angels look on encouragingly... But really, w
hat do we normally do when we have a "sacrifice moment"? Someone at work takes credit for our innovation; a family member accuses us unjustly; we find out that a loyal friend is gossiping about us with confidential information; a spouse hurts our feelings; our flight is canceled leaving us stranded in a city where we don't want to be stranded and lose a day of vacation.
These are sacrifice moments. We can deliver an animal-like response and scream, fight, or run away.
Clear thinking in such sacrificial situations can transform our lives. Silence. Contemplation. Acceptance that like it or not, this is altar day ...sometimes repeatedly in one day. Don't you have those days or weeks where so many things go wrong that when more thing breaks or leaks, you just have to say, "Of course it did. Of course. Why would I expect a moment of peace or a financial breather?"
Tax bills, insurance bills, broken automobiles, brutal traffic, incompetent bosses...yes. Why would we expect to slide into bed at night without the lingering odor of burnt flesh, scattering our ashes under the sheets?
If we can freeze in those moments a second of silence and appreciation for our position on the altar, then the sacrifice has a better chance of burning completely to the real smoke that ascends to heaven. We're de-bugged of that spot that was shielding the great holy, good, and spiritual Light of the Torah. We leave the animal instinct in the fire and acquire the animal's bewildered silence...and in that bewildered silence, Adonai fights for us.
What did Aaron do in our Torah portion after his two eldest sons,
, themselves became an
offering after they became caught up in spiritual ecstasy? He remained silent. He didn't groan with words. The sages say that the
, which is a song made only of sounds that express deep emotions that cannot be contained in words, is like this silent sacrifice. At the Reed Sea, Moses told the Israelites to stand still, be silent, and observe the salvation of Adonai. In our silence, we give the Holy One permission to fight on our behalf. As long as we're screaming in the fire, well...
are examples of losing self-restraint, being caught up,
even in the realm of the holy
to excess for a human being. The glory had appeared to all the people (Le 9:23-24), so the whole nation experienced the spiritual ecstasy and intimacy. The sages suggest that
were the two elders who glanced at the Divine Presence, "seeing
Mount Sinai (Ex 24:1; 9-11). They craved this greater intimacy with the Holy One, but that craving exceeded the capacity of their flesh, the
, to experience it on this side of the resurrection of the body.
The Presence of the Divine is experienced with self-restraint, especially in sacrifice.
To model this, Aaron models silence in the
even when his soul is groaning inside. By his silence, Abraham consecrated the future site of the Holy Temple like Abraham sacrificed with silence in offering Isaac, and so the ram of the
appeared to him in its glory
The pig is
in Hebrew, its root meaning "return," for it returns to wallowing in filth no matter how many times it's cleaned up. A pig squeals at even the slightest provocation. It cannot be silent. It is not a sacrificial animal.
One rabbi commented, "The pig comes out of the river filthy." How can a screaming, complaining, angry, reluctant, ambivalent, or runaway sacrifice ever come out of the water or fire clean if the inner nature is not transformed to the cud-chewing silent sacrifice?
The Holy Spirit is the opposite of a pig:
the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with
too deep for
."(Ro 8:26) Silence doesn't mean no sounds; instead it means sounds of obedience. Sing like the apostles in prison. Pray the Psalms, for it is there that you will understand why the soul, the essence of the sarx, is so often told when to shut up and when to speak up:
Bless the Lord, O my soul...
Be thou silent, O my soul...
"Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and
in obeying (hearing,
) the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey
than the fat of rams. (1 Sa 15:22
We can't listen if our mouths are moving.
There is a time to speak and move forward with holy zeal. There is a time to be silent in holiness. Both require spiritual restraint. Which brings us to the Lorax.
The Lorax? Isn't that a Dr. Seuss character? Yes. But it sounded like hyrax and sarx, so...
The Lorax is
creature of short stature, with
orange mossy fur and an enormous
. He is said to have a sharp and bossy voice. Dr. Seuss created this character to express his views on preventing pollution and saving the
the effects of
all the wild creatures such as the Brown
-Swans, and the Humming Fish leave to find new pastures. Finally, when the last tree is cut down, the Lorax goes too, leaving behind a
with the word 'unless' marked on it,
that unless people care enough,
the situation will
not get better.
The Lorax was successful in embedding environmental awareness on a generation. What was a good message, protecting the environment, has turned into a religion all its own. Don't get me wrong. I was on the Environmental Awareness Committee at Arkansas High School in my teens, working on the botany study paths in the woods behind the school on Jefferson Avenue. My career counselor suggested that I become a game warden or forester. I still can't get far enough in the wilderness to suit me.
What was environmental awareness to my generation has become environmental aware-mess. The screaming and running about with hair on fire for the environment has devolved into the icy denial of facts and human welfare in the short term. There's no balance between concern for the trees and animals disappearing and humans disappearing. No restraint. Holiness is found in restraint along with keeping Adonai's commandments, not the passing self-righteousness invented by each successive generation. Social media, politics, social change organizations are all screaming at one another with the zeal of an unwashed pig...and no offense to pigs...Go Razorbacks...but those sacrifices are unclean. Hypocrites.
Don't be fooled by "good" that isn't zeal for keeping the commandments quickly to reflect the good, holy, and spiritual Light of the Creator of the trees, pigs, lambs, hyraxes, and human beings. A lorax isn't a real thing. A person is. All zeal is not holy. Neither is all silence, and the Creator has a special affection for fruit trees.
Is it possible that believers today are missing the mark of the altar commandments? Technology has made it possible to circumvent the silent sacrifice.
Although many people "think out loud," such a practice needs to be re-examined when it concerns a sacrifice. The more words, the more confusion, the more doubt, the more objection, and the more the words draw others into the confusion. Witness Facebook and Twitter.
The question is whether we've left pieces of
on the altar. How would that happen? The temptation is to share our objection, hurt, misery, outrage, and indignation with the world. Social media and technology have made that easy. Stuck in standstill traffic or in a two-hour tarmac delay? We start texting or calling to vent.
A co-worker double-crossed us? We tell it. And on and on.
We MUST tell the story. So
let's take an example of the incompetent boss. We have two options:
a) complain to our co-workers and collect similar stories from them to shore up our feelings of victimhood
b) contemplate how to work within the boundary of the boss's incompetence; i.e., keep our mouths shut, our fingers off the keyboard, and THINK
Will we be more likely to be a silent sacrifice doing a or b? This doesn't mean that we can't talk about it at all. After a period of silence, you may need to speak up in order to problem-solve. You don't have to let people perpetrate a crime upon you in silence. Abraham's great sacrifice, however, was silence. Silence is faith when you don't know what to do, but you want to preserve the holiness of your offering on the altar.
When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour
. (Re 8:1)
What is significant is the verses that precede this silence: affirmation of deliverance by the hand of Adonai. He will fight any more battles for them:
are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
this reason, they are before the throne of God; and
they serve Him day and night in His temple
; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them
They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun
down on them, nor any heat;
the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the
of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes
." (Re 7:14-17)
We are troubled on every side, yet even today, we can sanctify the altar of our sacrifice with silence like Abraham, Moses, Aaron, and most of all, like the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world.
|Register Now for the Creation Experience with Brad Scott and Hollisa Alewine
You can now register for the Creation Experience with Brad Scott and Hollisa Alewine. Click on the video for more information. This is a chance to hear teaching of Genesis One and Two in the context of prophecy, especially of the Lower Garden and its Rivers, and what happens when we die.
LaMalah Children's Centre
The LaMalah Children's Centre has now been registered with and certified by the Kenyan Department of Social Development. Thank you to all who have donated toward this good work. We received this latest email from Brother Peter concerning the successful registration and its new responsibilities:
Shalom Sis. Hollisa:
We are all delighted to hear from you. It's good news about additional funding as the registration process ate a chunk of our operating costs.
We are now working closely with the goverment as they are very concerned with all children below the age of 18. I was in a meeting today in the office of the children in Limuru and another will be on 5th out of town.
Among issues addressed today is
1) To assess the development of each child as compared to when he/she came to the CCI (The goverment calls Orphanages "Charitable Children's Institutions")
2) Assessment of the CCI in relation to Goverment of Kenya set standards, with focus on staff/child ration,access to services, safety and child safe guarding, case management processes and exit strategies.
3) To document day by day information on the type of services that the CCI provides.
4) Each CCI to document regularly the number and profile (age, sex,ethnicity,disability,orphan status, reason for placement,age at placement,length of time in care etc.
5) To document knowledge, attitude and practices related to managers and staff of the CCI as well as community members.
6) To document the challenges experienced by CCI, managers and staff and the opportunities that exist in providing care for the children.
The Children's officers will educate including desk review, guidance on engaging with children and other local actors, checklists, questioners, case file reviews, key informant interviews, and focus group discussions.
After attending a series of such meetings a few things crop up.
1) We need employ a person with basic computer skills to do all the documentation in a daily basis. This calls for an additional minimum of $150 salary per month.
2) We too need employ a qualified Social Worker trained in the field..
I need to work closely too with others who can attend to some of these meetings and issues in case am not in a position to do so.
Our next CCI's meeting is on 5th and hopefully we will have got funding for the next quater, father willing!
At one time we mentioned buying a separate portion of land for the orphanage. We have been praying a lot for this. It is our desire to operate the Assembly and the CCI as two different entities;-the assembly run by ordained elders and the CCI by a board of management who qualify and have passion for children.
If you would like to donate to the Children's Centre or other Torah-based orphanages through The Creation Gospel, click on the link below. The story of LaMalah may be found at