The Sin of Presumption Versus Morality

Today’s Torah reading deals with what is referred to in the literature as the sun of presumption. Moses sets out tot each the priests how to minister at the Tabernacle, anointing them with oil mixed with lamb’s blood and burning certain substances, but people, in good faith, reason that a difference incense is better. Mayhem follows:

  •  The lesson we are told to take is that the word of Bible, the word of Moses ( because he spoke for God) must be taken literally or you commit the sin of presumption — which means that you are placing your own perceptions and thoughts ahead of what you already know to be the will of God.
  • I disagree with this interpretation but I agree that the story is about how things happen when people act presumptuously.
  • The problem I have with the interpretation of this story is that it places faith in Moses instead of an inner knowing of God and morality. The moral used is a bludgeon to the commoners to obey the priests. The people had other ideas and followed them. The results were disastrous but not necessarily because of the human interpretation of this story.
  • This is closely parallel to the fundamentalists in Judeo-Christian tradition, as well as other traditions, that state the “law” regarding a woman’s place of subservience without any support for their position in the Torah itself. It is the direct opposite of our teaching to worship God and not individual people or idols. 
  • Our challenge is not to look up the teachings of the Rabbi’s to determine what they say we should do in any given situation, but to inquire of ourselves. Deep inside us we know right from wrong, and we all know a good deed from a bad one. And we are blessed with a brain that allows us to understand and address nuances. To take a quarter from the hand of a three year old is wrong not only because it is stealing but because of an innate knowing that it is wrong to be predatory  towards a child. But we also know that if the reason the quarter was removed, is that we just saw the child take everything he could lay his hands on and swallow it, now that is a different story.
  • Internally we know these things without resorting to the “law” as stated by the leaders or Rabbis. 
  • To be a good Jew is to be a person who seeks to be good and do good as we see it, and to accept the consequences of our actions. we are blessed with brains that enable us to learn from experience and thus get better at good deeds. 

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