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Two Minutes of Torah

Two Minutes of Torah: Tetzaveh – The Right Induction Process

In my experience, the night before starting a new job, rarely involves a comfortable night of sleep. I suffer from a sense of nervousness about what the job will be like, how I will work with my colleagues and general anxiety about having made the right choice usually guarantees that I will not be sleeping soundly that night. In reality there has really never been anything to worry about, and usually the first several days involve “induction” into the office and the way that the place functions, rather than much actual “work”.

Almost all places of work require a period of induction, so that a person can be prepared for their new position. These inductions have often involved a tour of the building, an overview of the safety procedures, an explanation of the computer policy, and many other details to help with those first few months in the job. Often this induction has included a large binder (folder) filled to bursting with information, which in my experience sits in a drawer of the desk from day one right through to the day when the desk is being cleaned out.

This week’s Torah portion continues the description of the items needed for the Tabernacle, before moving on to the clothing which the priests would wear as part of their service. Having described the various elements of the priestly clothing the portion then states: ‘The holy garments that belong to Aaron are to belong to his sons after him, so that they may be anointed in them and consecrated in them’ (Exodus 29:29).

The text then goes on to describe the process by which Aaron is succeeded, by one of his sons, as High Priest. One might consider what follows to be the first historical description of an “induction” process into a new job. This time a promotion to arguably the most important position in the Tabernacle/Temple based Jewish community.

This induction process did not involve binders or instructions about the email code of conduct, instead it revolved around a sacrificial process. ‘You are to take the ram of the consecration and cook its meat in a holy place’ (Exodus 29:31). As the sacrifices and the consumption of the meat are described, the word which keeps recurring is that of ‘atonement’ from the Hebrew root chaf-pay-resh, which you will recognize from the Kippur in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

The incoming priests are instructed ‘they are to eat those things by which atonement was made’ (Exodus 29:33), and it is made clear that because this meat is holy, it can only be consumed by the priests, with whatever is left until the morning to be burned (Exodus 29:34). It follows by instructing that ‘you are to prepare a bull for a purification offering for atonement. You are to purge the altar by making atonement for it’ (Exodus 29:36).

It is interesting to think what the incoming High Priest may have needed to atone for. I am sure that most of us would assume that someone who had been serving in the Temple or Tabernacle would lead the kind of life that doesn’t require atonement. Yet this is not the case, and this portion is therefore a reminder that we all have things for which we need to atone, even the High Priest.

However, for all of us, when we start a new job, or a new stage in our life it offers another lesson about the type of “induction” which is necessary. On Yom Kippur our atonement is about apologizing for our sins, and starting the new year with a clean slate. When the High Priest underwent his atonement it was about apologizing for his sins and assuming his new position with a clean slate, so that he could commit himself entirely to the role. Perhaps when we start a new job or a new stage of life this is the kind of “induction” which we need. It does not require the sacrifice of rams or bulls, but it requires us to find a way to begin with our own clean slate.

How do you think this kind of “clean slate” induction can be offered in a working environment? Would it help improve the first weeks in a new job?

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