The Bible Says What? ‘We should sprinkle blood on our clergy’

The Bible Says What? ‘We should sprinkle blood on our clergy’

Rabbi Sandra Kviat takes a controversial topic from the Torah and looks at a progressive response

“Slaughter the ram and take some of its blood and put it on the ridges of Aaron’s right ear and on the ridges of his sons’ right ears, and on the thumbs of their right hand, and on the big toes of their right feet; and dash the rest of the blood against every side of the altar.” (Exodus 29.20)

To modern eyes, this is a very odd ritual – the sprinkling of blood on the extremities of a handful of priests and the altar. Why the ear, finger and toe?

A common-sense midrash teaches that the ear symbolises the ability to listen to people, the thumb the actions we take, and the toe how we make our way in the world.

They are all pointing to the priest as a person who needs to be attuned to others around them, gentle and considerate.

Another way of looking at it is that the ear, finger, toe and the surrounds of the altar are all the boundaries of our bodies and of sacred space.

The story teaches the importance of having a sacred space and knowing why it is sacred and shows the rituals needed before we use the space, to get us in tune with what can happen in it. It reminds me of a key part of the hugely popular decluttering show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, where Kondo finds a place in the house, sits down quietly, meditates and asks everyone to appreciate the space they are in.

For me, this Torah commandment is the biblical way of sitting down and meditating, thanking the altar and the space around it.

And the blood? That’s just our modern discomfort with what the ancients saw as the ultimate life-force – a form of spiritual super-detergent.

  •  Sandra Kviat is rabbi at Crouch End Chavurah
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