Parashat Tzav – Erev Shabbat 31 March 2023
Week of March 26 – 1 April 2023
Torah portion : Leviticus 6:1- 8:36   Haftarah: Malachi 3 :4-24
Theme: The Reason for Sacrifices 

Tzav – “command” Aaron and his sons

The Kohen Gadol was to bear the responsibility for the spiritual well-being of the entire nation, and Aaron and his sons were instructed by Moses in the order of the rituals over a period of 7 days. Rav.J.Sacks wrote that “sacrifices were Israel’s spiritual / psychological need for closeness” and that “repeated performances of sacred acts reconfigure the brain, reconstitute the personality, and reshape sensibilities.” Their priestly duties required them to regard all their duties as sacred acts, even the humblest. “Clean-up was also considered service to God, and specific clothing for cleaning up the ashes each morning speaks of the care and respect necessary for service to God in the humblest of services.” (Nehama Leibowitz)

The word for sacrifices, korban, means to draw near, and though the offerings covered various situations; the purpose of each was to restore closeness with God. The sacrificial acts demanded integrity of heart and intent not only of the priest but of the penitent as well and anything less would render the sacrifice unacceptable. 

“This is the Torah of burnt offerings.” Lev. 6:2   In the Talmud, Resh Lakish suggested that this “scripture taught that if someone studies the laws of an offering it is as though they had actually offered it. That reading about something with sufficient imagination and depth constitutes doing it” (as in relating the Passover and deliverance from Egypt)

Rabbi Aha said in the name of Rabbi Hanina Bar Papa: “If you engage in the study of them (the sacrifices), I account it to you as if you had offered them up”.

The sages taught that in the absence of temple sacrifices the people should focus on acts of kindness, prayer and charity as a means of extending God`s Presence in the world. And that prayer is to reveal a love for God and a true desire to burn with it (Plaut).  This is in harmony with words of Maimonides who suggested that what God really desired of His people was avodah shebalev, the “service of the heart” namely prayer.  

Or Hachaim said: “every Jew should be a human temple. Repentance is regarded as if the person rebuilds and recreates a temple within themself, and that when there is no temple, a Jew’s table offers atonement because it symbolizes the charity and hospitality of the Jewish home where teachings are transmitted to the children and they follow the example set for them. 

“The Sabbath teaches all beings whom to praise.” (A.J.Heschel)

For Reflection and Discussion: 1.Can you recall an event that even years later you recall vividly and that may still produce a physical or emotional response? 2. Have you ever tried to read scripture as if you`re right there and part of what is happening?

Bibliography: Stone Edition, The Chumash (New York); JPS, Tanakh (1999); Plaut, The Torah- A Modern Commentary; Rabbi Artson, The Everyday Torah; Rabbi J. Sacks, Left Brain& Right Brain Judaism(5780) and Why civilizations Die;  Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath (1951)

This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Gwen-Ellen DankewichCanada, Bat Kol Alumna: 2008

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