Parashat Tzav / 5774


By Alex Maghen

I asked Rabbi Edwards if I could do a little drash – kind of an interpretation of the weekly Torah portion tonight, as part of mine and Yanir’s celebration. Only after she said yes, did I realize that we’re in the middle of the book of Leviticus. Like book 6 of the Harry Potter series, it’s a long slog with not nearly enough “he who shall not be named” – though in the bible, that has a very different meaning. Parshat Tzav goes into a whole heck of a lot of detail about the guidelines for ritual sacrifice in the Jewish Temple.

Spoiler alert: It doesn’t end well for the Lambs. PETA members? Animals most certainly *were* harmed in the making of this portion.

In the second section, you get this – and I quote:

“They shall slaughter the guilt offering in the place where they slaughter the burnt offering; and its blood shall be dashed upon the altar.

“And all of its fat he shall offer from it: the tail and the fat covering the innards,

“and the two kidneys, along with the fat that is upon them, which is on the flanks, and the diaphragm with the liver; along with the kidneys he shall…” — well, okay, you get the idea.

It takes real creativity – even imagination – to find meaning today in such passages, in such ancient ritual. But then that creativity, that imagination, is at the very center of what makes the Jews an eternal People, eternally willing to perceive new colors in ancient ideas.

We have left the physical Temple to history. But in its place we have built thousands of houses of prayer and study so that the Holy of Holies is reachable for each one of us [just down Pico]. Our rabbis have forbidden animal sacrifice for millennia, but our synagogues bring an offering – of Soup to the sick stuck in their homes: surely a more pleasing aroma to the Lord than, say, burnt diaphragm.

Yet despite our constant change, born of dreams for Tikun Olam – for a better world – we never stop studying about the flanks and the diaphragm and the kidneys. Because it’s not enough that we have arrived where we are, that we’ve grown as we’ve grown; we must always remember how we got here, where we came from, who we were.

But we *do* grow, we *do* adapt by dreaming of what could be. And in these dreams, a soul such as mine who’d never seen a path to love embraced by his tradition, his law, his Book, will stand on April 10th, with the love of his life, beneath the canopy of his people and pronounce the same words as his father and grandfather before him, stomping on a glass broken not so much to mourn the destruction of a Temple and its many sacrifices but as a chance to gather together the shattered shards and lovingly – proudly – lift them up with newly ringed fingers so as to refract the light of the eternal flame into thousands of new colors – rainbows cast on the hearts and minds of the assembled, each one a promise made by G-d that love will never again be denied.

In this week’s Torah portion Israel is commanded: “The fire shall be burning always upon the altar; it shall never go out.” It will never go out because we build our new Temple on the unshakable foundations of the old one. “Beelvavi mishkan evneh.” “In my heart I build a Temple.” And next month, with the help of G-d, I will marry there.

Shabbat Shalom.


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