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Parshat Tzav

If last week's parsha was an introduction to the art of sacrifices in the Mishkan, this week is the owner's manual, a sacrificial Zagat guide intended for the Kohanim. After all, it is they--Aaron and his sons, and ultimately their descendants--who are responsible for making sure that each sacrifice is prepared, presented, and delivered to G-d just as the Lord intends.

As Tzav begins: "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 'Command Aaron and his sons thus...'"

Tzav takes us through the way in which the priests should perform and oversee the rituals related to the sacrificial offerings including olah (burnt); minhah (grain); hatttat (purification); zevah ha-sh'lamim (well-being); n'davah (freewill).

As for the offering that a priest would present to the Lord on "the occasion of his anointment":

"...a tenth of an ephah of choice flour as a regular grain offering, half of it in the morning and half of it in the evening, shall be prepared with oil on a griddle. You shall bring it well-soaked, and offer it as a grain offering of baked slices, of pleasing odor to the Lord. And so shall the priest, anointed from among his sons to succeed him, prepare it; it is the Lord's--a law for all time--to be turned entirely into smoke. So, too, every grain offering of a priest shall be a whole offering; it shall not be eaten."

Perhaps most important (and certainly most visual, as represented above) is the rule that a fire must be kept burning on the altar since the day begins and ends with burnt offerings to honor G-d. Though I am proud to say that I am both the wife and mother of Kohanim (as proven by genetic testing, as I am often reminded by my priestly husband), I cannot say that many of the rules presented in Tzav feel particularly urgent in or relevant to my daily Jewish life. But the modern interpretation of the eternal flame--that it represents an unwavering connection to the Jewish religion and peoplehood, a passion that each generation has a responsibility to pass on to the next--feels powerful, personal, and deeply relevant.

Shabbat Shalom!

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