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Parshat Tzav


If last week were an introduction to the art of Holy offerings, this week is the owner's manual, a sacrificial Zagat guide 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 signed, sealed, delivered to G-d just as He intends:

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

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

As for the gift 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, see above) is the rule that a fire must be kept burning on the altar at all times.

Shabbat Mom brags a lot about being the wife and mother of Aaron's progeny, though the recent college-admissions scandal might make her rethink this Kohanic kvelling (being a member of the priestly class is hereditary, not merit-based!) Yet other than her weekly challah-making (not technically related to the "ephah of choice flour" and besides she uses King Arthur brand) Shabbat Mom can't claim that Tzav's sacrificial details feel relevant to to her daily Jewish life.

And yet. The eternal flame (even in an urban world of double Wolf ovens) remains powerful, personal, and perhaps even more resonant than ever before: it represents an unwavering connection to Judaism as both religion and peoplehood, a passion that each generation has an urgent, glorious responsibility to pass on to the next.

Shabbat Shalom!

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