For the week ending 4 April 2020 / 10 Nisan 5780

Parshat Tzav

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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The Torah addresses Aharon and his sons to teach them additional laws relating to their service. The ashes of the korban olah — the offering burned on the altar throughout the night — are to be removed from the area by the kohen after he changes his special linen clothing. The olah is brought by someone who forgot to perform a positive commandment of the Torah. The kohen retains the skin. The fire on the altar must be kept constantly ablaze. The korban min cha is a meal offering of flour, oil and spices. a handful is burned on the altar and a kohen eats the remainder before it becomes leaven. The Parsha describes the special korbanot to be offered by the Kohen Gadol each day, and by Aharon’s sons and future descendants on the day of their inauguration. The chatat, the korban brought after an accidental transgression, is described, as are the laws of slaughtering and sprinkling the blood of the asham guilt-korban. The details of shelamim, various peace korbanot, are described, including the prohibition against leaving uneaten until morning the remains of the todah, the thanks-korban. All sacrifices must be burned after they may no longer be eaten. No sacrifice may be eaten if it was slaughtered with the intention of eating it too late. Once they have become ritually impure, korbanot may not be eaten and should be burned. One may not eat a korban when he is ritually impure. blood and chelev, forbidden animal fats, are prohibited to be eaten. Aharon and his sons are granted the breast and shank of every korban shelamim. The inauguration ceremony for Aharon, his sons, the mishkan and all of its vessels is detailed.



"And raise up the ash..." (6:3)

At first sight, some things in Judaism may appear somewhat weird.

I remember someone who wasn’t religious discovering the halacha that you should tie your left shoelace before your right. He said to me, "I find it hard to believe that G-d cares about which shoe I tie first."

I could have explained to him that we tie the left shoe lace first as a gesture of respect to the leather strap of the tefillin, which is worn on the left arm. However, I decided that what was bothering him was something more fundamental.

Those of us who were born in the “West” may have grown up in ‎a world where religion is a weekend activity. The role of the clergy is often no more than to "hatch, match, and dispatch." Religion is then compartmentalized, and, in this way, so too is G-d. This mindset is that if there is a G-d, He is limited to making guest appearances on the weekend. Any further intrusion into our lives is considered extremely irksome, as Lord Melbourne remarked in 1898 on hearing a sermon: "Things have come to a pretty pass when religion is allowed to invade the sphere of private life."

Judaism, however, doesn’t see religion as a weekend leisure activity. It is not just one aspect of life. It is life itself.

Judaism views every single activity in life as an opportunity to bring ourselves closer to G-d. What we eat. What we think. What we say. What we do. What we don’t do. Nothing in this world is devoid of the potential for spirituality. Nothing is neutral. If the whole purpose of the world is for us to recognize G-d, then everything in this world must be created to that end. The alternative would be that there are vast areas of this world which have no part in G-d’s purpose, and that would be accusing the Master of the world of tremendous sloppiness in His creation.

In the above verse, the word for "ash" is deshen. Deshen can be read as an acronym for "davar shelo nechshav" —"something without importance." When the Torah says, "And raise up the ash,"it is telling us to take everything, even those things that seem to us like ash, insignificant and without value, and place them next to the Altar. To raise up the little, unthought-of parts of our lives and to use them to serve G-d. There is nothing in this world that cannot be used to serve Him.

Even the humblest shoelace.

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