For the week ending 27 March 2021 / 14 Adar 5781

Parashat 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 mincha 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 Torah portion 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 certain accidental transgressions, 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 thanksgiving-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 (certain 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.


What's So Bad About Bread?

“It will be eaten unleavened” (6:9)

I doubt that anyone in the audience watchingGrandma's Reading Glass in 1900 realized that they were witnessing the birth of a new language. Grandma's Reading Glass is under a minute long and the plot is thin, to say the least. A small child looks through his mother's magnifying glass, at various objects around the room. What makes the movie a landmark is its use of sustained point-of-view shots. Meaning that, instead of just showing the child looking through the looking glass, the audience is seeing what the child is seeing. Prior to this, watching a film was like watching a play. The camera was set up in front of the scene and stayed put. Grandma's Reading Glass was the beginning of the “language” of film. A language that is so familiar to us now, that we do not even recognize that it has syntax like any other language.

But the syntax of film has a limitation. In a movie there is no past or future. Everything in a movie takes place in a continuous present. There is no “was” and no “will be” in a film. To change the tense of a movie, the director has to resort to the “flash-back,” an inelegant device whereby the picture starts to blur and the sound becomes echo-y. It all seems like such a long time ago-o-o-o. And when we cut to that past scene, the language of film reverts to the present tense.

We can use this anomaly in the language of film to understand one of Judaism's most basic concepts.

Intuitively, time seems eternal. It seems that we are born into a world that has always been here, and we leave a world that will always be.

This idea is the basis of all atheism. If time was always here, then there was no creation, and if there was no creation, then — G-d forbid — there's no Creator.

The very first word in the Torah — Bereishet — contradicts that intuition. Bereishet, “In the beginning…” can be understood to mean "Beh" — standing for Barah Reishit, meaning, “G-d created the beginning.” Time itself is a creation. It had a beginning. And anything that has a beginning must have an end.

Not only did G-d create beginning, but He re-creates that beginning every single nanosecond. The monolith called time does not exist. The language of film, its constant present tense, gives us a way to understand this reality. And there's another even more interesting aspect of film that illustrates this constant creation of time.

If you take an old movie film and unwind it, it's made up of thousands of individual pictures. The fact that we don't see a series of still images but a continuous flow of movement is due to something called “the persistence of vision,” which says that the brain will form the impression of movement when slightly different images are presented to the eye faster than around 10 frames per second. The same idea holds true for digital movies.

There is no such thing as the continuity of time. There are just individual moments, like a child's “flicker book.”

Which brings us to the question: “What's so wrong with bread?’

The Exodus from Egypt saw the creation of a nation which would proclaim to the world the existence of a single Creator Who created everything — including time. It is time that turns matzah into bread. There's no other difference. On the festival of Pesach, where we once again proclaim to the world that there is a Creator, we renourish our souls with the food that rejects the independence of time — the unleavened bread called matzah.

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