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Parashat Tzav (Leviticus 6:1-8:36)

“A continuous fire shall burn upon the altar; it shall not go out.” (Leviticus 6:6)

Parashat Tzav is a little bit of déjà vu, all over again. It describes the ritual duties of the kohanim (priests) for performing each of the sacrifices listed in last week’s parasha (portion): the olah (burnt offering), mincha (meal offering), chatat (sin offering), asham (guilt offering), and zevach sh’lamim (peace offering). It is detailed, repetitive, and seemingly irrelevant to today’s world. There’s more to it, though, if you can get past the blood and guts.

Parashat Tzav says, “If the priest yakrivenu, or offers it [the zevach sh’lamim], as a thanksgiving offering…” (Lev. 7:12). Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, (Rabbi of Congregation B’nai Israel in North Adams, MA and author of the blog “Velveteen Rabbi”) points out K-R-V, the root of yakrivenu, can also mean to bring close. So giving thanks becomes a way to bring the source of our good fortune close. Later, though, Tzav continues, “…the thanksgiving offering shall be eaten on the day it is offered; the priest shall not leave any of it over until morning.” (Lev. 7:15) What’s the rush?

Rabbi Barenblat suggests three reasons. First, since you never know what will happen, you should never wait to say thank you, lest you lose the chance. Second, when you say thank you, it shouldn’t be perfunctory; you need to be wholly in the moment. And third, it reflects an attitude of faith and trust: new things will happen tomorrow that also will require a zevach sh’lamim, new reasons to draw close to God with gratitude.
The form of Jewish ritual may have changed, but the message in the ritual remains constant: give thanks today so you can give thanks tomorrow.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom


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