Parashat Tsav
March 25-26, 2016 – 16 Adar II 5776 
Annual (Leviticus 6:1-8:36): Etz Hayim p. 613; Hertz p. 429
Triennial (Leviticus 8:1-36): Etz Hayim p. 621; Hertz p. 435
Haftarah (Jeremiah 7:21-8:3, 9:22-23): Etz Hayim, p. 627; Hertz p. 439

PDF Tsav 5776

Welcome to the new “Torah Sparks” direct from the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem! The CY’s beautiful Beit Midrash is full of students learning Jewish texts and enhancing their relationships with Jewish prayer and the Jewish community. Torah Sparks brings you a taste of their enthusiasm for Judaism and Jewish text from Jerusalem every week.

Human or Object – The Struggle of Leadership
Rabbi Becky Silverstein is Education Director at Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center
Rabbi Silverstein also serves on the Board of Directors for Keshet, working for full inclusion and equality of LGBTQ Jews in the Jewish world.

Parashat Tsav presents the rites through which Aaron and his sons – the priests – are inaugurated into service in the Tabernacle.  The consecration ceremony described in this parashah follows the arc of instructions laid out originally in Exodus 29, but with several significant departures.

In Exodus (29:4, 9) the installation focuses on Moses, Aaron, and his sons.  In contrast, this week the Lord tells Moses to take Aaron and his sons… “together with the whole community at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting (Lev 8:3)”  The washing and dressing of Aaron and his sons is no longer a private ceremony, as originally instructed.  Aaron and his sons will be aware that they are serving on behalf of the people, and the people aware that the consecration has been done at Divine command.   The community’s involvement recalls Exodus 35, where Moses assembled the community in order to emphasize the importance of Shabbat and then the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle).  The people who are to build a structure for kedusha (holiness), the Tabernacle, must first embody holiness in their own practice (Shabbat).  Through their installation as priests, Aaron and his sons will be able to serve as clei kodesh, holy functionaries, within that holy space.

Another change occurs at the conclusion of the ordination.  In Exodus the process ends with the purification of the altar.  Everything that touches the altar becomes holy (כָּל הַנֹּגֵעַ בַּמִּזְבֵּחַ יִקְדָּשׁ, Ex 29:37), apparently including Aaron and his sons, portrayed almost as part of the furnishings of the Tent of Meeting.  Here in Tzav the consecration of Aaron and sons concludes the ceremony, emphasizing the importance of the human role in the divine service.  But with authority comes responsibility: וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת מִשְׁמֶרֶת ה’ וְלֹא תָמוּתוּ (“keep the Lord’s charge, lest you die” 8:35), as will be demonstrated, tragically, with Aaron’s sons Nadav and Avihu next week in Parashat Shemini.

The consecration service here shows that ordinary materials and indeed people can be transformed into clei kodesh, instruments for serving God, but there is danger inherent in this as well.  The ceremony here has brought both Aaron and his sons, now consecrated priests, closer to the people and yet at the same time separated from them.  The root K’D’SH, “set aside,” can indicate both holy (kadosh) and profane (kadesh/a).  Religious life has is not without tension.  The leaders must be close to the people and attentive to them, yet remain at the Tent of Meeting, mindful of certain invisible lines which must not be crossed.

Leaders in today’s world would do well to learn their charge from the ordination ceremony in Tsav.  Coming too close to the people can diminish their status and their ability to serve as conduits to God.  But pride and isolation can lead to corruption, as happened in the Temple over the course of our history.   May all of our leaders be blessed with a strong sense of their own humility and a keen sensitivity to the humanity of those they serve.    

A Vort for Parashat Tsav
Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb, CY Faculty

The Parasha  ends by telling that “Aaron and his sons did all that God commanded them to do” (8:36), which Rashi explains as praiseworthy, “they did not turn either to the right or the left.”  The Hatam Sofer (R’ Moses Schreiber, 1762–1839, Germany/Austria-Hungary) once asked a congregant to lead the service.  The congregant shrugged his shoulders and hemmed and hawed, as if unworthy for the task.  The Hatam Sofer, piqued, quoted the Rashi above, “Aaron and his sons did not shrug their shoulders and play false modesty; they just got up and did what they were bidden to do.  Excess modesty,” he concluded, “is also a form of pride.”

Table Talk
Vered Hollander-Goldfarb, CY Faculty

Our Parasha belongs to the Kohanim (priests). We open with general instructions for sacrificing, and move on to the process of turning Aaron and his sons from ordinary Levites into Kohanim.

 1) At the beginning of the Parasha we are instructed that the fire on the Mizbe’ach (alter) shall never be allowed to die out (6:5). What might be the reason for that? We had a similar discussion about the light inside the Tabernacle. Is there a connection?

2) A regular Mincha offering (made of grain and oil) that is given by people is partially burnt and the rest is eaten (6:7-11). Who is supposed to eat it? Why do you think that they should eat it rather than burn it all to God?

3) On the other hand, a Mincha offering given by Aaron and his sons on the day that they are anointed as Kohanim is different (6:12-16). What will be done with it? Why do you think that the Kohanim are not eating from it?

4) In 7:22-27 the Torah limits the parts of animals (even Kosher ones) that we may eat. What parts are ‘off limits’ to people for eating? What is the reason given for some of the prohibition (v.25)? What might be the reason for the prohibition against consuming blood?

5) Chapter 8 tells us about the ceremony to make Aaron and his sons Kohanim. How long does this period last? Where are Aaron and his sons during this time? Why do you think that they are instructed to stay there? (8:33-35)