Burnt Notice: Tzav 2017

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Why is fire such a compelling Jewish symbol? How do activities such as lighting Shabbat and Hanukkah candles resonate with you?

As we continue reading the book of Leviticus, we are introduced in the Torah portion of Tzav to other ways that fire enabled our ancestors to connect to the Divine: burnt sacrificial offerings.

The Pitch: “Command Aaron and his sons thus: This is the ritual of the burnt offering: The burnt offering itself shall remain where it is burned upon the altar all night until morning, while the fire on the altar is kept going on it.” – Leviticus 6:2

Swing #1: “The letter mem in the Hebrew mokedah (‘its firewood’) is small, to indicate that the fiery zeal of a Jew on behalf of his faith must not be put on exhibit for all to see but should be kept deep within the heart, away from the public eye.” – Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk

Swing #2: “‘Torah’ is the word used to describe a set of teachings or laws governing a certain situation and pertaining to ritual. Thus we find verses like: ‘This is the ritual (torah) of the burnt offering.” – Israel Knohl, The Divine Symphony: The Bible’s Many Voices

Swing #3: “How do we adorn ourselves and our projects? How do we maintain a balance between humility and haughtiness, elegance and extremism, commitment and tired repetition, commandment and contrivance? How do we keep in touch with that spark of inspiration that keeps us true and focused? Whose responsibility is it to maintain devotion and kindle sparks of understanding? Three thousand years ago the generations of the house of Aaron tended the channel of our people’s burning desire to be a community close to God: the eternal flame. Today we rely on ourselves and each other.” – Rabbi Claire Magidovitch Green, from The Women’s Torah Commentary, edited by Rabbi Elyse Goldstein

Late-Inning Questions: What does fire symbolize in our Torah portion, according to our commentators? How could our ancestors understand burning slaughtered animals or crops to be communication with God? Since we don’t perform ritual sacrifices anymore, how might our prayers and actions resemble the qualities of fire that was used prominently so many years ago?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: We look forward to hearing Aaron Levine, a high-school junior and this year’s COSY president, tell us about his experiences at the AIPAC Policy Conference that took place last month. You can hear him at tomorrow morning’s Shabbat service, which begins at 9:30AM.

The Big Inning at the End: Now that the baseball season has begun, big-league fans are confronted with a recent feature of early-April games: numerous rainouts each day. Wouldn’t it be better if all games during the first two weeks of the season took place in domed stadiums or in mild climates like California? Or is this silly, given that rain can certainly fall in late April and beyond?

Shabbat Shalom, and very soon, Happy Passover!