Two Rights Don’t Make a Left: Tzav 2022

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Are you left-handed? If so, do you find that you spend time with an inordinate number of fellow left-handers? Do you ever wish you were right-handed? If you’re right-handed, do you wish you could use your left hand equally well?

As God describes the priests’ consecration ceremony, it’s clear that there is a preference for one side of their bodies:

The Pitch: “Moses took some of [a ram’s] blood and put it on the ridge of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot.” – Leviticus 8:23

Swing #1: “In this figure, he indicated that the fully consecrated must be pure in words and actions and in his whole life; for words are judged by hearing, the hand is the symbol of action, and the foot of the pilgrimage of life.” – Philo, On the Life of Moses

Swing #2: “In the case of ritual in the Hebrew Bible, specific subrites, such as washing or blood daubing, appear in different ritual contexts that are not always directly related. While they do not carry a ‘standard’ set of meaning(s), they sometimes share similar elements.” – Gerald A. Klingbeil, Bridging the Gap: Ritual and Ritual Texts in the Bible

Swing #3: “Since we find that the Torah gives deference to the right hand … therefore in dressing and in other activities you should begin with the right [hand or foot] as opposed to the left [hand or foot.]” – Kitzur Shulchan Arukh

Late-Inning Questions: Why do our commentators think that the right side is more significant than the left side? Is obsessing about one’s right hand or left hand worth the trouble? Or, does choosing what hand we use add needed structure to our lives? Are habits often dismissed as superstition sometimes helpful for our psyches?

On-Deck at TBT: Thanks to everyone for making Purim so satisfying. For many of us, Purim will always be associated with the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown two years ago, and we’re thankful that we can begin celebrating again in earnest.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of right-handers and left-handers, I’m disappointed that my favorite left-handed first-basemen, Anthony Rizzo, re-signed with the Yankees instead of returning to the Cubs. He was the soul of the best era of Cubs teams in a century, and it would’ve been great for him to reunite at Wrigley. But he – along with Kris Bryant, Jon Lester, Javy Baez, Joe Maddon, Theo Epstein, and everyone else associated with the 2016 team – should never have to buy another meal in Chicago again, in appreciation for finally breaking the curse.

Shabbat Shalom!