“Parsha and Purpose” – Parshat Tzav 5780
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha
“Rising to the Occasion”
Rising to the Occasion: Parshat Tzav
We are recording on the balcony of our apartment in Jerusalem as all of us are staying inside keeping safe following the protocols of our health care professionals throughout the world.
And we’re just a 30 minute walk to the Kotel, the Western Wall, and the Temple area.
The Mikdash, the Temple, is discussed in our Torah portion. The inauguration of the Temple, the investiture of the Kohanim, and there is one sacrifice that is normally so esoteric, but really speaks to us during this corona epidemic.
The flour offering, Minchah, where the Torah tells us, both in this week’s Torah portion and last week’s, that the flour offering that is offered to God, lo ta’aseh chametz, it cannot have any form of leavening, ki kol se’or, anything that allows the flour to leaven, ve’chol dvash, or any additional sweetness that is added to it, lo tatiru, it then cannot be offered as a sacrifice to God. Leviticus 2:11
Except once a year we bring Shtei HaLehem, two loaves of bread baked with a leavening substance to the Mikdash on Shavuot, the holiday in which we celebrate the receiving of the Torah. Leviticus 23:17
The Torah is the blueprint for how we are to engage the world, the mandate for us to change the world.
This is a recognition of the fact that while we’re dependent on God, one day a year, on the holiday of Shavuot, we add a leavening process, to remind us that we can make a difference, that we can make the dough rise, that we can transform the world around us.
How much are we seeing that now? We’re seeing healthcare workers from all different countries that in the past never talked to each other, are working together to rise to the occasion, to transform the situation.
We’re seeing that individuals can make a difference, even in quarantine, even when we recognize our absolute dependence on God, even when we’re offering the flour offering without any leavening agents. We’re seeing that even in quarantine people are making a difference, whether by creating masks in our homes to donate, or by the virtual door-knocking that we’re involved in. We’re celebrating the messages behind the Shtei HaLehem of Shavuot.
We feel our dependence upon God. We show this recognition by not adding a leavening agent to the ordinary korban minchah, but once a year, on the holiday of Shavuot, we can make and celebrate the fact that humankind can make a difference in the world, that we truly add a leavening agent, to celebrate the fact that as Jews, as human beings, we can transform the world around us through the prism of Jewish values.
May it be a safe week for each and every one of us. Follow the orders and the mandates of our medical professionals, and please God, next year, l’Shana haBa’a be’Yerushalayim Ha’benuya. We will join together – you’re invited to join me – on this mirpeset, on this balcony, to celebrate together.