Tzav -- How does one translate this word??
The portion of the week that we read this Shabbat is Tzav, and continues the long list of sacrifices that were offered in the Temple by the Kohanim. Reading through this portion, much as the reading last week and in the coming eight weeks, until we get to the next book, sounds a little like a description of the workings of a slaughterhouse. Not very gentle, not very appetizing, and not something one discusses in polite society. One has to scrutinize the text carefully to find something worth discussing. However, there are such things!
Take, for example, the passage in this weeks portion: "And this is the teaching of the sacrifice of peace offering, which one may offer unto the Lord. If he offer it for a thanksgiving, than he shall offer with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cake mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers spread with oil, and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour soaked. With cakes of unleavened bread he shall present his offering with the sacrifice of his peace-offerings for thanksgiving." [Lev.7:11-14]
Yesterday I sent a message to my children, by way of the new communication marvel called e-mail -- which is electronic mail. What a great age we live in, that we are capable to communicate and keep in touch with our loved ones even when they travel and sojourn across town, across the country, or on the farthest parts of the planet -- with the ease and speed of being in the same room. Anyway, the message I sent to my dear ones read, "I cannot begin to tell you how very beautiful it is out of doors in my place of residence this morning! The citrus bloom is at its peak; we had a nice slow rain during the night and it cleaned and filtered the air and the temperature is about sixty five! What can be nicer? It is like meeting your sweetheart just after he/she had a good night's sleep and a fine breakfast and warm shower, having used a fine perfume to make him/herself more attractive yet!
As for me, it is time to go about my duties -- I just had to share my morning with you. I love and miss you all!" -- this message was a missile of thanksgiving to God. So often we fail to stop and look around us, to smell the roses and pet and kittens. We forget to be thankful for the gifts of life and nature and love. Oh, we know quite well how to cry about our suffering, we mount campaigns to decry the suffering of others -- but we never count our blessings! We walk out of doors and complain about the pollen count. We are unhappy about the humidity. We see the cup as half empty. Let us reverse our vision. Let us see the half that is full. Let us recognize all the multitude of blessings and gifts with which we have been and continue to be blessed each minute of each day of our life. Hodu ladonay ki tov, ki leolam khasdo -- Give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, for His lovingkindness endures forever. Amen
This weeks Torah portion is "Tsav," the Hebrew word for "command," and is the second portion from Leviticus, chapter 6:8 to 8:35. The portion begins with God telling Moses that he should command to Aaron and his sons many of the laws relating to the service in the mishkan (Tabernacle). Among the subjects discussed are the instructions regarding the fire which burned on the altar and the details of the different kinds of korbanot (offerings) which Aaron, his sons, and the succeeding generations of kohanim (priests) would be bringing on the altar. The various korbanot discussed include the olah (elevation offering), the minkha (offering of flour and water), the khata'at (sin offering), the asham (guilt offering), and the todah (daily offering of thanksgiving). The Torah portion continues to relate how the various korbanot would be distributed and eaten. Finally, the lengthy consecration service of the kohanim is described, as Aaron and his sons are anointed and inaugurated for their service in the mishkan by Moses in front of the entire congregation of Israel.
I venture to assume that for most of us, these descriptions seem tedious and irrelevant, if not altogether unnecessary in a text at the turn of the third millennia. We may ask, why not skip it? We may even ask, how did it survive the test of history. After all, it has been two thousand years since the Temple was destroyed and sacrifices ceased to be offered. Let me suggest to you a new and different approach to the text. Consider if you please, that whenever an elaborate list of details, almost a blueprint is given in the Torah, it relates to a saving-act of God. For example, a detailed plan for Noah's ark was given to him and the ark was the vehicle by which God saved humanity. If Noah had been careless in building the ark, he and his family, and all those that God wished to be survivors of his creation, would have perished. The plan for God's tabernacle, which was built in the desert after the experience of Sinai, is also given in minute detail. That tabernacle is called in Hebrew the "mishkan," meaning 'dwelling place' -- and a precise execution of God's plan was a pre-requisite to ensure that God would dwell in the midst of Israel; His dwelling in the midst of Israel, which is called "Shekhina," meaning the 'presence,' is the only guarantee we have of surviving in the face of world enmity, and our only hope for redemption.
Usually the Torah text says, God spoke unto Moses and said, "Speak to the Children of Israel" or "Say unto them." However, in today's text it uses the term "tzav -- command (Aaron and his sons)." This language indicates that there is both urgency and importance regarding what will follow. What is so important and urgent about the korban olah -- the olah offering?
Rashi, the 11th-century master-commentator on the Torah, quotes Torat Kohanim, telling us that the Hebrew word "tzav" connotes urgency to action in the present and in the future. Why does this mitzvah require such strong language to ensure its fulfillment in future generations while no such emphasis exists upon most mitzvot of the Torah? The Torah uses the word "tzav," commentary tells us, when a monetary loss is involved in performing the mitzvah. In our case, it is a financial obligation upon the Jewish nation to bring the korban olah twice daily. Therefore, the Torah uses the word "tzav" to strongly charge us in this mitzvah's fulfillment despite the monetary loss. Is it, then, a question of money, dollars and cents, in the end? No, indeed!
There are two aspects to korbanot: the first is physical -- the animal which was being offered to God. However, we know that this is not what is of importance. We read just a week ago in the Haftara from Samuel, [Sam.I 15:22] "Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams." The second aspect is the intent of the person bringing the korban (offering). These two aspects are not given equal value. In God's eyes, the essential aspect of a korban is the intent, motive, and attitude of the person offering it; the physical is only of secondary importance. Throughout history, it has been man's challenge to properly combine these two aspects.
Being overly concerned with the physical aspect of the offering is completely missing the point. According to the Sforno, a classic 16th century Italian commentator on the Torah, this is why Cain's offering was rejected by God (Genesis 4:3-7). Cain thought that God was only interested in the physical gift. Since his intent was not to become closer to God his offering was rejected. Overemphasis of the physical aspect of korbanot was the Jewish nation's error during the time when the Temple stood. Again and again the Prophets reproved the Jewish nation for merely offering animal sacrifices without any sincere intent to become closer to the Divine.
Returning to our passage, it is important to note that the portion begins with the word, "Command Aaron and his sons" and ends with the same word, "Thus Aaron and his sons did all the things which the Lord had commanded..." Between these two words you will note the appearance of 18 commandments (which is "kha'y"), such as, (1) To remove the ashes from the altar, (2) To make fire on the altar, (3) The fire must not be put out, (4) The priests must eat the remainder of the cereal offering, (5) Using leaven in cereal offering is forbidden, (6) The high priest must offer a cereal offering every day, (7) The high priest's offering is forbidden to be eaten. O.k., enough of these laws -- even God rested on seven. You get the idea, and I don't wish to bore you. However, I do want to point out to you that these laws were meant to enhance our life through obedience to God. Performance of the command constitutes obedience, it is not an elusive, arbitrary concept. Following specific instructions is what establishes obedience. The whole sacrificial system is meaningless unless observed as commanded. During much of the time that the Temple stood, many among the Jewish nation completely ignored the physical aspect of korbanot. They reasoned that if the essential aspect of a sacrifice is to grow spiritually, then why bother with the physical aspect. Does it really matter if the animal does not come from the best of the flock?
Once again, the Jewish nation is reproved by the Prophets. Indeed, one's intent is the essential aspect of a sacrifice. But one cannot overlook the physical aspect. As human beings composed of a body and a soul, we must serve God on both physical and spiritual levels. Just as we cannot ignore the physicality of our own being, we also cannot ignore the physical aspect of serving God.
Moreover, carelessness in the fine details means disobedience. Still, obedience is not an end unto itself. Neither is it supposed to teach us the meaning of discipline. The purpose of obedience is to lead the believer to live a holy life which is pleasing to God. Holiness is a prerequisite condition for God to dwell in the midst of the believing community. Before He spoke to them at Sinai, God said, "And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation." [Ex.19:6] In a more concrete way, it is only within holiness that we can experience the reality of God with us, as we read, "You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy." [Lev. 19:2]
Consider how the burnt offering was to be performed (6:8-13). The priest was to dress in a modest white garment made of linen, a common and inexpensive material. The offering itself was composed of the fat which covers the heart and the internal organs of the animal, not the choice portion of meat. The priest was then to completely burn the fat overnight and afterwards pick up the ashes and put them in a pure place.
It does not take much effort to realize the rich symbolism which is found in this old ritual. And, there are modern ramifications as well. Think of the priest, in his linen (maybe green in color,) carefully cutting off the fat around the heart. Does it not remind you of bypass surgery? The fat heart, the Torah indicates, is a metaphor for a sinful heart. Today, a fat heart is a death sentence. The removal of the fat is a reminder to remove our "fatness" as well, and then to burn it, to eradicate it so completely that you may have a new heart. So, maybe we are not talking about bypass, we are talking about a heart transplant. Now doctors are saying that many times a transplant patient begins to notice changes of character, maybe caused by the late heart donor. In our case, here, the new heart is from God. And so, with a new heart we could begin to live again, to live better than before, one hopes. A life motivated by closeness to Him.
The Torah concept of holiness which the korbanot teach us involves hard work -- and routine. Doing the same thing day in and day out without tiring. A process, free from human mood or feeling. Holiness is found precisely in that which we tend to neglect. Yet only when attention is paid to the tedious and detail-laden labor can we achieve that which is meant by the very word "offering," which is "olah" in Hebrew, meaning "elevation," or "going up."
If we have proper intent to accept God's sovereignty and His divine will, then we must really take care to pronounce the words of prayer correctly and on time. Doesn't God know what we are thinking? The answer is a resounding yes. But there is an equally resounding imperative to serve God with our physical being as well, and thus use the totality of our existence in God's service. The process is elevating, the result is kdusha, holiness.
Those of you that were not here on Sunday missed a great and awesome sight: that of our sanctuary teeming with happy children, some dressed in costume, looking like little queens, kings and "Mordekha'ys." In other words, you missed celebrating the happy holiday of Purim. This Shabbat, we are reading the Torah portion of "Tsav," the Hebrew word for "command," from Leviticus, chapter 6:8 to 8:35, which begins with God telling Moses that he should command to Aaron and his sons many of the laws relating to the service in the Mishkan ('dwelling' -- Tabernacle). Among the subjects discussed are the instructions regarding the fire which burned on the altar and the details of the different kinds of korbanot (offerings) which Aaron, his sons, and the succeeding generations of kohanim (priests) would be offering on the altar. With this portion we begin to travel from Purim to Pesakh. Time wise, you realize, we are marching backwards -- across a period of over a thousand years. The journey is made necessary by our own immaturity and lack of readiness at the time of the original night of Pesakh -- and our 'coming of age' at the time of Mordekha'y and Ester.
The Talmud [Tractate Shabbat 88a] relates that the Jewish people originally accepted the Torah at Mount Sinai under duress. 'How is that,' You ask? Well, we read in Exodus 19:17 " And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount." The last part of the verse, "they stood at the nether part of the mount," reads in the Hebrew, "rvv ,h,j,c ucmh,hu -- vayit'yatzvu betakhtit hahar," which can be read 'and they stood under the mountain.' Thus the commentator suggests that the Lord held the mountain over them, threatening them with destruction if they did not accept. However, more than a thousand years later, in the days of King Akhashverosh and the events of Purim, the Jewish people willingly reconfirmed their commitment to the God of Abraham and the Torah He gave at Sinai. The question arises as to why it was so important that they accept the Torah once again, specifically at the time of the Purim story. They had been doing fine for such a long time. Why at all, and why now?
Rabbi Yonatan Eybeshitz, an 18th century Kabbalist and scholar from Alsace, the French province known for its wine, suggests that in order to answer this question we must first gain a better understanding of what Haman, the Jew's protagonist at the time of their reconfirmation, represented. We believe Haman to be a descendant of the evil nation of Amalek -- since he is called an Agagite in the text, and Agag was king of Amalek in the days of King Saul and the Seer, Samuel. You will not find Amalek in any encyclopedia, and there is no historic record that there ever was such a people -- except in the Jewish scriptures, where we find that Amalek was a son of Eliphaz, son of Esau, Jacob's twin brother. Torah commentators suggest that Esau was the epitome of pure evil, but he was not viewed as such by many of the people of his time because of his guile and duplicity. He was able to conceal his nature from his father by his expertise in the mitzvah of honoring one's parents, hunting and cooking for Yitzkhak his favorite foods -- which, of course, were not 'kosher!'
A similar kind of deception could have been mistakenly ascribed to the Jewish people for originally accepting the Torah without truly feeling in their hearts that it is worth keeping. It is very difficult to be objective and sincere with a mountain suspended over your head -- it may be even more difficult to be truly committed with God looking straight at you, as in the Sinai experience. At a time such as that one says, "na'ase venishma" -- we shall do and we shall listen. In the meantime, please, let God speak to Moses alone, for the experience is much too awesome for a whole people to live with, to live through. Thus, to differentiate themselves from the deceptive ways of their enemies, to be worthy of victory over Haman, the Jewish people needed to reconfirm their acceptance of Torah's supremacy.
Amalek may not have been one specific people at all! A sage suggests that the name was actually short for 'AM (a people) Lo (not) Kadosh (holy)' -- a people that knows no sanctity, or a people without holiness. Such a people are without mercy, without pity, without justice, without honor and without loving kindness. They are the antithesis of Israel, a people that was consecrated by God at Sinai, and made to be a "mamlekhet kohanim ve'am kadosh" -- a kingdom of priests and a holy people.
Of course, there is a great chasm between the pledge to live by the Torah and the actual life of our progenitors in the days of the settlement of the Promised Land, the days of the Judges and the Kings. That is why first Israel and then Judea were conquered and exiled from their land. The people who came out of Egypt were a multitude of slaves; the people who conquered Canaan were a nomad people who had been trained and honed for two generations, forty years, to conquer a land and settle in it; and the people who were conquered and exiled were Israelites and Judeans, farmers and artisans, kings, soldiers and crooks. These people were not, by and large, the "mamlekhet kohanim ve'am kadosh" -- a kingdom of priests and a holy people that was envisaged by Moses and by God.
We travel forward in time and backward in history as we follow the calendar four weeks from Purim to Pesakh. Purim, like Pesakh, is a time of deliverance. Pesakh, unlike Purim, saw a liberation of a people from slavery unto freedom. Yet we did not, and do not, fully understand the meaning of liberation -- maybe because we have been shielded by the very walls that excluded us from living a life of free people. Ghetto walls offer protection even as they prevent opportunity. Slaves are spared the insecurity of choice, the risk of failure that is the flip side of the coin of enterprise and industry. Israel, at Sinai, wanted Moses and God to interact on their behalf. The Jews in the days of Mordekha'y and Ester learned their lesson, and stood up against their enemies, defending themselves and inflicting punishment on their enemies. Purim, like Pesakh, was a turning point in the history of the Jewish people. The Jews learned to depend on their own resources, even while they were inspired by their faith in the Master of the Universe. Mordekha'y assembled the Jews of Shushan and had them pray and fast for Ester. Ester used her native intelligence to devise the plan by which she turned her spoiled husband king from a rubber stamp for the evil Haman to a strong man that stood for the basic rights of all his citizens, even against the best laid plans of Haman and his gang of evil assistant.
In the Haftara, the reading from the Prophets that concludes the Torah service this Shabbat, we read from Jeremiah, "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Put your burnt offerings unto your sacrifices, and eat flesh. For I spoke not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you." [7:21-23] throughout our history, from Pesakh to Purim, to Yom Ha'atzma'ut to tomorrow, this has not changed. It is God's word, forever!
Tzav 5758 -- Shabbat Hagadol
This week we celebrate a special Shabbat -- the Shabbat before the Festival of our Freedom from bondage in Egypt -- which begins with the night of the Passover. This Shabbat has a very "imposing" name: Shabbat hagadol -- the "Great" Shabbat! On this Shabbat we continue our weekly study of the Torah text in sequence. Last week we began reading "Torat Cohanim," the teaching of the priests, and this week we read from the beginning of chapter six to the end of chapter eight. Because this is the teaching of the priests, you find in the text instructions on how to deal with different types of sacrifices that were brought to God's altar. Thus we read, "Vezot torat zevakh hashlamim asher yakriv l'Adona'y -- And this is the teaching of the sacrifice of peace offering, which one may offer unto the Lord." [Lev.7:11] The text goes on to expound and enlarge on this opening verse, and it tells us what is the "peace offering" for: "'If he offers it as an expression of thankfulness, then along with this thank offering he is to offer cakes of bread made without yeast and mixed with oil, wafers made without yeast and spread with oil, and cakes of fine flour well-kneaded and mixed with oil." [Lev.7:12] And further, on the same subject, "'If, however, his offering is the result of a vow or is a freewill offering, the sacrifice shall be eaten on the day he offers it, but anything left over may be eaten on the next day. " [Lev.7:16]
So, to recapitulate the text I presented, you have these offerings which are called zevakh hashlamim and are translated as peace offering. It is then further explained that there are two types of occasions for making this offering, namely, expression of thankfulness and the result of a vow or a freewill offering. Actually, neither occasion has anything to do with peace! To be sure, we could be thankful for a life of peace, but normally the absence of conflict is not what drives us to give God praise -- just as it is not something you get to report on as news. You will never ever hear on the nightly news, "Good evening. Today nothing happened in the Middle East. There was no strife in Ireland. No terrorist activity was reported in the former Soviet Union..." News is a listing of violence and upheaval. More often than not we give thanks for deliverance or recuperation. Vows that come true and for which we feel obliged to offer sacrifices to God also rarely include anything to do with peace. Except for 'peace of mind.' But what is this peace of mind, anyhow?
I would like to suggest to you that there is actually a miss-reading, or miss-translation of the term zevakh hashlamim. If, indeed, we were speaking of 'peace offering,' the Hebrew would have been 'zevakh shalom.' The term zevakh hashlamim relates to the root of 'shalom' -- which is 'shalem,' meaning complete. The offerings that are mentioned in this reading are offerings of completion, as when one completes a task or a vow -- and is therefore 'driven' to mark the occasion with a special gift to God, who is Master of all that takes place in our lives, and to whom thanksgiving is due.
It is this concept of completion that brings us from the reading in the Torah to the event of the season -- the Shabbat before the Time of our Deliverance from Egypt, from the place of Bondage. We are told that the Egyptians enslaved our forefathers in Egypt, but to some extent we have to take responsibility for our fate ourselves, too. Had the Sons of Jacob not remained in Egypt beyond the time of the famine in the Land if Canaan, there would have been no chance for the Egyptians to enslave them. Our fate was in our hands, even in the days of the exodus itself. Our sages tell us that not all the Israelites were taken out of Egypt. There were those among them who were unsure, who suspected that God will not be able to redeem them. They did not mark their doorposts with the blood of the Pascal lamb -- and they were left behind! More than that, they were counted a Egyptians, and their first born were slain!
The same is true in every generation. Death is not the worst fate possible! To be alive and yet to count for dead -- that is far worse! The secret Jews who did not pass the secret on to their children died twice! The Jews who suffered for their heritage and who gave up that heritage precisely at the time when they had a chance to practice it -- such as the Jews of the former Soviet Union who came to this country to find safety from religious persecution only to forfeit their heritage, are today's left-behind slaves! Slaves to old fears, slaves to their ambitions to be financially well-off, slaves to lack of resolve to stand up and be complete.
Next Friday we shall assemble again in the synagogue, but we shall do it early, before the sun has completely set, and we shall welcome the Shabbat queen, and we shall welcome the holiday, as well. Then we shall sit together, as families, as groups of Jews in homes and in public gatherings such as the community Seder of our congregation. We shall relive the experience, again and for the first time, even as our sages told us, "in every generation you shall consider yourselves to be the ones who went out of Egypt." We shall spend our time recalling our history and our deliverance. We shall rejoice in our freedom, and we shall be redeemed. Those who do not, once again, will be left behind.
Shabbat shalom and welcome to all of you who are here with us this evening to pray and celebrate. I am not one to put anyone on the spot by asking, "how come you were not here?" However, I must comment and say that those of you who were not here last Monday missed a great and awesome sight: that of our sanctuary teeming with happy children, many of them dressed in costume, looking like little queens, kings and "Mordekha'ys." In other words, you missed celebrating the happy holiday of Purim. This Shabbat, we are reading the Torah portion of "Tzav," the Hebrew word for "command," from Leviticus, chapter 6:8 to 8:35, and the text continues the long list of sacrifices that were offered in the Temple by the Kohanim. Reading through this portion, much as the reading last week and in the coming eight weeks, until we get to the next book of the Torah, we have to glean through the text to find anything other that "priestly instructions."
So I thought that I would go to a contemporary matter that is in the same vein, and discuss the current work of the universal Cohen gadol, the chief priest of Catholicism. You are all aware that the Pope, John Paul II, is on a pilgrimage. There was something wrong about this pilgrimage from the start, or even before the start. This Pope, who in a native of Poland and had experienced the Holocaust in the land that swallowed most of our kin, ignored all diplomatic courtesies and applied pressure on Israel by speaking of the "international nature" of Jerusalem, the Eternal City of David and the capital of the State of Israel. Further, this priest, who claims deep sorrow about the suffering of the Jews at the hand of the Church and its adherents, did not see fit to proclaim that he is making a visit to the sovereign state of the Jews, claiming that he is "merely a pilgrim to the Holy Land." Well, let Tibet, or Salt Lake City, be called Holy Land; but let us recall and restate that the Land made holy by Abraham in covenant with God is Israel!
Half a century after one pope, Pius the XII, refrained from condemning the destruction of European Jewry, his successor stood at the very epicenter of remembrance to pay tribute once again to the six million who died. He had done it before, at the very jaws of death, in Auschwitz - but he included all victims, refusing to direct the issue of Jewish suffering singly and exclusively. It was as if, in his priestly chore, he was offering the lamb of atonement with the ram of thanksgiving. It should not be done. "I have come to Yad Vashem to pay homage to the millions of Jewish people who, stripped of everything, especially of their human dignity, were murdered in the Holocaust," the 79-year-old pontiff said. "More than half a century has passed, but the memories remain... my own personal memories are of all that happened when the Nazis occupied Poland during the war..." And yes, he did say, "As bishop of Rome and successor of the Apostle Peter, I assure the Jewish people that the Catholic Church, motivated by the Gospel law of truth and love and by no political considerations, is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution, and displays of antisemitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place. The Church rejects racism in any form as a denial of the image of the creator inherent in every human being."
He did not say that the fathers of his church slandered the Jews almost from the time of its founding. Does he not know that Gregory of Nyssa, who lived from 331 to 396, issued this indictment against the Jews: "Slayers of the Lord, murderers of prophets, adversaries of God, haters of God, men who show contempt for the law, foes of grace, enemies of their fathers faith, advocates of the devil, brood of vipers, slanderers, scoffers, men whose minds are in darkness, leaven of the Pharisees, assembly of demons, sinners, wicked men, stoners, and haters of righteousness." Is he not aware that another early preacher and leader of the church, John Chrysostom, who lived from 347 to 407, and who became the archbishop of Constantinople, preached absolute enmity to the Jews: "The Jews have assassinated the Son of God! ... this [is a] nation of assassins and hangmen! ... O Jewish people! A man crucified by your hands has been stronger than you and has destroyed you and scattered you... But it was men, says the Jew, who brought these misfortunes upon us, not God. On the contrary it was in fact God who brought them about. If you attribute them to men, reflect again that, even supposing men had dared, they would not have had the power to accomplish them, unless it had been Gods will..." And is it possible that he has not been told of the virulent hatred of Jews of the Bishop of Rome, Pius XII, who refused to help the Jewish community in his own city of Rome, in the last days of the second world war.
As John Paul entered Yad Vashem, I would have loved to see him fall to the ground, yes, lay down on the ground, in the middle of all the names of death-camps in the "tent of remembrance," and cry real tears, and rend his ecclesiastic robe, and put ash on his head, and speak profound words that come from his Judaic roots. He could have said, "Your great sage, Maimonides, taught us that repentance involves both recognition of the sin and confession, coupled with an explicit request for forgiveness addressed to the wronged party. We Christians must therefore acknowledge clearly and resolutely that we have wronged you for centuries upon centuries, paving the way for wicked men to conceive and plan this most gruesome human endeavor that was called "the Final Solution." The sins of the ages were compounded and bolstered by the Concordat of the Church with Nazi Germany, which helped make it possible for Hitler to achieve total power and seal the fate of the Jews. We further confess that silence by the highest officials of the Holy See during the Holocaust contributed to the Nazi ability to persist in the annihilation. The Church as a whole - and this woefully includes some bishops, cardinals, and popes - offered insufficient resistance to Nazi efforts of extermination aimed at the Jewish people. As Christians we must admit that the arrogance of power and a regrettable moral blindness led to the fact that sons and daughters of the church collaborated with the murderers in their ghastly, repulsive, hideous and monstrous machination of death. We have no choice but to admit the direct connection that unequivocally exists between 2000 years of antisemitism inspired by Christians and the poisoned climate which made the Holocaust possible. We confess our sins, and we make our teshuva, penance, before God Almighty, in the City of David, the eternal capital of the Jewish people. We confess the sins of commission, and the sins of omission, and also the sins of permission - for we cannot stand here, in this memorial consecrated to six million innocent victims and deny the weight of past silences, complicities, and persecutions. So we stand here with a contrite heart, with a broken spirit and deep humility, to acknowledge our sins, and to beg forgiveness. To our Father in heaven, to his people Israel, to generations that now rest in His bosom, and to generations yet unborn who will live in peace and brotherhood with our children in a world made better by reconciliation and peace. Shalom al Yisrael let there be peace upon Yisrael."
This weeks Torah portion is "Tzav," the Hebrew word for "command," and is the second portion from Leviticus, chapter 6:1 to 8:35. The portion begins with God telling Moses that he should command Aaron and his sons about the many laws relating to the service in the mishkan (Tabernacle). Among the subjects discussed are the instructions regarding the fire which burned on the altar and the details of the different kinds of korbanot (offerings) which Aaron, his sons, and the succeeding generations of cohanim (priests) would be bringing on the altar. However, the very beginning of the portion reads as follows, and I find it interesting. Listen: "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Command Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the Torah of the burnt offering; It is the burnt offering, because of the burning upon the altar all night to the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be burning in it. And the priest shall put on his linen garment, and his linen breeches shall he put upon his flesh, and take up the ashes which the fire has consumed with the burnt offering on the altar, and he shall put them beside the altar. And he shall take off his garments, and put on other garments, and carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place." [Lev. 6:1-4]
What is it that I find interesting, you ask? It is the fact that the cohen had to change his clothes twice during the performance of his holy task. And why is this so interesting, you may further inquire, and I will explain: a change of clothes is a change of pace, a setting of a new scene. The priest acted in two different roles, and set the boundary of his task with the change of costume. This physical manifestation is nothing compared with the radical change that comes over us when we go from the diet of the days of the year to the special diet of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, which begins with a change of habit concerning the evening meal: On all other nights we return from synagogue soon after sunset and sit down to eat; this night we come from synagogue to sing and speak and dip and sing and speak and drink some more wine, and the dinner is delayed interminably. Our stomach begins to grumble and our head begins to buzz or even spin a little. We sing some more, and drink a little, and finally, finally prepare to eat the bread of bondage which, strangely is also the bread of freedom, with two blessings instead of only one on all other nights.
This is truly the time of Spring - more so than the 15th of the month of Shevat! So on this eve of the festival we don new clothes, spring clothes of light color and texture. I remember that as a child, it was for this holiday that my maternal grandfather would come from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem, and take "the children" to a clothing store to buy "Pessakh clothes" for us. Everything is a change of scene for us on this first night of the feast, and is repeated on the second night - the eating of greens alone among the vegetables, to fulfill the childs question, "on all other nights we eat all manner of vegetables, this night we eat (bitter) herbs only..." The final change of the night is the continuation of prayers after the traditional blessing after the meal. We engage in singing the "Hallel" - the songs of praise of God that are normally chanted in the synagogue during morning services on holidays. This "Hallel" is followed by more songs, some of which have a hidden message: the little lamb father bought for three zuzzin which was consumed by a dog, starting a chain carnage getting ever bigger, till God destroys the Angel of death. This is an allegory on the fate of the People Israel, whose enemies consume one another until the time when Messiah comes and death itself shall be vanquished.
Once the Seder is over, and the night turns to day, we continue in our "new clothes." We eat the new diet, we observe a holiday with prayers in the synagogue and reading in the Torah. We visit with family and friends and evince an air of well-being as befits "free people." Free to be close to one another, free to be closer to our Maker. Day follows day, matzah becomes "normal" for our meals, and our stomach settles into a routine, and we begin to think that it is normal to have that funny heavy feeling at the end of meals - and suddenly we return to synagogue to celebrate Yizkor and the end of the holiday. Presto chango... Here we go again, removing the costume of the Feast diet, and resuming the helter skelter of our former eating habits, which now constitute a "new" diet.
Life is made up pf a series of changes - some good, some bad, some upward and others a fall into an abyss from which we must somehow extricate ourselves. The pageantry of the priests in the Mishkan, and the customs and ceremonies of the Festival of Freedom, the time of the Unleavened bread, prepare us for the rough ride on the ocean of life. How very fortunate we are to have had a loving God and wise teachers like Moshe, to show us a way to get ready for what lies ahead, for the peril and risk of a life as freedom.
This week's Torah
portion is "Tsav," the Hebrew word for "command," and is
the second portion from Va'Yikra - Leviticus, chapter 6:1 to 8:36. The portion
begins with God telling Moses that he should command Aaron and his sons to follow
and fulfill many of the laws relating to the service in the mishkan (Tabernacle).
Among the subjects discussed are the instructions regarding the fire which burned
on the altar and the details of the different kinds of korbanot (offerings)
which Aaron, his sons, and the succeeding generations of kohanim (priests) would
be bringing on the altar.
Usually the Torah text says, "God spoke unto Moses and said, "Speak to the Children of Israel"" - or "Say unto them." However, in this week's text it uses the term "tzav -- command (Aaron and his sons)." This language indicates that there is both urgency and importance regarding what will follow. But then it goes into a long list of sacrifices that the Kohanim will make on the altar - and we ask, "does this make any sense to us?" And I reply with a question, "Does anything make any sense to us, at all?" Indeed, are we about making sense, or are we about having a good time, enjoying ourselves without taking risks and staying out of harm's way?
I would like to suggest to you that the vulnerability of Jews to assimilation in the modern world is partly due to their estrangement from their religious and spiritual traditions. Among a majority of Jews there is a profound indifference to and ignorance of the history and practices, attitudes and modes of thought that once defined the mainstream of Jewish life. Too many of us wish to experience the moment existentially - with no regard to our roots or to our future. For the peace-of-mind of the moment we are trading in both our history and our progeny. Apathy is a silent killer - but it is very effective, for it leaves no footmark, no clues to what it was that caused the death of the victim. And the victim is each and every one of us - and it is the future of our great-grandchildren, too.
The great sage of a thousand years ago, Rashi, the 11th-century master-commentator on the Torah, quotes the book of Va'yikra in this week's portion, and tells us that the Hebrew word "tzav" connotes urgency to action in the present and in the future. That is the special quality of Torah, of our tradition, of our way of life. It is not merely, and not only, for the present - it is also, and much more, for the future.
For a very long time, despite differences of Torah interpretation, there existed a strong familial bond connecting Jews to one another. Jews were deeply concerned about Jewish continuity, about the survival and dignity of the people (and recently the State of) Israel, about opposing Anti-semitism and the persecution of Jews in any form or context. This sense of solidarity testified to and reinforced why Jews continued to define themselves as a people.
Now, however, we are much less active for Jewish causes, at home or abroad. We do not "jump" to the head of the line to give money to Jewish causes, we do not volunteer to fight for Israel or to save Jews in danger in Argentina, in France, in the former Soviet states - or, most distressing of all, in the State of Israel.
In the span of 24 hours, 10 Israeli citizens have been murdered in suicide-massacres on a bus and a central Jerusalem street. Israel cannot and will not give in to this barbarism, and it knows that it will not end unless it is confronted rather than appeased.
In the six months since that dreaded September 11, we have gone through a complete cycle that started with appeasement, switched to confrontation, and then back to appeasement. The cycle began with the sense that, at the moment the United States was gearing up to crush al-Qaida and depose the Taliban, Israel had to restrain itself in order not to inflame the "anti-terror coalition." The height of this first attempt to appease Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat was US Secretary of State Colin Powell's November speech placing the State of Palestine at the center of America's vision for the Middle East. Then came Zinni's first mission, which was greeted by suicide-massacres in Jerusalem and Haifa on December 1 and 2.
At that point, while Prime Minister Ariel Sharon happened to be in Washington, our President switched tacks. Bush dropped the "evenhandedness" that he had inherited from the previous administration and began to unequivocally back Israel's right to self-defense. The effect of Bush's switch was immediate and powerful. On December 16, Arafat gave his first public call for an end to terrorism against Israel.
Arafat's speech was not followed up by any serious actions against terrorist organizations, but a period of relative quiet followed. But even though the number of terror attacks went down, and Israel cut back its military operations substantially, there was not a single terror-free day, let alone the week that Israel was demanding before entering into negotiations. It became clear that Arafat turns down the flames under pressure, then turns them back up when the pressure subsides.
The reason for this is simple. Regardless of all the commitments he has made - from Oslo to Sharm, Mitchell, Tenet, and Zinni - Arafat has decided that the terrorism will continue until Israel withdraws under fire. With each cycle of terrorism leading to pressure, a "cease-fire," then more terrorism, Arafat hears more voices of desperation, more calls to internationalize the conflict, negotiate under fire, or withdraw unilaterally. Each time Arafat comes closer to "proving" that pressure and force do not work, and Israel's only choice is to give in. Arafat is encouraged and aided by Israeli and American Jews.
When we cry for Arab dead and wounded, and nagate the heavy burden of our own casualties - we are aiding Arafat. When the Reform movement last summer, and the March of the Living last week, chose to cancel their youths'visits to Israel - it helped the cause of the Palestinians complete defeat of Israel. When we choose to stay away from touring our ancient homeland - we are collaborating with the terrorists. We are falling victims to their strong-arm tactics.' We are digging our own grave, as it were.
Am not saying, for even one minute, that it is not more dangerous to visit Israel today than in was two years ago. I am not suggesting that it would be better to have peace in the area before we let our children, whom we love, for whom we have such hopes, go to a land where "shahibs" (suicide-bombers) do their dirty deeds. No! I'm saying that we have to put ourselves and our future in the breach - or there will be no future. That is what we learn from this week's Torah portion. When push comes to shove, there is no choice. We have to command oursleves to get on the line, to push the envelop - to get on with it: "Al kidush HaShem" - for the sanctification of His Name, and to make sure that we survive as Jews, for the next generation, and forever. Yehe Shalom al Yisrael let there be peace upon Yisrael."
The Torah portion
read this week is "Tzav," the Hebrew word which is usually translated
"command," and is the second portion from Leviticus, chapter 6:8 to
8:35. The portion begins with "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Command
Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the Torah of the burnt offering; It is the
burnt offering, because of the burning upon the altar all night to the morning,
and the fire of the altar shall be burning in it. And the priest shall put on
his linen garment, and his linen breeches shall he put upon his flesh, and take
up the ashes which the fire has consumed with the burnt offering on the altar,
and he shall put them beside the altar." [Lev. 3:1-3] The text follows
with many of the laws relating to the service in the Tabernacle. We read about
the fire which burned on the altar and the details of the different kinds of
sacrifices which Aaron, his sons, and the succeeding generations of priests
would be bringing on the altar. At the end of the portion we read of the consecration
service of Aaron and his sons, as they were anointed and inaugurated for their
service in the sanctuary by Moses in front of the entire congregation of Israel
This is not new material that we are reading here. We read about the sacrifices and the consecration of the Cohanim in the book of Shmot. How is it different this time? Why is it worthy of taking the precious space of a chapter of the Torah? The sages tell us that there is an element of Moshe's prophecy that dictated to him to do this. Moshe knows, and we become aware when we read his last words to Israel in the "Song of Moshe" the portion Ha'azinu at the end of Deuteronomy, that Israel is going to stray away from God's teaching and suffer humiliation and exile. Moshe prepares them by giving in the text here a detailed description of the dedication of our first sanctuary.
There is one verse that gives away Moshe's purpose "And Moses did as the Lord commanded him; and the assembly was gathered together to the door of the Tent of Meeting." [ibid. 8:4] In other words, the consecration itself is indeed important and is given in great detail in the historical time reference in the telling of the exodus in the book by the same name. Here, however, we establish the issue of the witnessing of the event by the congregation of Israel. So it is not surprising to read a step by step description of the pomp and ceremony of dedication: "And Moses said to the congregation, This is the thing which the Lord commanded to be done. And Moses brought Aaron and his sons, and washed them with water. And he put on him the coat, and girded him with the girdle, and clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod upon him, and he girded him with the finely done girdle of the ephod, and bound it to him with it. And he put the breastplate on him; also he put on the breastplate the Urim and the Thummim. And he put the mitre upon his head; also upon the mitre, upon its front, he put the golden plate, the holy crown; as the Lord commanded Moses." [ibid. 8:5-9]
The practices of the Torah of God were done in public, in view of the whole people. They were not done in secrete, in a ceremony open only to the select few, maybe Moshe, Aharon and their family, maybe even all the Levites, but certainly not "the rank and file" of the entire nation. Not so the ancient societies that predated the Children of Israel and many that came later. Judaism has always been open to public scrutiny. Moshe did not consecrate a king and when one was finally crowned, and came into prominence, a simple man driven to speak for God as a prophet, a certain man named Nathan, came up to the mighty King David, and pointing a finger directly at him, accused him of breaking faith with God and a soldier, Uriah, whose wife he wished to wed.
What was the purpose of this public display? To establish the rule of Tzedek among the People of God the Israelites in the desert, the kingdom of David in Jerusalem, and yes, the nation of the United States of America at the end of the eighteenth century. Our nation was founded upon the teachings of Moshe's Torah. It was from there that the concepts of individual rights, of equality before the law, and the inviolate nature of every person's right to life, safety and choice is derived. We neither coerce nor forbid the practice of religion, and we stand for fair play and magnanimity towards all.
To be sure, we are not perfect. There are plenty of people who know how to circumvent the law, how to enslave their fellows by making dependent for work or health or education, so that they can no longer exercise free will. To be sure, we have national interests that sometimes outweigh personal consideration. There are times when the nation asks its citizens to place their life in jeopardy to insure our common survival. It is the price one has to pay for living in our blessed country and insuring that the blessing don't accrue to another people who would deprive us of all that we hold dear.
This week our nation had no choice but to go to war. Two hundred and fifty thousand Americans are engaged, together with the forces of other nations, in a battle to prevent a power hungry despot, who has manipulated the power politics of his nation to become a ruthless dictator who already has caused the death of over a million people, from gaining the means to launch a war to dominate his neighbors, his region, and possibly our world. We did not go to war to enslave a nation, nor did we launch the battle to win a source of raw materials for our home industries. The most admirable aspect of this campaign is the "sunshine rule" that applies. The whole world has a first row seat at this theater of life. All is in the open, all is clearly visible. The spirit of our troops, their dedication to routing out evil and their desire to get the job done, bring order and safety to a society that has been held captive for much too long, and their hope to return to their loved ones is plain and obvious.
There has never been such openness in the conduct of war. There has never been such a clear view of what is done and how it is done. This is nothing less than a consecration, as in the dedication of the Tabernacle. Once more, the sands of a Middle Eastern desert are the scene of a new stage in human endeavor. We pray that the world watches and learns the lesson. There is one God, and we are all His children. Let us love Him and respect one another and let peace and safety fill His world.
Amen Shabbat shalom.
This is a special Shabbat, the last before the celebration of the time of our liberation from Egypt. It is called "Shabbat Hagadol." This week's Torah portion is the second portion in the book of Leviticus, also known by the Hebrew name "Torat Cohanim," chapter 6:8 to 8:35 and is called "Tsav," the Hebrew word for "command." The portion begins with God telling Moses that he should command Aaron and his sons concerning many of the laws relating to the service in the mishkan (Tabernacle) the first place of Jewish worship, which was built in the desert and remained active for some four to five hundred years, to the time of the building of the Temple of God in Jerusalem by David's son, Solomon. Among the subjects discussed are the instructions regarding the fire which burned on the altar and the details of the different kinds of korbanot (offerings) that the kohanim (priests) would be bringing on the altar. These included the olah (elevation offering), minkha (offering of flour and water), khata'at (sin offering), asham (guilt offering), and todah (daily offering of thanksgiving).
These sacrifices are no longer being offered, as you are all aware. The offerings were restricted to the tabernacle, and later to the Temple. It has been two thousand years since the Temple was destroyed and sacrifices ceased to be offered. Actually, after the first Temple was destroyed, in 586 B.C.E., Jews did offer sacrifices on altars they built in a number of places from Jerusalem to Babylonia but these were not "kosher," and the leaders of Judaism that emerged after the fall of Jerusalem, known as sages or Rabbis, succeeded over a number of years to stop the practice.
As I was studying and planning for this lesson, my mind kept going back to the special nature of this shabbat, "Shabbat Hagadol." You may ask why and I will tell you: five years ago, on erev Shabbat hagadol, I was in Jerusalem. What does a congregational Rabbi do so far from his pulpit a mere few days before a major holiday? It has to be some kind of an earth-shaking reason. And, indeed, it was! You see, two days earlier, on Wednesday, the seventh of Nisan, I beloved mother closed her eyes for the last time and surrendered her soul to the Almighty. This week, studying and preparing for this shabbat, I finally came to terms with my loss.
Actually, it came to me rather forcefully as I was thinking of my mother, may she rest in peace and of all mother, or at least of all Jewish mothers. Let me explain: my paternal grandmother was a student of chemistry at the University of Moscow in the last decade of the nineteenth century. She had been in love with her sister's husband since she first saw him when she was all of thee years old. Now, in her last year at the university, she received a letter from her sister, informing her that the sister was dying of tuberculosis. "If you want to be a princess," the letter concluded, "come to Jerusalem and marry my Eliezer." My grandmother did, in fact, leave the university, go to "the wilderness" and marry her childhood idol. Long after he died, when I was a child, she would inform me of the "price of her choice:" "Had I not married your grandfather, I would have been Marie Curie!" She was a year ahead of the famous lady who discovered Radium... My mother had her own story. She was a young, well educated new immigrant in Tel Aviv, and was offered a job as a secretary to the Women's Labor union. She married my father, and the job went to another recent arrival in the land, a young woman from Milwaukee Golda Meirson. In moments of frustration and anger at her children, or her husband, or just the scheme of things, she would state to no one in particular, "If I had not married your father and had you - I would be Golda..."
Yes, it is true. Every Jewish mother I don't know enough about the non-Jewish mothers but I have a suspicion that they are not much different is a sacrificial lamb on the altar of God in the continuity of Jewish life midor ledor, from one generation to the next. Please understand and believe me that I say this with appreciation and deep love and respect. Where would Judaism, where would humanity be without the sacrifice made by the mothers who give so much of themselves to create the next generation.
So five years ago, late on Friday morning, just when the mosques were letting go the thousands of worshipers into the narrow sidewalks and roadways of east Jerusalem, a small cortege of vehicles made its way from the funeral home in Romema, in north-west Jerusalem, to the Mount of Olives, maybe the most sacred Jewish cemetery in the world. Winding our way towards the open mouth of mother earth readied to accept the remains of my mother, we were blocked by hordes of Moslem women, children and men. For a moment we were frightened for our safety but our sainted mother's spirit watched over us and protected us. Soon we were on the mountain, facing west, looking at the wall of the old city, and just beyond, Temple mount. I must tell you that my dear mother, for her final resting place, has "a room with a view" to rival any other in the whole wide world.
My mother's final sacrifice was in the timing of her departure from this world. Because of the fact that it was the eve of Shabbat Hagadol, her children were discomfited for a few short hours that Friday, and for three days after the Shabbat. On Tuesday we arose from sitting Shivah, and the rest of our mourning was lifted. Because of the holiday you don't count the thirty days of mourning. Life goes on. I left Israel, flew west against the clock, and arrived in Florida a full two hours before the first seder. The air of Jerusalem was still in my lungs as I began the holiday kiddush. Pesakh night is called by that name for the Pascal lamb and the sacrifice continues, generation after generation, thank God, and thank you very much, mother. May you rest in peace in the knowledge that your children appreciate all you did.
Shabbat shalom and
welcome to all of you who are here with us this evening to pray and celebrate
God’s day of rest. I have never asked anyone, “how come you were
not here last week, or yesterday” – but I feel I absolutely must
tell those of you who were not here yesterday that you really missed a great
and awesome sight: our sanctuary teeming with people, occupying almost every
available seat, parents with happy children, many of them dressed in costume,
looking like little queens, kings and "Mordekha'ys." In other words,
you missed celebrating the fun-holiday of Purim.
Because Purim was celebrated last night, this Shabbat eve is also the beginning of “Shushan Purim,” and extension of the holiday celebrated in the capital of old Persia on that first Purim, and in all capitals and “walled cities” since then. So, since we are the capital of Southern Georgia... We can claim the extra day – and we shall, we shall!
This Shabbat we are reading in the Torah portion of "Tzav," the Hebrew word for "command," from Leviticus, chapter 6:8 to 8:35, and the text continues the long list of sacrifices that were offered in the Temple by the Kohanim. Reading through this portion, much as the reading last week and in the coming eight weeks, until we finish reading the book of “The Priests’ Torah,” I shall not instruct you in Torah, but deal with issues of the Jewish approach to events of the day that make, or fail to make, the headlines.
Let me begin with a contemporary matter that is in the same vein as our Torah portion... We no longer have a Temple, and our priests, the Cohanim, have only one duty – that of getting the first Aliya when the Torah is read (Actually they have another duty among some, particularly more orthodox congregations – that of blessing the congregation with the “priestly benediction” during the mussaf service). However, our neighbors of the Roman Catholic faith do have an active priesthood, and their “Cohen gadol” the chief priest of Catholicism, Pope John Paul II, has been ailing for a number of months, and will not be able to bless his congregation on the occasion of their major holiday, Easter, that is being celebrated this Sunday. You may not recall that some five years ago at this time of year, he was on a pilgrimage. Pope John Paul II, who was born in Poland and had lived through the years of the Holocaust in the land that swallowed most of our kin, came to Israel to convey his deep sorrow about the suffering of the Jews, both during the events of the Shoah, and at the hand of the Church and its adherents.
Half a century after another Pope, Pious the XIIth, refrained from condemning the destruction of European Jewry, his successor stood at the very epicenter of remembrance, at Yad Vashem, to pay tribute once again to the six million who died. He had done it before, at the very site of mass-murder, in Auschwitz – but back then he spoke of “all victims,” refusing to direct the issue of Jewish suffering singly and exclusively. It was as if, in his priestly chore, he was offering the lamb of atonement with the ram of thanksgiving. It should not be done. "I have come to Yad Vashem to pay homage to the millions of Jewish people who, stripped of everything, especially of their human dignity, were murdered in the Holocaust," the 79-year-old pontiff said. "More than half a century has passed, but the memories remain... my own personal memories are of all that happened when the Nazis occupied Poland during the war..." And yes, he did say, "As bishop of Rome and successor of the Apostle Peter, I assure the Jewish people that the Catholic Church, motivated by the Gospel law of truth and love and by no political considerations, is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution, and displays of antisemitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place. The Church rejects racism in any form as a denial of the image of the creator inherent in every human being." Good words, even if most Jews felt that it was too little and too late.
And now to the lighter side of our lesson – on Purim we usually look at the Torah from the perspective of distorted vision. Here we can, once a year, make fun of the serious nature of our holy Scriptures. For example: This portion, Tzav, is spelled in Hebrew “Tzadi” and “Vav.” It comes from the same root at “mitzvah” – a word we all know. If one is unlearned and prone to mis-spelling, one could spell Tzav with a “Tzadi” and “Vet.” This “slight error” would change the word from command or ordain to... A turtle. Yes, a turtle, that strange creature that never leaves home, no matter how far it strays. I am reminded of the quick comment of Ogden Nash:
“The turtle lives 'twixt plated decks
“Which practically conceal its sex.
“I think it clever of the turtle
“In such a fix to be so fertile.”
I am also reminded of the story of the turtle and the hare, and the race they ran: if this story was originally a Hebrew tale, its protagonists would have been a turtle and a hart, or deer. Why? Because the word for deer is Tzvi. “Tzadi,” “Vet,” and “Yod.” Now, in Israel, the post office took the image of a deer for its official logo. Postal services were not as swift as people would have liked them to be – and many people suggested that they replace the logo of the “tzvi” with that of a “tzav.”
And while we are on Tzav, we can change one consonant, and make the turtle into a tirant. How, you ask – from Tzav to Czar. And remember what the Rabbi, in Fiddler on the Roof, said what the prayer for the Czar was? “May God bless and keep the czar – far away from us...” For which we can only respond with, “Wow, that was one prayer that He answered, with a vengence...”
Purim same’akh and Shabbat shalom
... And also, get well soon, and ‘good yontif’ Pontiff...
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