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Parashat Tzav (Leviticus 6:1-8:36)

“This is the ritual of the reparation offering: it is most holy.” (Leviticus 7:1)

Parashat Tzav describes the duties of the kohanim (priests) for performing each of the sacrifices listed in last week’s parasha, or portion. The instructions are quite detailed and the rituals are designed to inspire awe, reverence, fear, and reflection, to name just a few responses. And invitation to party is not one we think of, but it should be.

One sacrifice is the zevach todah, the thanksgiving offering. It is one example of a zevach-shlamim, a peace offering, sometimes referred to as a sacrifice of well-being. The zevach todah must be eaten on the same day it is offered, with nothing left over for the next day (Lev. 7:15). This is surprising, because all the other peace offerings may be eaten for up to three days. Why not the zevach todah?

Abravanel (1437-1508; Portuguese Torah scholar, diplomat, financier, mystic and communal leader) grounds his answer in human nature. Faced with a surfeit of food that must be consumed immediately (or go to waste), the individual bringing the sacrifice will invite family and friends to partake of the feast, and will naturally explain the specific good fortune prompting the sacrifice, thereby extolling God’s generosity.

Tzav makes an important theological and sociological statement: God wants us to be generous. Properly acknowledging a gift requires giving a gift. God doesn’t need the sacrifice; God needs to see we share with others. The Torah commands: “You shall rejoice in your festival with your son and daughter, your male and female slave, the Levite, the stranger, the orphan, and the widow in your community” (Deut. 16:14). Tzav turns a private event into a public celebration.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

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