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Parshat Tzav – The ashes – Potential Holiness

Leviticus 6:1–8:36 * 26 maart – 1 april 2023

A Portion of the Torah Portion of this Week:

The name of the Parshah, “Tzav,” means “command” and it is found in Leviticus 6:2.

G‑d instructs Moses to command Aaron and his sons regarding their duties and rights as kohanim (“priests”) who offer the korbanot (animal and meal offerings) in the Sanctuary.

The fire on the altar must be kept burning at all times. In it are burned the wholly consumed ascending offering; veins of fat from the peace, sin and guilt offerings; and the “handful” separated from the meal offering.

In verse 4 we read:

וּפָשַׁט֙ אֶת־בְּגָדָ֔יו וְלָבַ֖שׁ בְּגָדִ֣ים אֲחֵרִ֑ים וְהוֹצִ֤יא אֶת־הַדֶּ֙שֶׁן֙ אֶל־מִח֣וּץ לַֽמַּחֲנֶ֔ה אֶל־מָק֖וֹם טָהֽוֹר׃

He shall then take off his vestments and put on other vestments, and carry the ashes outside the camp to a pure place.

What can we learn from this?

Chava and Adam ate from the tree of Knowledge. The fruit looked good to eat from and their self-oriented sense of pleasure overcame their God-oriented sense of pleasure. We all know the consequences, the road they had to take after their mistake was not easy. The task they were given was to learn to do Hashem’s will and not to go the way of their own understanding, not to embrace the temptations of the material world.

From the sacrifices in the Temple, we can learn that we can make the material world spiritual. That we can elevate our animal needs into qualities pleasing to Hashem. We can connect this to the following verse in Proverbs:

בְּכׇל־דְּרָכֶ֥יךָ דָעֵ֑הוּ וְ֝ה֗וּא יְיַשֵּׁ֥ר אֹֽרְחֹתֶֽיךָ׃

In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths smooth.

Proverbs 3:6

We can give our time by, for example, not watching t.v. but using that time for Torah study. We can use our money for a good cause instead of spending it to buy useless things. But knowing Hashem in all our ways, in everything we do, that is not always easy. There will be things in our lives that we struggle to relinquish or really use in the service of Hashem. We fail to sacrifice them to Hashem. These things are like the ashes that remain after the sacrifice.

The priest brings out the ashes to an undefiled place. Anything we cannot offer to Hashem does not yet enter a state of exaltation, of holiness. But neither is it “evil”. The ashes are not discarded heedlessly. Yet ultimately everything, even the most ordinary things of our lives are meant to serve Hashem. For instance, we all have to eat and we have to learn to pronounce a blessing over eating, thereby elevating this activity from a daily ordinary event to a higher level in service to Hashem. And even higher level is when we eat and realise that we do so not to satisfy our hunger, but because it strengthens our bodies to learn Torah and work for Hashem.

Every person has “his ashes”, mine is that I too often forget that ordinary daily activities, the personal direct contact with people, the household, are also in the service of Hashem. Sometimes I consciously take a bit of “dying as” and consciously choose to use my time to actively listen to what someone wants to say, without being busy with other things in my mind, or to do that household chore anyway . If it were dying as then burning and use for Hashem is doubled and thus increased.

By Angelique Sijbolts

Sources: Tzav in a Nutshell, Kehot Chumash

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