Monday, March 23, 2015

Shabbat HaGadol/The Great Sabbath; Tzav

Leviticus 6:1-8:36

Rabbi Jeffrey Schein for Jewish Reconstructionist Communities

The Ascending Heart

A colleague of mine once summarized the inner power of Judaism in the following way: Judaism challenges us "to ethicize ritual, and ritualize ethics." Last week in this column we had a chance to explore what might be problematic in 20th/21st century Jewish life when ethics were stripped of ritual richness. This week, in parashat Tzav we see the opposite dynamic at work: the ethicizing of ritual.

Sacrifices of the Heart

Yitzhak Magriso begins by asking why the phrase for one particular kind of sacrifice - an olah (burnt offering; literally a "going upward") - is often repeated twice when a single olah would have sufficed syntactically. The answer Me'am Loez provides is to suggest that one olah is a physical description of the burnt animal's smoky ascent to heaven. But a second "olah" is also happening within the heart of the person bringing the sacrifice.

We all have evil thoughts that seem to rise to consciousness unpredictably. With the right kavana (intentionality), the upward ascent of the sacrifice can-Yom Kippur like-atone for the straying heart and mind.

Continue reading.

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