Tzav (Lev. 6:1-8:36), Shabbat Zachor (Deut. 25:17-19), Purim

This week’s portion begins with instructions for removing the ashes that remain on the altar after a sacrifice is burned. The priest is supposed to wear plain but still sacral clothing to collect the ashes, then change into something ordinary to take them outside the camp. One simple: step (1) is at the altar, so it requires a more dignified mind set than (2), which is basically taking the trash out. This is discussed by a number of sages, presented by Nehama Leibowitz in her New Studies in Vayikra which is in turn commented upon by Dr. Michelle Lynn-Sachs in this week’s JTS commentary at . Then we learn more about the various sacrifices, which I should know how to keep straight by now but don’t, this time focussing on who gets to eat what, “who” being the priests, donor (and family and guests), or nobody. Most of the fat and all of the blood from the sacrifices are forbidden as food. Finally, the priests are ordained, which takes seven days (most of the ceremony is on the first day). Moses dresses Aaron and his sons in their vestments and anoints them with sacred oil. He offers a bull as a sin offering, a ram as a (totally) burnt offering, and then slaughters a second ram, the ram of ordination, and dots each new priest’s right ear, right thumb, and right big toe with its blood. Note that, 8:23, when Moses slaughters the second ram, the word for “slaughter” has the cantillation sign shalshelet above it (looks like a vertical chain or squiggle), which is a sign of hesitation. Maybe Moses is a bit hesitant about turning so much responsibility over to Aaron and his sons, especially after Aaron’s behavior when Moses first went up on Mt. Sinai for 40 days. On the other hand, the priests’ instructions are laid out in such (ahem) gory detail that they should have no difficulty following them to the letter, right?

 This Sabbath is Shabbat Zachor (Remember), the one right before Purim, which is Saturday night. We read from a second scroll Deut. 25:17-19, which is a command to remember Amalek’s attack on the weak, tired rear guard of the Israelites; see Exodus 17:8-16, where we read, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” (v. 14) So how do we both remember and blot out the memory? I’ll think about that when we get to Deuteronomy 25 this summer. There’s also a special Haftarah, Samuel 15:1-34 (Ashkenazim begin at 15:2, don’t ask me why), which deals with Saul’s loss of Divine support after he wimps out and lets the people take forbidden loot after their battle with the Amalekites and also lets King Agag live (until Samuel hacks him to pieces). Traditionally, Haman is descended from Agag and Mordechai from Saul, whence the connection of this Haftarah to Purim (see, it all fits together).

Ah yes, Purim. I’ve wimped out myself this year and bought hamantaschen (there’s just too much going on right now). Anyhow, read the book of Esther. It’s an obligation for Jews. It’s also a good read, with a beautiful queen, foolish king, wise hero, and dastardly villain (my technician enjoyed it when I persuaded him to read it years ago). In fact, it’s not certain whether the events actually occurred or the book is primarily a Persian novel. Maybe a historical novel? But the tale of Jewish peril, heroism, and deliverance resonates in any case.

An early Shabbat Shalom and Purim Sameach,



The verses concerning what the priest should wear when removing altar ashes reminded me of aprons. Back when girls always wore dresses or skirts to school (yes, I’m that old), I learned to wear an apron to keep mine clean, e.g., when I came home for lunch. The problem was that I sometimes forgot to take it off and went back to school still wearing it. I believe my mother and grandmother also occasionally exhibited this behavior, but it’s apparently not genetic, as my daughter shows no sign of it. Then again, I didn’t make her wear aprons. IGP.


Memory Loss

Two very elderly ladies were enjoying the sunshine on a park bench in Miami. They had been meeting at that park every sunny day for over 12 years… chatting, and enjoying each other’s friendship.

One day, the younger of the two ladies, turns to the other and says, “Please don”t be angry with me, dear, but I am embarrassed, after all these years. What is your name? I am trying to remember, but I just can’t.”

The older friend stares at her, looking very distressed, says nothing for two full minutes, and finally with tearful eyes, says, “How soon do you have to know?”


Another Memory Joke

Two elderly couples were enjoying friendly conversation when one of the men asked the other, “Fred, how was the memory clinic you went to last month?”

“Outstanding, ” Fred replied. “They taught us all the latest psychological techniques, visualization, and association. It made a huge difference for me.”

“That’s great! What was the name of the clinic?”

Fred went blank and he thought and thought, but couldn’t remember. Then a smile broke across his face and he asked, “What do you call that flower with the long stem and thorns?”

“You mean a rose?”

“Yes, that’s it!” He turned to his wife . . . “Rose, what was the name of that clinic?”

———————- Barbie ordained to the priesthood [abridged]

Toymaker Mattell™ would not comment today on reports that Barbie™ has left the toy and fashion world to enter the Episcopal priesthood.

News from Boston broke earlier this week that the Rev’d Barbara Hightower Smythe of the Diocese of Atlanta, for years known simply as “Barbie”, appears to have received a Masters of Divinity degree from the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA, and after having done an internship at famed Trinity Church, Copley Square, is now serving in an Episcopal parish somewhere in the northeastern US.


The Rev. Dr. Katherine Ragsdale, dean and president of EDS confirms that Hightower Smythe graduated magna cum laude.

Unitarian Universalist minister, fashion maven and part-time paparazzi Peace Bang, who writes Beauty Tips for Ministers, discovered Hightower Smythe and broke the news. Photographs of the famed 11 inch tall doll clearly show her wearing the professional garb of Episcopal ministry.

Barbie has not returned requests for comment at press time.


A small Purim contribution from my friend Stanley:

A seldom-known fact: the name of the alcohol-friendly holiday is derived from the popular barroom phrase: pour ’em.

Also worthy of mention is that in his view of Vashti, King Ahashuerus was apparently channeling Reb Chaim – better known as Hugh – Hefner: “women should be obscene and not heard.”


Slacker Hamentashen – How to Make Purim Treats with Just Two Ingredients & a Toaster

by David Levy on behalf of / March 11, 2011

created at: 2011-03-11

A week or two ago, I posted a recipe that foolishly claimed to be The Easiest Hamentashen Recipe on the Internet. Liz, our Community Manager, rightfully pointed out that any recipe with seven ingredients and nine steps can’t possibly be the easiest, and we challenged ourselves to concoct a new recipe that could be made in a dorm room without a kitchen.

Taking our inspiration from Sandra Lee, we decided to make “Slacker Hamentashen,” using only store-bought pie-crust and filling. That’s right — two ingredients. And we baked them in our office toaster over. Check out the video for our “recipe,” technique, and taste-test. (video is at the website)

A big thank you to our intern, Michelle Goldberg, for her fine camerawork! And to for being a better video-editing tool than I ever expected to find for free on the web.


And now, a few items from The Jewish Weak, Purim Spoof 2011, Tuesday, March 15, 2011 ‘Jeopardy’ Computer Ordained

Elementary, Rabbi Watson: Genius computer knows all of Talmud in 70 languages; no clue on how to solve Agunah problem.

Elementary, Rabbi Watson: Genius computer knows all of Talmud in 70 languages; no clue on how to solve Agunah problem.

New York — Officials at JTS, Yeshiva University and HUC jointly announced today that they have granted rabbinical ordination — known in Hebrew as semicha — to Watson, the IBM computer that recently appeared on the television show “Jeopardy” and defeated two of the program’s smartest humans.

“This is definitely a first,” stated JTS president Arnie Iceman. “No other rabbinical school in America has ever ordained a computer. Now we’ve got Rabbi Watson.”

 Iceman and his colleagues proudly demonstrated the machine’s Talmudic acumen by feeding it questions in the form of an answer, which the computer had to answer in the form of a question.

First Iceman said, “In Eilat.”

Watson replied, “Where do they park cars in Israel?” I

ceman then said, “Rashi’s father.”

The computer responded, “Who was the first person to learn Chumash with Rashi?”

Finally, Iceman said, “IBM.”

The computer retorted, “Why do I say the prayer asher yatzar*?”

*The prayer to be said after going to the bathroom.


At The Movies [abridged]

The King’s Peach – Achashverosh chooses Esther

The Social Not Work – Kollel guys join Facebook

Black Hat Swan – Yeshiva boy turns ballet dancer.

True Brit – Israel debates who is a Jew.

Winter’s Shankbone – Pesach comes early

127 Hours – Shabbos ends late

The Kiddush Fighter – Congregant pushes toward food table after services

The Kids Are All to the Right – Children return from their gap year in Israel

Harry Potter and the Deathly Challah – Wizard bakes for Shabbos

———————- J Street Protests Purim; Claims Haman Was ‘Misunderstood’

Washington, D.C. — J Street, the pro-Israel, pro-peace, propane and pro-forma lobby, announced today that the observance of the ancient Jewish holiday of Purim only serves to further alienate Jews from their Iranian and Arab enemies who seek to destroy them.

“Jews should not be reveling in the deaths of Persians that took place thousands of years ago,” Jeremy (Uncle) Ben asserted. “After all, how would Jews like it if Arabs reveled in their misfortunes?”

Informed that many Arabs do revel in Jewish misfortunes, he replied: “Oh,” and later said he never claimed otherwise.

Uncle Ben explained that J Street specifically sought to ban the wearing of Purim costumes by Jewish children, as well as the general spirit of gleefulness demonstrated by Jewish adults.

“Our official Purim policy is Don’t Mask, Don’t Kvell,” he insisted.

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