Torah Portion Humor: Tzav (Lev. 6:1 – 8:36), Shabbat HaGadol

One week until the first seder!
OK, calm down.  Deep breath.  And reread the article I sent out last year:

This Sabbath, the one before Passover, is called “Shabbat HaGadol” (the Great Sabbath).  This is one of only two Shabbatot on which the rabbi traditionally (i.e., before we started modelling rabbis after Protestant ministers) gave a sermon, in this case, on the laws of Passover.  There is a special haftarah, from the last chapter of  Prophets: Malachi 3:4-24, which is about redemption and messianic times, whose arrival seems to depend on reconciling parents and children (3:24). No way there’s such a delay. 

There is only one Torah reading, however.  It concerns cleaning up after sacrifices; more details about sacrifices; and the ordination of Aaron and his sons as priests, involving, naturally, sacrifices.  The opening section should resonate with anyone preparing for Passover, since it deals with cleaning.  It describes the manner in which, each morning,  a priest is supposed to clean up the ashes left on the altar from the burnt offerings (olot), the ones that were burned completely.  The priest dressed in reasonably nice linen garments to gather the ashes, then in lesser ones to take the ashes away. We can infer from this that (1) one must start fresh each day and not let yesterday’s ashes pile up; (2) the gathering and disposal was handle with care, since they were, after all, from  one of the holiest types of sacrifices; and (3) taking out the trash is not only necessary but important.  In fact, it is written in the Mishnah that this task was considered a great honor among Temple priests and had to be assigned by lottery.  Then we read ritual details concerning the other offerings: meal,  sin. guilt,  well-being (includes thanksgiving and freewill offerings), and the offering for a priest’s ordination,  These are more technical than those we read last week, clearly directed to the priests instead of the people bringing the offerings, and the details in these and other such chapters are difficult to keep straight.  ArtScroll’s Stone edition of the Chumash includes several tables on pp. 1291-95 (with a note that still more charts are found in ArtScroll’s Vayikra/Leviticus, Vol. 1). that distills the information down into easy-to-use tables.  For example, there’s a procedures table that, for various types of offerings (burnt, guilt, sin, thanksgiving, tithe, etc.), indicates whether that type is most holy or of lesser holiness; where the animal is slaughtered; how blood is applied to the altar and where on the altar and how many times; the disposition of the meat, and, if it’s eaten, where, when, and by whom. You can also look up occasions for various offerings, what to offer, and whether it’s communal or personal, obligatory or voluntary,   I wonder if the priests kept a little instruction manual nearby.  Last year, I got a suggestion that a modern equivalent would be a laminated tip sheet inconspicuously taped to the altar (thanks, Elliott).  Maybe an FAQ. 

The last section of this week’s portion, 8:1-36, includes the ordination of Aaron and his sons as the official, new priests, in their fine vestments, anointed with oil and then with blood from the last sacrifices to be offered by Moses.  Definitely a high point for Aaron.  If only it could have lasted.

Shabbat shalom,

[Sent out in 2003]
Ashes, Ashes…
A guy goes to a girl’s house for the first time and she shows him into the living room. She excuses herself to go to the kitchen to make them a few
drinks. As he’s standing there alone, he notices a cute little vase on the mantel.  He picks it up and as he’s looking at it, she walks back in.
He says, “What’s this?”
She says, “Oh, my father’s ashes are in there.”
He turns beet red in horror and goes, “Geez, oh..I…”
She says, “Yeah, he’s too lazy to go to the kitchen to get an ashtray.”
Drive In Garbage – A True Funny Story of Rubbish

A Swiss driver ended up in the garbage after plunging 30 feet into a bunker at a green recycling centre.  Police say the 65-year-old motorist did something that all drivers must be in fear of – hit the accelerator instead of the brake. This resulted in him shooting off the edge, as he backed up, into the trash below at the refuse centre in Bazenheid, Switzerland.
Firefighters had to winch shocked Heiner Mollard to safety for treatment for cuts and bruises. To add insult to injury, Mr Mollard was fined the equivalent of £50 [$75 USD] by the garbage site owners for leaving an “inappropriate item” in a recycling bin.

Burnt Offering
Two men were down at the pub talking.
The first man said, “My wife, she thinks so much of me that she won`t let me do any work around the house. It`s incredible !”
The second man says, “That`s nothing. My wife thinks I`m God!”
“She thinks you`re God? What makes you say that?”
“Easy, every night she places a burnt offering before me!”
Report from the Pastor Search Committee (abridged):

We do not have a happy report to give.   We have not been able to find a suitable candidate for this church, though we have one promising prospect.
Thank you for your suggestions.   We have followed up on each one with interviews or by calling at least three references. The following is our
confidential report.

ADAM: Good man but has problems with his wife. One reference told us how he and his wife enjoyed walking nude in the woods.
NOAH: Former pastorate of 120 years with no converts. Prone to unrealistic building  projects.
JOSEPH: A big thinker, but a braggart; believes in dream interpreting and has a prison record.
MOSES: A modest and meek man, but poor communicator; even stutters at times. Sometimes blows his stack and acts rashly in business meetings. Some say he left an earlier church over a murder charge.
DEBORAH: One word — Female.
DAVID: The most promising leader of all until we discovered the affair he had with his neighbor’s wife.
SOLOMON: Great preacher, but serious woman problem.
ELIJAH: Prone to depression; collapses under pressure.
HOSEA: A tender and loving pastor, but our people could never handle his wife’s occupation.
JONAH: Told us he was swallowed up by a great fish. He said the fish later spit him out on the shore near here. We hung up.
AMOS: Too much of a country hick. Backward and unpolished.  With some seminary training, he might have promise; but he has a hang-up against
wealthy people.
JESUS: Has had popular times, but once when his church grew to 5000, he managed to offend them all; and his church dwindled down to twelve people.  Seldom stays in one place very long. And he is single.
JUDAS: His references are solid. A steady plodder. Conservative. Good connections. Knows how to handle money. We’re inviting him to preach this
Sunday in view of a call.
 [See also, The New Rabbi: A Congregation Searches for Its Leader, by Stephen Fried,
paperback or Kindle edition. IGP]
—————————– U’s Newest Rabbinical School Staff: Actors
The NYTimes is reporting on the newest faculty members to hit Yeshiva University’s Rabbinical School staff. Actors
In this novel approach to teach rabbis how to deal with trauma,  Actors are brought in to play congregants who have just lost a relative, suffered a terrible tragedy, and even been molested.  The trick is – the students don’t know what they will get. Sometimes the actors will portray “stunned parents, suicidal teenagers, terminally ill V.I.P.’s “or anything we can think of,” said Rabbi Marc Penner, the seminary’s director of rabbinical training, “to try to shock the students.” 
The YU smicha (ordination) program has always been geared towards one thing: Torah.  And let’s face it knowing a blatt gemara with Rashi/Tosfos can’t always give you the level preparation and empathy necessary to be the pulpit rabbi – which these days has become a roll more of a community Therapist than anything. It is unclear if this new approach to learning will bring out a new level of top-notch rabbi from the YU camp or will it just be another smicha class that rabbinical student roll their eyes at because it is on a Friday. Time will tell. 
check the full article here:

A rabbi delivers a sermon of monumental depth and pith that lasted nearly one hour. As soon as he finishes, the president walks up to him and tells him that, since he is a newspaper editor, he could assure that the sermon would make it into print. However, he would have to reduce it into the written equivalent of half the time that it took to deliver.
“No problem” says the rabbi. “I’ll reduce it to fit.”… and he does.
The article appears and another member of the Shul Board, who is a TV producer, invites the rabbi to deliver it on the air… BUT… he had only a five minute spot. “No problem” says the rabbi. “I can reduce it to fit the time slot.”… and he does.
At the end of the TV show, the producer says to the rabbi “that was a wonderful sermon. Beautifully written and delivered but tell me something, please. If you could reduce it to fit the article and the TV spot… why, the heck, did you waste 55 minutes of our precious Shabbat sleep time?”

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