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

This week’s portion, Tzav (“command,” verb, imperative) gets more into the nitty gritty of the rituals of the burnt offering, the meal offering, the sin offering, the guilt offering, the offering of well-being, the sacrifice of well-being, and the offerings for the upcoming ordination of Aaron and his sons as priests.  This time, the emphasis is on what gets eaten by whom when and in what form.  Most of the fat and all of the blood is not eaten.

Now Moses takes Aaron along with his sons, and the vestments, the anointing oil, and the items to be sacrificed: a bull for a sin offering, two rams (one as a burnt offering, the second as an ordination offering), and a basket of unleavened bread. In front of the entire community, he arrays Aaron in the High Priest vestments; anoints the Tabernacle, its contents, and Aaron with oil; dresses Aaron’s sons in their vestments; offers the bull and each ram; dots each new priest’s right ear, right thumb, and right big toe with the blood of the second ram; completes the prescribed offerings’ rituals; anoints Aaron and sons and vestments with some of the anointing oil and some of the blood that was on the altar; and tells them they have to stand guard at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting for seven days to complete their ordination.  A note from last year: “(I)n verse 8:23, when Moses slaughters the second ram, the word for “slaughter” has the rare shalshelet cantillation sign above it (it looks like a vertical chain), which is a sign of hesitation.  Is Moses hesitant about turning the priestly responsibilities over to Aaron and sons because of a lack of confidence in them?  Does he have a sense of foreboding about what’s going to happen in next week’s reading, after the ordination ceremonies are completed?”

This is Shabbat HaGadol, “the great Sabbath,” which occurs right before Passover.  There’s no second scroll reading, but there is a special haftarah, from the last chapter of Prophets: Malachi 3:4-24, which looks toward messianic times, whose arrival apparent is contingent upon the reconciling parents and children (3:24).  Shabbat HaGadol was also traditionally one of only two times a year when the rabbi gave a sermon, to teach the laws of Passover observance.  Since Shabbat HaGadol occurs one week or less before the holiday, we learn from this that the people were not expected to spend weeks or months in preparation and/or that their lives used to be simple enough that only a few days’ prep was necessary.

One tie-in between Tzav and our modern holiday observance is found in 6:3-4, about the remnants of the burnt offering: “ 3 The priest shall dress in linen raiment, with linen breeches next to his body; and he shall take up the ashes to which the fire has reduced the burnt offering on the altar and place them beside the altar. 4 He shall then take off his vestments and put on other vestments, and carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place.”  Yes, cleaning.  Note that the ashes are removed carefully, even reverentially.  In fact, we read in the Mishnah (Yoma 2:1-2)) that priests would fight over the honor of removing the ashes.  We don’t fight today over who gets to clean out the chametz (specified leavened foods, crumbs) and schmutz (dirt) in preparation for Passover; indeed there are services for this in New York (see “Crumb Busters!”) but not in my neck of the woods.  But perhaps this section of Torah will inspire us at least to clean mindfully as well as thoroughly, ever aware of why we are doing this.  That should make it a lot less irritating.

Shabbat shalom,


Just Three Words

A woman is sitting at a bar enjoying an after work cocktail with her girlfriends when an exceptionally tall, handsome, middle-aged man enters. He is so striking that the woman cannot take her eyes off him. The man notices her overly attentive stares and walks directly toward her. Before she can offer her apologies for rudely staring he leans over and whispers, “I’ll do anything, absolutely anything that you want me to do for $20… But, on one condition.” Flabbergasted, the woman asks what the condition is.

The man replies, “You have to tell me what you want me to do in just three words.” The woman considers his proposition for a moment and then removes a $20 bill from her purse, which she presses into the man’s hand along with her address.

She then looks deeply into his eyes, and slowly, and meaningfully says, “Clean my house!”


tph housecleaning tip


tph obstacle courses

Or, as my husband calls them, “psycho-paths” IGP



Stacey makes a new friend at school and invites her home for the first time.  Stacey excuses herself to fetch her Mom and introduce her new friend.  As her friend is standing in the living room next to the fireplace, she picks up the attractive vase on the mantle.

When Stacey returns with her mother, her friend is staring curiously into the vase.  “Oh, those are my father’s ashes,” Stacey informs her new friend.  However, this startles her so that she drops the vase with a <gasp!> — ashes and broken vase scattering all around.

After turning three shades of red she stammers out, “Oh, no…  I’m, oh!… I, can’t…  didn’t mean to..”

“It’s OK dear,” the mother says.  “The vase was just from Wal- Mart.”

The new friend catches her breath enough to say, “But…  but your husband’s ashes…”

“Well,” the mother says, “looks like he’ll just have to get off his lazy butt and get the ashtray from the kitchen from now on!”


(lightly edited for clarity)

Sermon Reruns

A brand new pastor came out to his first church.  As usually seems to be the case, several of the older congregants waited to die until their new pastor arrived.   Consequently, in four weeks he did eight funerals.  He did not have time to write his regular Sunday Sermons.  So he used the sermon from the Sunday before – 3 more times.  The Council went to the Bishop complaining that this new pastor had used the same sermon 4 times in a row.  The Bishop asked what the sermon was about.  The Council couldn’t remember, they scratched their heads and hemmed and hawed – but they really couldn’t remember.  The Bishop said, “Let him use it one more time.”


The Newly Ordained Young Priest

The newly ordained young priest asked his monsignor a favor: Would the older and more experienced man audition the young man’s handling of confessions, and give him a candid critique? The monsignor agreed, and at the end of the day called the priest to give his verdict.
“Quite good, on the whole,” he said. “But I do have a suggestion. I’d have preferred to hear a few more’ Tsk! Tsk! Tsk!’ and fewer’ Oh, wows!'”


Quotations about Parents

Parenthood: That state of being better chaperoned than you were before marriage. ~Marcelene Cox

Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children, and no theories. ~John Wilmot

It would seem that something which means poverty, disorder and violence every single day should be avoided entirely, but the desire to beget children is a natural urge. ~Phyllis Diller

If you have never been hated by your child you have never been a parent. ~Bette Davis

Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them. ~Oscar Wilde


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