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


From 2015 (lightly edited)

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 carries out an elaborate ritual involving anointing Aaron, his sons, their vestments, and Tabernacle, and its contents; sacrificing two rams and a bull; and dotting each new priest’s right ear, right thumb, and right big toe with ram’s blood, all in front of the entire community.  The new priests then must stand guard at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting for seven days to complete their ordination.  A note from 2014: “(I)n verse 8:23, when Moses slaughters the second ram, the word for “slaughter” has the rare shalshelet cantillation sign  tph shalshelet for tzav  above it 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 … 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,


Welsh pub renames beer after seminarian mix-up (excerpts)

CARDIFF, Wales – How does a pub make up for mistakenly trying to kick out a group of celebrating seminarians? By naming a beer after them and calling it the “Thirsty Priests.”

Tim Lewis is the PR Manager for Brains, the company which owns the City Arms Pub in Cardiff, Wales.

 “We wanted to do something as a ‘thank you’ to the priests for taking the misunderstanding in such good spirits,” said Lewis, according to Wales Online.

Described as a “rich, warming ale with a clean, rewarding finish,” The Rev James beer was renamed the “Thirsty Priests,” with the added slogan “saving souls and satisfying thirsts.”

While celebrating the July 29 ordination of Father Peter McClaren, a group of seminarians dressed in their cassocks entered the City Arms Pub, only to be turned away by staff members who mistook them for a bachelor party.

“The staff thought they were a stag. We do have quite a few issues on the weekends with parties wearing fancy dress so it is our policy to turn them away,” said assistant manager Matt Morgan, according to the BBC.

But as the seminarians were about to leave the bar, the manager overheard them praying, and, realizing the establishment’s mistake, invited the men back in for a round of beers on the house.

The seminarians took the error in good humor, and were warmly received by staff and customers for the rest of their time at the pub.


Fat Free

  • Diet Day #1 – I removed all the fattening food from my house. It was delicious.
  • I don’t buy fat-free milk because I don’t want to contribute to cows having body issues.


Sermon Humor

One beautiful Sunday morning, a pastor announced to his congregation:   “My good people, I have here in my hands three sermons…a $1000 sermon that lasts five minutes, a $500 sermon that lasts fifteen minutes, and a $100 sermon that lasts a full hour. “Now, we’ll take the collection and see which one I’ll deliver.
A flat-lander was invited to preach in a mountain Baptist church. He was worried, remembering that they eschewed educated preachers and were known for their fundamentalism and simplistic approach to the gospel. He preached with masterful command of allegory and hard truths veiled in simile. At the close of his message he gave the expected invitation and just one old gentleman in starched overalls responded. He came forward and whispered in the minister’s ear, “Young feller, I want you to know that I know that just because the water’s muddy, don’t mean it’s deep!”
A pastor was preaching on the Minor Prophets…all twelve of them in one sermon. After two hours he was only half-way through his message. Everyone was getting
restless. Most had stopped paying attention. After four hours, to everyone’s relief, he said “Finally…”. It was almost over, they thought. Then to their horror, the Pastor said, “Oh my, I forgot about Micah…what shall we do with Micah?”. One old lady sitting right in front could take no more. She stood up and said, “Hey, preacher! Micah can take my seat…I’m going home!”


Love Passover Cleaning

tph passover cleaning ocd


tph taking trash out


From 2014. Speaking of parents, children, and the coming of the Messiah: (abridged)

AP February 4, 2014, 4:04 PM
NEWPORT, Tenn. – An East Tennessee magistrate has been replaced months after ordering a baby’s name changed from Messiah to Martin because she believes Messiah is a title held only by Jesus Christ.

Lu Ann Ballew was a child support magistrate.  Judge Duane Slone terminated Ballew on Friday and appointed a new magistrate.   Ballew, an attorney, still faces a March 3 hearing on accusations that her order to change Messiah’s name violated Tennessee’s Code of Judicial Conduct.  Ballew has denied that her ruling was a violation.

The name change happened in August, when Jalessa Martin and Jawaan McCullough appeared before Ballew at a child support hearing in Newport about their 7-month-old son Messiah Martin. As part of the hearing, the father requested the baby’s last name be changed to McCullough.

Ballew surprised both parents by ordering that the baby’s name change to Martin McCullough. Her written order stated that “Labeling this child ‘Messiah’ places an undue burden on him that as a human being, he cannot fulfill.”  She also said that the name would likely offend many residents of Cocke County, with its large Christian population.

Ballew’s decision was overturned in chancery court a month later, and both parents agreed to name the baby Messiah McCullough.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s