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Tzav 5776

Tzav (Leviticus 6-8 )


GOOD MORNING!  The story is told of a rabbi, a priest and a minister who were discussing their problems. The priest laments that he is unable to rid the belfry of its pigeons; the minister expresses his distress at not being able to remove the mice from the pantry. The rabbi confides that he had both problems, but found the solution. They beg him to share it with them, so he says, "I don't think it will help you, but one Saturday I got together all of the pigeons and the mice and Bar Mitzvahed them ... and they never came back."

We laugh because it unfortunately reflects the situation in many places in this era of Jewish history. How does one ensure his Jewish posterity? (By the way, I once heard a person respond that the answer to "Who is a Jew?" is not whether your grandparents were Jewish, but rather, whether your grandchildren will be Jewish...)

For many, being Jewish is like being a member of a club. If you want to be active or go to the club, you make your choice, but it doesn't have much impact on how you lead your life. I was brought up in a Reform congregation in Portland, Oregon. One thing I learned in Sunday School tremendously impacted me: Judaism is A.W.O.L. -- A Way Of Life. It permeates how you lead your life and how you make your decisions. And it takes knowledge.

Our people have survived for the past 3,500 years ... and not by accident. We did it against all odds -- Crusades, Inquisition, Pogroms, Holocaust ... There are perhaps 12 million Jews in the world today where by conservative demographic projections, there should be 400 million. However, they were lost to murder and assimilation. Why are we still Jews and how can we ensure our grandchildren will be Jewish?

There are questions all of us must ask ourselves: How important is it to me to be Jewish? What does it mean? Am I willing to die to remain a Jew? If I am willing to die as a Jew, am I willing to live as a Jew?

Jewish continuity starts with a decision. I want to live as a Jew. I will bring my children up as Jews. That is my first priority. Everything else follows: living in a Jewish neighborhood, sending one's children to a good Jewish school, involvement in a synagogue, living Jewishly at home and above all else a continuous program of growth and learning Torah wisdom.

Our greatest enemies knew that to deprive a Jew from learning Torah would lead to our destruction. That's what the Romans did and that's what the Russians did. Learning Torah is a continual infusion of understanding what it means to be a Jew, a reaffirming of our role in the world, an infusion of values and the knowledge of how to lead a good and meaningful Jewish life. Ultimately, it connects us to the Almighty.

There are those who think that the panacea for Jewish continuity is to send every Jewish child to Israel. While an Israel experience is valuable, reliance on it for a Jewish connection is an abnegation of parental responsibility. It is saying that parents can bring their children up devoid of a Jewish lifestyle and that they can be salvaged for the Jewish future through a two week trip.

If parents want their children and grandchildren to be Jewish, the parents must be a role model for living Jewishly. Any person I met who has positive feelings about being Jewish has told me it's because he remembers his father making Kiddush, his mother lighting Shabbat candles, the Passover Seder. Memories, emotions and values only transfer through actions; philosophy does not pass to the next generation -- unless it's lived. Remember, a parent only owes his child three things: example, example, example!

Do you want your grandchildren to be Jewish? Then today go and buy To Be a Jew by Rabbi Hayim Donin. Read it. Make your decision. And then institute a gradual program of change that will lead to your living a fuller Jewish life. Then your children will have something that they value and want for themselves and for their children!

I started with a story so I'll end with a story. There was once a great rabbi said to have the power to see the future. A young "know it all" decided that he would expose the rabbi and embarrass him. The boy devised a plan: He would come to the rabbi with his hands behind his back cradling a little bird. He would then ask the rabbi, "What do I have?" If the Rabbi replied, "A bird" the boy would ask, "Is it dead or alive?" If the rabbi responded, "Alive" then the boy would break the bird's neck and hold it out for all to scorn the rabbi. When the boy came before the rabbi he asked, "What do I have in my hands?" The rabbi replied, "A bird." "Is it dead or alive?" asked the boy. The rabbi gave the boy a piercing look and then answered, "The answer is in your hands." The same with your Jewish posterity. It is in your hands.


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Torah Portion of the week

Tzav, Leviticus 6:1 - 8:36

This week's Torah portion includes the laws of: the Burnt Offering, Meal Offering, High Priest's Offering, Sin Offerings, Guilt Offerings and Peace Offerings. It concludes with the portions of the Peace Offerings which are allotted to the Priests and the installation ceremony of the Priest for serving in the Sanctuary.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"This is the law of the burnt offering." (Leviticus 6:2).

The verse can alternately be read as: "This" is the principle of the arrogant person (the one who looks upon himself as -- in the Hebrew, "haOlah" -- an exalted person.) The arrogant person constantly demands "This!" He wants things to be done his way, immediately and without consideration of the needs of others.

An arrogant person's thoughts are focused only on what he or she wants. He is totally self-centered and inconsiderate of others. This trait causes much strife in interpersonal relationships. If two people in a relationship both demand that things must be their way, they will quarrel all the time. If such a person finds someone who is submissive to him, he will get his way, but at the heavy price of causing another human being pain and anguish.

What to do? All of us have a certain degree of arrogance in us. Be aware of the needs and feelings of others. Be willing to compromise on your demands of how things should be. You need not always give in to others. However, when you take someone else's needs into consideration, you gain spiritually more than just having your demands met.

And if it is someone else who is arrogant and demanding? Obviously, send him or her a copy of this week's edition!


Candle Lighting Times

March 25
(or go to

Jerusalem 6:18
Guatemala 5:56 - Hong Kong 6:18 - Honolulu 6:26
J'Burg 5:55 - London 6:05 - Los Angeles 6:51
Melbourne 7:06 - Mexico City 6:31 - Miami 7:17
New York 6:56 - Singapore 6:56 - Toronto 7:18

Quote of the Week

Arrogance is weakness disguised as strength



Happy Anniversary!

Sam & Marsha Nevel

With Tremendous Gratitude to

David & Marilyn Zinn


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