Tzav 5762

June 23, 2009

7 min read


Tzav (Leviticus 6-8 )

GOOD MORNING!  My heartfelt thanks to those of my beloved readers who responded to my recent request for support. Your help makes a big difference in my life and to the life of others!

One story: I receive a fax from a person wanting to give $1,000 and requesting that I call. For four days I call and leave messages and then finally make contact. The man tells me that his co-worker thought it would be a big practical joke to send the fax. From elation to deflation is one second flat!

So, here are a few thoughts about practical jokes. They are neither practical nor funny. What motivates the person who loves to play them? I think the practitioner tries to make himself feel superior by making the recipient of the joke look and feel inferior. He also thrives on the false sense of power and worth fed by making something happen. For real feelings of worth, let him go to the hospital and comfort someone who is sick or dying, to counsel a parent having problems with a child or comfort a mourner. Then he can feel good about himself and experience real pleasure in life!

And now, back to Pesach!


There are five Mitzvot (commandments) for the Passover Seder, two from the Torah and three from our Sages. The two Mitzvot from the Torah are to eat Matza ("In the evening you shall eat unleavened bread" - Exodus 12:18) and to tell the story of our exodus from Egypt ("And you shall relate to your son [the story of the exodus] on this day" - Exodus 13:9). The rabbis added the Mitzvot of drinking the four cups of wine, eating Marror (bitter herbs) and reciting Hallel (Psalms of praise for the Almighty). During the times of the Temple in Jerusalem, there were 16 additional Mitzvot associated with the Pesach offering.

All of these commandments are to help us re-experience the Exodus and to feel and strengthen our sense of freedom. The Mitzvot are to either experience the affliction or the redemption.

The Matza is called "lechem ani" - the bread of the poor man and "lechem oni" - the bread of affliction. In a play on pronunciation, the Sages also called it the bread over which many things are answered. It has the dual symbolism of representing our affliction and our redemption.

The four cups of wine represent the four different terms for our redemption in the Torah (Exodus 6:6-7). Wine is the drink of free men! Bitter herbs is affliction (just look at the faces of those eating horseradish!). And Hallel is our thanks to the Almighty for our redemption and freedom.

Passover is the holiday of Freedom - spiritual freedom. The Almighty brought us out of Egypt to serve Him and to be free. Isn't this a contradiction? What is the essence of Freedom?

Is Freedom the ability to do what one desires unhampered and without consequence? That is license, not freedom. James Bond had a "license to kill," not the freedom to kill. Freedom means having the ability to use your free will to grow and to develop.

Our leaving Egypt led us to Mt. Sinai and the acceptance upon ourselves the yoke of Torah. This is the centerpiece of our freedom. It sets the boundaries of right and wrong, it sets forth the means to perfect ourselves and the world we live in, it defines ultimate meaning and satisfaction in life. Only with boundaries does one have the ability to grow and develop. Otherwise, with unlimited license life is out of control.

People think they are free when they throw off the yoke of the Torah. However, unless one has the revealed wisdom of the Torah, he at risk at becoming a "slave" to the fads and fashion of his society. Slavery is non-thinking action, rote behavior, following the impulse desires of the body. Our job on Pesach is to come out of slavery into true freedom and to develop a closer relationship with the Almighty!

During all eight days of Pesach we are forbidden to own or eat Chametz (leavened bread -- i.e. virtually any flour product not especially produced for Pesach) or have it in our possession (Exodus 13:7). Why the emphasis on being Chametz-free? Chametz represents arrogance ("puffing up"). The only thing that stands between you and God ... is you. To come close to the Almighty, which is the ultimate pleasure in life and the opportunity of every Mitzvah and holiday, one must remove his own personal barriers. The external act brings the internal appreciation; we remove Chametz from our homes and we must likewise work on the character trait of humility.


Hundreds of families in Israel are unable to afford groceries for Yom Tov (the holiday). This group gives them coupons redeemable only for food. They arrange with the supermarket to get an extra 10% on every dollar you give them. I know they are legitimate and I give them money! Send your tax-deductible contribution to:

Keren Y & Y
805-A Roosevelt Court
Far Rockaway, NY 11691

Fulfill the special Mitzvah of Maos Chitim, helping the poor for Pesach!

Torah Portion of the Week

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, "And Aharon and his sons did all the things which the Almighty commanded through
(Leviticus 8:36). Why does the Torah tell us this? In truth, it would be unusual if they didn't do what the Almighty commanded; if they didn't, then the Torah would have told us!

Rashi comments that this verse praises Aharon and his sons for "not turning to the right or left." How does this help our understanding of the verse? What is Rashi elucidating from the verse?

The Ksav Sofer writes that there are some people who are inwardly very conceited, but outwardly try to act as if they were humble. Therefore, when they receive some honor they shrug their shoulders to the right and to the left to give others the impression that they are so humble that they do not feel that they deserve the honor bestowed upon them. However, in their hearts they are really very arrogant. This can be one understanding of Rashi's words: "they did not turn (their shoulders) right or left." While inwardly they were truly humble they did not try to give others the impression that they were humble.

True humility is a knowledge of your capabilities, intelligence and accomplishments - and an appreciation that ultimately they are all a gift from the Almighty.


"... If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?" -- Hillel

(or go to

Jerusalem  5:15
Guatemala 5:55  Hong Kong 6:25  Honolulu 6:25
J'Burg 5:58  London 5:59  Los Angeles 5:48
Melbourne 7:10  Miami 6:15  Moscow 6:28

New York 5:52  Singapore  6:57


The basic test of freedom
is perhaps less in what
we are free to do
than in what
what we choose not to do.

In loving memory of
Abraham Raij, Luis Terner
Etia and Benjamin Terner

We miss you! -- Mary & Moni

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