Monday, March 18, 2013


Parshat Tzav
Vayikra 6:1 – 8:36
12 Nissan 5773 / March 22-23, 2013

by Rabbi Dan Horwitz, Director of Immersive Learning

In this week’s portion, Tzav, we continue to learn about the responsibilities given to the ancient priests, with particular focus on certain offerings, as well as what the priests were permitted to eat.  We also find the formal inauguration of Aaron (Moses’s brother) and Aaron’s sons as the nation’s priests.  In an elaborate ceremony, complete with anointing, sacrifices, and a 7-day party, the Israelites distinguished a separate priestly class to preside over their interactions with the Divine.

What would it be like to have a 7-day party as an entire nation today?

The closest event I can think of is Spring Break, which while indeed a huge party (for many), is far from something that the entire nation participates in. 

Granted, there were likely fewer than 3 million total Israelites at the time, while in the United States, there are more than 300 million people.

Granted also, that the Israelites were wandering in the desert at the time, and didn’t exactly have to worry about working or losing their jobs the way many would today.

In the United States, what one might assume would be our greatest cause for annual celebration, Independence Day, is limited to a single date on the calendar.  This year, it falls in the middle of the week on Thursday, so there won’t even be a long built-in holiday weekend!

Given our clear shortage of celebratory time, let me propose a weeklong annual celebration, for Jews and anyone else looking for a good excuse to party as well: Passover.

Recognizing our liberation from slavery and the solidification of our identity as a nation by receiving the Torah, not to mention that the holiday falls during the spring when the weather is starting to improve, seems a perfect excuse for a weeklong party.

Amazingly, the holiday already lasts over a week in the U.S.!  For 8 days every year, we have the privilege of celebrating our freedom (drinking a bit more wine than usual), recognizing our ability to help liberate those who are still enslaved around the world, and spending time with loved ones. Could there be a better party?  The fact that the Exodus narrative is one that resonates with people from all backgrounds just makes the party even larger!

There is a tradition that 30 days before Passover begins (Purim!) you start studying the various Passover-specific requirements. We’re well into that window now, with Passover only a few days away. 

This Shabbat, continue planning your ultimate Passover party. 
Who are you going to invite? 
How long will you celebrate? 
What are you going to do together both to celebrate your own freedom and help free those still enchained?


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