Selected Sermon/Article
2010-03-26 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parshas Tzav


Beyond Twelve Gates -  Rabbi Ze'ev Smason

Parshas  Tzav -- Passover    March 26, 2010



Beyond Twelve Gates        Parshas Tzav -- Passover        March 26, 2010


This coming Monday evening, March 29, begins the major festival of Passover. Passover, known in Hebrew as Pesach, is a national birthday party; it was then that the 'Children of Israel' --- who later became the 'People of Israel' -- began their march through history with the Exodus from Egypt.   


French author Andre Gide once said, "It is better to be hated for what you are than loved for what you are not."  Have the Jewish people been hated?  Without a doubt.  The Haggada reminds us that 'In every generation they arise to destroy us, but the Almighty saves us from their hand.'  But what are we?  Do the Jewish people have a greater purpose? One of our worst enemies, Adolf Hitler, blamed the Jews for "two great wounds upon humanity: circumcision of the body and conscience of the soul."  Hitler well understood our national mission; to be a moral and ethical light unto the nations of the world.  Passover is the celebration of the beginning of that mission.  May you and your families have a meaningful and joyous holiday.


Parshas Tzav Leviticus 6:1 -- 8:36


The portion begins with G-d continuing to teach Moses many of the laws relating to the Mishkan service.  However, while last week's portion described the korbanos (offerings) from the perspective of the giver, this week the Torah focuses more directly on the Kohanim, providing detail about their service.  After first describing the maintenance of the fire which burned on the altar, the Torah discusses in detail the various kinds of korbanos which Aaron, his sons, and the succeeding generations of Kohanim would be offering.  The offerings must be brought with the proper intentions and eaten in a state of spiritual purity.  Finally, Moses performs the lengthy consecration service of the Mishkan, and Moses anoints Aaron and his sons for their service in the Mishkan, in front of the entire congregation of Israel.


Passover begins on Monday evening, March 29.  On the first day of Passover, Tuesday, the Torah reading is from Exodus 12: 21- 51.  This reading describes the Exodus from Egypt and the Passover offering.  On the second day of Passover, Wednesday, the Torah reading is from Leviticus 22:26 -- 23:44.  This reading describes journeying to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem on the three pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Shevous, Sukkos) and the counting of the Omer


Rabbinic Ruminations


This Shabbos preceding Passover is referred to as Shabbos HaGadol, or the Great Shabbos.  What is it that makes this particular Shabbos 'Great'?


The Midrash states that in Egypt Moses was able to convince Pharaoh that the enslaved Jews should have one day a week to rest.  This day, Moses argued, would enable them to be more productive than the other days of the week.  So, the Jews observed Shabbos while in Egypt, and it was known as "The Day of Moses."  Shabbos is, however, much more than a day of physical rest.


A 'National Day of Uplugging' was recently advocated by a secular not-for-profit Jewish group to 'unplug' from technology on Shabbos. They suggested that all Jews put down their cell phone, stop the status updates on Facebook, shut down Twitter, sign out of e-mail and reclaim time to slow life down and reconnect with friends, family, the community and themselves for 24 hours.  Doesn't that sound like a nice idea?!


Contemplating the purpose of existence and what we hope to do with our lives is a central goal of Shabbos.  More than simply a day of not working, a person who is truly free will utilize Shabbos to choose their goals and determine their purpose.  The Shabbos on the eve of our liberation from Egypt differed from the Shabbos that was "The Day of Moses."  This was no longer to be a day of rest for weary slaves, but a day of spiritual uplifting for people who are free.  That Shabbos was -- just as each and every Shabbos can be -- a Great Shabbos.  (adapted from Living Each Day, Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski)


Quote of the week


We must all hang together or most assuredly we will all hang separately -- Benjamin Franklin


Joke of the week


Yankel, a Jewish actor, is desperate for work. Finally, he sees a classified ad that says: "Actor needed to play an ape."  To his surprise, the employer turns out to be the St. Louis Zoo.  Owing to recent budget cuts and the recession, the Zoo can no longer afford to import a real ape to replace the recently deceased one.   So until they can, they're prepared to put an actor in an ape suit.  In desperation Yankel takes the job.  He feels undignified in the ape suit while stared at by the crowds who watch his every move.  Gradually, however, Yankel comes to enjoy the attention, and begins to show off by roaring, beating on his chest, and swinging on the trees and vines.


One day Yankel swings on a vine a bit too high, and goes flying over the fence into the neighboring lion's den.  Terrified, Yankel backs up as far as he can from the approaching lion, covers his eyes and prays at the top of his lungs 'Shema Israel!!"  The lion opens his powerful jaws, and roars the response, "Baruch shem kavod malchuso l'olam va'ed!!"   From a neighboring cage, the panda yells, 'Shut up, you shlemiels. You'll get us all fired!!"   (heard from David Markowitz)




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