Parashat Tzav: Throwing it all Away
Source Sheet by Yair Robinson
(7) And this is the ritual of the meal offering: Aaron’s sons shall present it before the Eternal, in front of the altar. (8) A handful of the choice flour and oil of the meal offering shall be taken from it, with all the frankincense that is on the meal offering, and this token portion shall be turned into smoke on the altar as a pleasing odor to the Eternal. (9) What is left of it shall be eaten by Aaron and his sons; it shall be eaten as unleavened cakes, in the sacred precinct; they shall eat it in the enclosure of the Tent of Meeting. (10) It shall not be baked with leaven; I have given it as their portion from My offerings by fire; it is most holy, like the sin offering and the guilt offering.
(ז) וְזֹ֥את תּוֹרַ֖ת הַמִּנְחָ֑ה הַקְרֵ֨ב אֹתָ֤הּ בְּנֵֽי־אַהֲרֹן֙ לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֔ה אֶל־פְּנֵ֖י הַמִּזְבֵּֽחַ׃ (ח) וְהֵרִ֨ים מִמֶּ֜נּוּ בְּקֻמְצ֗וֹ מִסֹּ֤לֶת הַמִּנְחָה֙ וּמִשַּׁמְנָ֔הּ וְאֵת֙ כָּל־הַלְּבֹנָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־הַמִּנְחָ֑ה וְהִקְטִ֣יר הַמִּזְבֵּ֗חַ רֵ֧יחַ נִיחֹ֛חַ אַזְכָּרָתָ֖הּ לַיהוָֽה׃ (ט) וְהַנּוֹתֶ֣רֶת מִמֶּ֔נָּה יֹאכְל֖וּ אַהֲרֹ֣ן וּבָנָ֑יו מַצּ֤וֹת תֵּֽאָכֵל֙ בְּמָק֣וֹם קָדֹ֔שׁ בַּחֲצַ֥ר אֹֽהֶל־מוֹעֵ֖ד יֹאכְלֽוּהָ׃ (י) לֹ֤א תֵאָפֶה֙ חָמֵ֔ץ חֶלְקָ֛ם נָתַ֥תִּי אֹתָ֖הּ מֵאִשָּׁ֑י קֹ֤דֶשׁ קָֽדָשִׁים֙ הִ֔וא כַּחַטָּ֖את וְכָאָשָֽׁם׃
It is Shabbat HaGadol, the Great Sabbath, which precedes the festival of Pesach. Hopefully, if you prepare the house for Passover, your preparations have gone as well as can be expected. There is always a certain chaos to turning the house over, but a chaos that serves a purpose as we cast the Chametz, that which is leavened, out of our home. To be sure some of us are more, shall we say, insistent, than others, and I suspect that in many of our homes, halfway up or down the stairs to the basement with the toaster, someone says something like, ‘maybe we won’t bother next year.’
And I suspect this year, in our second Pandemic Passover, the question of holiday prep took on a different tone. Why bother at all? What is the point of any of this? After discussing how concerned The Torah is for order in the world last week, why do we want to create chaos in our homes? What does any of this accomplish, as we sit in our homes after more than a year of sitting in our homes? To be sure, some are going to try to see family or have Seder on the deck or do a hybrid celebration, but it all feels like more trouble than it is worth this year.
So here comes Parashat Tzav, specifically Leviticus 6:7-10, which describes the meal offering. The meal offering is interesting. It is not an animal sacrifice, but rather an offering of flour, baked, and unlike many other offerings, it is consumed. The text specifies that it must be unleavened; one may not burn any chametz as part of the offering. Now, it does not take a talmid chacham, a rocket scientist to see that this sounds an awful lot like matzah. In fact, the traditional commentator Ibn Ezra makes that explicit. Chametz, that which leavens or puffs up or bloats up, is understood to be a distraction from the correct order of the world. It is messy, it brings more chaos with it; it is just that we are used to that chaos. So, we clear the chametz out not because turning the kitchen upside down is any fun, but because sometimes we need to do a deep clean; yes, of the fridge, but also our lives, tossing whatever makes our lives disordered, and start fresh, start anew. That we need to free ourselves of what is holding us back.
We have been feeling held back for a year, physically but also emotionally. Now is the time for us to start over and clean the slate. Whatever our preparations look like, may we clear out that which is holding us back and causing chaos in our lives, and find order.