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Community Passover Seder

Please join us a Lakeview Resort for a delicious seder, with world-famous haggadot written and illustrated by TOL's talented children. The seder will be on Friday, April 3, the first night of passover, at 5:30 PM to 9:00 PM. Lakeview Resort is at 1 Lakeview Drive, Morgantown.

The menu includes matzo ball soup, gefilte fish, tossed salad, caramelized onion glazed beef brisket, oven roasted chicken, a vegetarian main dish, sweet potatoes, fingerling red bliss potatoes, grilled asparagus, assorted matzah, macaroons, flourless desserts, coffee, tea, and wine.

$40 TOL member adults

$20 TOL member children age 3-11

$50 non-member adults

$25 non-member children age 3-11

Children 3 and under are free.

If you would like to sponsor a WVU/Hillel student, full and $18 donations are welcome. Checks, payable to Tree of Life, may be mailed to Tree of Life Congregation, PO Box 791, Morgantown, WV 26507-0791.

Here is the TOL newsletter with information on page 9.

Guest Message from URJ

Week of March 15

Unlikely Holiness: Pancakes, Trash, and the Priest's Big Toe

Tzav, Leviticus 6:1-8:36

D'var Torah By: Richard N. Levy

This week's portion continues the outline of the korbanot, "sacrifices," begun last week in Parashat Vayikra. Its title, Tzav, is an imperative meaning "command," and while the previous portion was addressed to the person bringing the offering, this week's parashah is addressed to the priest assisting with the offering. The priest is God's agent making sure that the "layperson's" offering is presented in the way God desires.

So much does this portion address the priest that no sooner has God described the proper manner of presenting the olah, "burnt offering," than the Holy One describes how the priest is to be clothed. In a parallel passage in Exodus (called T'tzaveh, from the same root as Tzav, see Exodus 28:40-43), the garments are described in the same language as the furnishings in the Tabernacle, as though the priest himself were part of them. But our passage goes further. While the lay-offerer placed his or her hands on the animal's head, suggesting a desire that the offerer himself or herself might be accepted as the offering, the descriptions of the garments of the priest suggest that the priest is part of the offering, offering up himself each time he assists a "layperson" to do so. That's an impressive display of altruism and of psychological resilience.

The priest is instructed to dress in linen as he lifts up the ashes that the altar-fire has "eaten" of the burnt-offering (Leviticus 6:3). While the word "eaten," tochal, is an idiom for "consumed," the language is appropriate for rites in which eating the sacrifice?by the priest or the offerer is an important feature. The fire is a representation of God's Presence (note the Burning Bush, Exodus 3:2-6), and the fire is "fed" (we use the same idiom) by the offering. In that way, God, as well as the priest and the offerer, partake of the offering. And no sooner has the flame had its fill then the "leftovers," the ashes, are carried out by the priest (Leviticus 6:3-4). The priests carry out the trash?! Yes, for the "trash"?the ashes left over by the fire?contain the remnants of k'dushah, the holiness, of the original offering, and so carrying out the trash is a noble task. Would that we could see our trash duties in that light!

Our passage then describes the "meal offering," minchah, literally, that which is "placed" on the altar. Some of it is sent into the invisible realm of God, like the olah, but the remainder is eaten by Aaron and his sons (6:7-16). This offering is made of choice flour and oil, baked on a griddle--holy pancakes! They are to be made without leaven (chametz in Hebrew)-like matzah and all other Passover food. Perhaps the priest was to remember, as he made his minchah offering, that were we not redeemed from Egypt, we would not have been able to build the Tabernacle or serve God in this very physical, material way. God instructs Moses to tell Pharaoh: "Let my people go that they may serve Me!" (Exodus 10:3). Now that they are free, now that they have built the Tabernacle, they can serve God and the unleavened meal offering reminds them of that. Can we view our own pancakes in this elevated way?

More somber offerings follow: the "sin offering," chatat (6:17-23), and the "guilt offering," asham (7:1-10). The most precious parts are offered to God--the blood, sprinkled around the altar, and the "fat," chelev, that surrounds the inner organs. We call blood "juice," and beef au jus is a delicacy but in kosher practice, the blood is drained out of the meat before it is cooked; we may not expand our own lives by imbibing the "life-blood" of the animal whose life we have taken. Once considered a delicacy, now for health reasons, we try to eat as little fat as possible, since it expands the fat in our own bodies.

Next the varieties of the sh'lamim offering are detailed (7:11-18): the "thank-offering," todah, and the "free-will offering," neder or n'davah. That a physical offering accompanies verbal expressions of thanksgiving or oath-taking demonstrates the importance of connecting the power of the Almighty with the modest events in our own lives.

The portion ends (in chapter 8) with the ceremony of consecrating Aaron and his sons. The priest is again treated as part of the furnishings in the Tabernacle in verse 10 when, after Moses has dressed Aaron in his priestly garments and washed him, Moses "anoints the Tabernacle."

After he slaughters a bull for a chatat, seemingly to atone for Aaron's sins before his consecration, Moses takes some of the blood and puts it on the horns, the extremities, of the altar. Shortly thereafter he sprinkles blood on the extremities of Aaron and his sons?their right ear, right thumbs, and right big toes?as though their bodies were extensions of the altar (Leviticus 8:22-24). They are then to sit at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting for seven days, eating the meat and bread provided to them. It is as though the extraordinary k'dushah of the entrance to the Tent is to seep into them during the week they remain there, emerging on the eighth day. The symbolism is rich: the door of the tent recalls Abraham who sat in the door of his own tent and saw the Presence of God (Genesis 18:1); the seven days recall the seven days of Creation, as though Aaron and his sons were being recreated during this period into living tabernacles.

This year, Parashat Tzav coincides with Shabbat HaGadol, the "Great Shabbat" immediately preceding Passover. It takes its name from Malachi 3:23, "Behold, I am sending you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great (gadol) and awesome day of Adonai," reflecting the status of Pesach as not only commemorating the redemption in Egypt, but also foretelling the final redemption in the messianic time. "Messiah" is the Hebrew mashiach, "the anointed one" as Aaron and his sons were anointed. A debate arises in the Rabbinic period as to whether the messiah will be from the Davidic line of kings or from the priests, and the reading of this haftarah is a reminder that traditionally, Jews have looked to the messiah to restore the Temple and its rites. Reform Judaism has rejected this aspect of messianism, looking instead toward a messianic age of universal peace and justice. Can the Tabernacle serve as a symbol of ideal worship where God is perceived in the door of the tent and those in charge of worship prepare grand fare to celebrate the Presence of God in our midst? In early Reform Judaism, the priests were a symbol of the calling of the whole Jewish people, charged with bringing the nations to the service of God. The imperative of tzav can serve to reawaken that calling in each of us, as we at this season look toward the redemptive possibilities of the great and awesome day of God.

Rabbi Richard N. Levy recently retired as Rabbi of the Synagogue and Director of Spiritual Growth at the Los Angeles campus of HUC-JIR, where he continues to teach in the fields of liturgy, spiritual growth and social justice. He is a past Director of the School of Rabbinic Studies at the campus and a past president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

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