This week’s portion, “Tzav” carries through the themes of the rites associated with the sacrifices in the Temple. We read of the various rites and rituals, the elaborate ceremonies associated with the priests and their clothing. Our commentators have had much to say about the role of sacrifices and what they could mean for us today. Surely every colleague has preached on how the concept of sacrifice can be interpreted and every Bar or Bat Mitzvah, who has these portions for their Shabbat, has struggled to find the relationship between these ancient rites and modern life.
I would like, to draw your attention to Leviticus 6: 6. The opening of “Tzav” recounts the burnt offering and the instruction that “A perpetual fire shall be kept burning on the altar, it shall not go out” (“lo tichbeh”). I his “Living Each Week”, Twerski relates two views on this phrase. One he relates from Rabbi Akiba who sought to tell us of the desire to pray with such devotion and passion that we go into a zone and are oblivious to everything else. He also channels Rabbi Shneur Zalman who saw the words rendered as if to cal on us to extinguish the negatives (“lo”) in our life. With no punctuation in Torah, one can interpret as one likes. Twerksi also notes a comment by Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev who interpreted these words to say that even in the midst of negativity, we can strive to find some positive. (pp. 205-207)
We recently interviewed Beth Steinhorn on the Jewish Sacred Aging podcasts (see the link on home page) who runs an organization that works with Boomers as volunteers. Like other groups (like Encore) what seems to be present in many of our generation is really a living example of Leviticus 6:6. For many, we are at a time in life when we have the ability and time to follow a passion in life. That fire within us pushes many of us to “give back” to the world. Many Boomers , now leaving full-time work, can draw on years of very powerful experience to share with the next generation. Surely, there are enough “causes” and people who could use this fire. But there is another benefit. That fire of life that, we hope, remains not extinguished, allows us to continue to live and grow as human beings. Age is no barrier to that fire, indeed, as long as we have that fire, that passion for life and living, we continue to evolve and grow and experience this gift of life. That is, I suggest, a powerful message of this verse and these two words, “lo tichbeh”. As long as that fire within us burns, we live.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.