Parsha Tzav: The ‘How’ of Worship

| parsha reflection |

This parsha, portion, Tzav, meaning “command,” is a challenging parsha as it mostly addresses sacrifices and other priestly concerns, and therefore doesn’t make an easy opening into spiritual or moral discussions. While reading this portion, I had to seek a path that would be relevant to our meditation practice, as a kavannah, or intention. I found a Divrei Torah by Rabbi Lewis Eron, on a Reconstructionist Web site, that resonated with me.

This parsha elaborates in great detail the different offerings, sacrifices, and processes of consecrating Aaron and his sons and the alter in the Tent of Meeting. Furthermore, the parsha goes into great detail about these offerings and the manner of dress required of Aaron and his sons to perform these obligations. Our ancestors’ need for approaching G-d at times of joy and sadness to confess sins, seek ablution, offer thanksgiving, and praise the Source of All resonated with me because it is also a need that I have and believe that many of us hold.

Leviticus challenges us to contemplate not the ‘why’ of worship but rather the ‘how.’ The highly developed system of sacrificial worship, which had its origins in the period of the desert wandering, after the exodus from Egypt, is radically different from the style of worship we have used for roughly the past 2,000 years. We have moved from worship in the Temple as Avodat Korban, sacrificial worship, led by the Kohanim, the priests, to the worship in the synagogue as Avodah She-be-leiv, the worship of the heart led by laypeople. We are taught that our prayers are as acceptable a form of worship as the sacrifices offered by the Kohanim.

I offer as a kavannah for this week that we contemplate how our prayer comes from our heart, and what are we attempting to achieve through these personal prayers.