03 April 2017
This week’s parasha – Tzav – is read on Shabbat Hagadol, immediately preceding Pesach. Tzav means “command,” and Aaron is commanded to carry out very specific types of sacrificial offerings on behalf of the Children of Israel. One commentator notes that the sharing of valuable livestock for sacrifice may not have been a natural inclination, hence the need to command that such offerings be made.
Each day, one of the priests would be assigned to keep the fire of the sacrifices burning, adding wood when necessary. At first, only the wealthy contributed the wood; in time the rabbis decreed that all members of the community should participate in keeping the fire burning. This subtle change speaks volumes about our individual responsibility as Jews today. As Billy Joel wrote in 1989, “We didn’t start the fire. It was always burning since the world’s been turning.”
While it is tempting to cede oversight of the rhythms of Jewish life to rabbis, cantors and educators, all of us are charged with the responsibility to incorporate Jewish thought and ritual into our daily lives. It is not only the responsibility of those with means to ensure the continuity of Jewish life, nor is it solely the responsibility of Jewish professionals to provide for Jewish learning, prayer and study. Each of us needs to set aside time – on major Jewish holidays and all the days in between – to create Jewish moments around the dinner and Shabbat tables, through regular study and acts of tzedakah.
Jewish life offers the spark of inspiration. No, we didn’t start the fire, but we can certainly keep it burning.
Wishing you and yours a Chag Pesach Sameach (Happy Passover).