Torah Reading for Week of March 17-23, 2013
“Cleaning Out the Dust”
By Rabbi Andrew Feig, ’07, AJRCA Professor of Education
It just seems to be one of those weeks, where every little thing seems to present a challenge. Small emergencies, last minute requests, and missed phone calls pile up and it feels like I am either constantly putting out fires, or getting nowhere on an infinite supply of items on my to-do list. Frustration and anger mount, and as a result, a complete lack of patience for even the most mundane issue or task is the result. Of course, this has nothing to do with the upcoming preparation for Pesach, which entails a great deal of consciousness, as well as attention to detail.
As I read this week’s Torah reading, I found a hidden pearl of quiet, holy wisdom conveyed in the story of a garment. We read in Parashat Tzav, that the priest (the Kohen), wearing linen, must take the ashes from the burnt offering and place them by the altar, only later after a wardrobe change, to take them outside of the camp (Leviticus 6:3-4). Why the attention to the Kohen’s clothing? Why the details about sacrificial ash?
The Mei Hashiloach, Rabbi Mordecai Yosef of Ishbitza, a 19th Hassidic leader, quotes the Talmud in Zevachim 88a, noting that the linen garment atones for one’s anger and violence, as well as, atonement for sexual desire. The Mei Hashiloach goes on to say that this seems to hint at the idea that one who is clean or has removed one’s anger or lust may come close to G-d. The word for sacrifice, korban, has the same root as the word for drawing close, karov.
I think the Mei Hashiloach has much to teach us as we begin to enter Pesach reflected in the thoughtful, meticulous nature of the Kohen. First, our preparation for this holiday began weeks ago with the four special Shabbatot. These cleansing weeks help us focus on the themes of equality and uniqueness (Shabbat Shekalim), memory and justice (Shabbat Zachor), spiritual purity (Shabbat Parah), and spiritual renewal (Shabbat HaHodesh). We need these weeks to begin to not only clean out our homes, by removing the hametz, but clean our souls, by removing the spiritual hametz; the things that tear us away from fighting for justice in this world, and the anger and petty frustrations that distance ourselves from a chance at spiritual growth. Like the Kohen who removes the dust of past sacrificial offerings, we can remove the dust of our spiritual past, our spiritual hametz, so we can become karov, close to others to G-d. Hag Sameach!