Tzav (Command) – Leviticus 6:1 – 8:36
Tzav consists of instructions concerning the sacrifices and how to install the priests in their service.
WE ARE COMMANDED TO BE A NATION OF PRIESTS, to take responsibility for the holiness of our world, to be healers, and when necessary to stand between Life and Death, bridging the finite and the infinite. Tzav addresses the priest in us and so its blessing is in calling that priest forward.
TZAV BEGINS with the instructions for keeping a perpetual fire burning on the altar. Without the constancy of this fire, all of our sacrifices, our prayer, and our holy work would cease. This fire on the altar of our hearts is the pre-requisite for all spiritual practice. Tzav directs us in the tending of that innermost fire. If the fire should go out, our priesthood will be worthless.
TZAV ENDS with the ceremony that consecrates our priesthood and sends us to our holy work. During this ceremony we are blessed with the blood of the ram of consecration on the ear, the hand, and the foot:
- ON THE EAR that we might hear and respond to the cry of the oppressed and to the still small voice within our own hearts.
- ON THE HAND that we might dedicate ourselves to doing justice and making beauty.
- ON THE FOOT that we might walk carefully and deliberately on the path of pilgrimage.
THE SPIRITUAL CHALLENGE
TZAV ASKS US TO ENTER WITHIN and inspect the condition of the innermost fire upon the altar of the heart. We are challenged to look at our lives and ask the serious and probing questions about what supports that fire as well as what puts it out.
The fire itself speaks to me and says, “You must provide the spark. Be with the people who spark your creativity and enthusiasm. Keep reading and learning. Seek out places of beauty. Let yourself be challenged by difficult and interesting projects. Make music and colorful art. Travel to exotic places. Find reasons to celebrate.”
Seeing that I am listening, the fire grows bolder saying, “And I need space to burn. Spacious air. The breath of life. Spirit. Wind. Open spaces. If you schedule every minute of your day; if you fill the silence with words; if you clutter up your life with so much stuff … how can you expect me to have enough space to burn?”
The fire begins to open to me and so I speak to her directly. “What will you use as fuel? What keeps you burning?”
The fire flickers brightly at my question and whispers, “The love that you give and the love that you receive… that is my fuel. For love is as fierce as death… no river can sweep it away.” (Song of Songs 8:6-7)
“AND ONE MORE THING,” says the fire, flashing righteously, “you must remove the dead ashes every day. I cannot burn clean and pure if the refuse of the past is allowed to accumulate within you. Each morning you must remove that which is old and done.”
GUIDANCE FOR PRACTICE
Journey to the Fire on the Altar of Your Heart
BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY BY SITTING BEFORE A CANDLE and staring into the flame. Let your breath deepen and slow.
LOOK INTO THE HEART OF THE FLAME (for at least ten minutes). When the flame has burned its image into your eyes, close your eyes and see the flame inside your heart. Whenever you lose the image within, open your eyes and let the outer flame send you to the inner fire.
These words of Torah are reprinted from Torah Journeys: The Inner Path to the Promised Land (Ben Yehuda Press, 2006.)
Rabbi Shefa Gold is director of C-DEEP, ALEPH’s Center for Devotional, Energy, and Ecstatic Practice.