Parashat Tzav

Kosher For Passover And All Year Round

The prohibition against leavened bread for most Temple grain offerings imbues the Temple with the spirit of freedom all year round.

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Provided by the Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel, a summer seminar in Israel that aims to create a multi-denominational cadre of young Jewish leaders.

This week, we read Parashat Tzav, which deals with some of the specifics of the basic daily sacrifices, and the ritual that was practiced in order to sanctify Aharon and his sons as priests who serve in the Temple. Parashat Tzav often occurs on the Shabbat before Passover, which is traditionally called Shabbat HaGadol--the great Shabbat, the Shabbat which precedes the exodus from Egypt and the birth of the free Jewish nation.

The Grain Offering

One of the sacrifices discussed in the Parashah is the Mincha, or grain offering. This sacrifice, brought by the priests on a daily basis, as well as by other individuals on certain occasions, consisted of flour, olive oil, and frankincense. A handful of it was offered on the altar, and the remainder was eaten by the priests. Interestingly, the Torah tells us that the Mincha must be made "Kosher for Passover" "as a matzah (unleavened bread) it is to be eaten…it is not to be baked as leaven." This, in fact, is the rule for all but one of the various grain offerings in the Temple.

Why does God demand that grain offerings not be allowed to leaven? Why is the law prohibiting hametz (leavened bread), which seems to be specific to the Passover holiday, enforced all year long in the Temple?

The symbolism of refraining from eating leavened bread on Pesach seems to be fairly straightforward. When the Israelites left Egypt, they were forced to leave very quickly; the Egyptians were, understandably, totally freaked out by the Plague of the First-Born, and pressed the Jews to leave as speedily as possible. As a result of this need to rush, the Torah tells us that "they baked the dough which they had brought out of Egypt into matzot, for it had not fermented, for they had been driven out of Egypt, and were not able to linger…" On Passover, we eat matzah and refrain from eating hametz to commemorate this event.

There seem to be a number of messages here. The miraculous turnabout, wherein the Egyptians, who for so long had been so unwilling to free the Jewish slaves, but were now urging them to hurry out of Egypt, is apparently worth commemorating, as is the speed of God's salvation, which, after years of suffering in slavery, ultimately occurred quickly--"in the wink of an eye" in the Rabbinic phrase.

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Rabbi Shimon Felix

Rabbi Shimon Felix is the Israel Director of the Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel. He lives with his family in Jerusalem, and has taught in a wide variety of educational frameworks in Israel and abroad.