Parashat Tzav

At times, reading through the details of the sacrifices mentioned in the book of Leviticus can be an exhausting exercise. The authors of the book of Midrash entitled Leviticus Rabbah, compiled around the 5th century C.E., recognized that the generations that lived after the destruction of the Second Temple would have difficulties connecting with this outdated ritual. The authors of the Midrashim often used metaphors to help us connect with the sacrificial procedures.


In this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Tzav, we read that the burnt offering known as the Olah is to remain on the altar “all night until the morning” (Leviticus 6:2). The authors of the Leviticus Rabbah 7: 4 draw out meaning from this otherwise seemingly insignificant detail. This Midrash offers the metaphor of a king journeying in the desert. When the king reached the first station, he ate and drank. When the king reached the second station, he not only ate and drank but he also spent the night there. The authors of this Midrash used this metaphor to demonstrate that by bringing the sacrifice of the Olah, Bnai Yisrael allowed God to spend the night with them. This sacrifice enabled Bnai Yisrael to invite God into their lives through this ritual.

Even though we no longer contribute official sacrifices to God, let the message of this Midrash inspire us to find ways to invite God to spend the night by us. What actions can we take, what learning can we engage in, what prayers can we recite in order to further bring God into our midst?

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