Torah Thoughts Tzav (
Leviticus 6:1 – 8:36
“Stuck at Home vs. Safe at Home”
On our Zoom conference call with Dr. Howard Faden this past Sunday, he spoke about the free-thinking nature of Americans and how difficult it would to get the general population to comply with governmental edicts. We simply do not like to be told what to do. And, yet there are times, like the one we are in right now, where collective actions are required for the safety of the entire group. In order for most of us to be convinced to limit our normal actions, we must buy into the choices we are being asked to make.
A helpful meme showed up on several of CSS congregants’ Facebook feeds which had a large banner with the handwritten words: “You’re Not Stuck at Home. You’re Safe at Home.” What a beautiful reframing of social distancing and one way to convince others that this is a good approach.
In a way we have a similar reframing by liberal Jews of the name of this week’s Torah portion: Tzav, meaning commanded. When this shows up at the beginning of the portion, in relation to specific actions Aaron and his sons must perform for God, it feels coercive. Watching them jumps through a series of elaborate hoops for little apparent reason, my American heart stands in defiance. But, Tzav is connected to another Hebrew word, one that you are no doubt more familiar with, Mitzvah. We usually translate Mitzvah as “good deed.” What a difference that translation makes, now instead of being forced into actions, Aaron and his sons are doing them for the good of the larger community.
So many of us have put the needs of others above our own, sometimes at great expense to our own personal well beings. Keeping distant from one another, restricting our daily movements, is scary and hard. Understanding that these actions are keeping us and others safe, makes these choices infinitely easier. By staying home we are truly performing a Mitzvah.