The majority of this week’s parsha, Tzav, focuses on ancient rituals of the temple and priesthood. We continue to learn about the various types of sacrifices; how to do them; when to eat them; who may eat them; etc. We learn about the dedication of the mishkan and the ordination of Aaron and his sons, including the sprinkling of oil and the ritual in which Moses places the blood of a sacrificed ram on Aaron’s right ear, right thumb, and right big toe and then repeats this ritual with each of Aaron’s sons. We learn of God’s wrath when one takes these rituals and treats them as if they were a joke.
While we no longer practice these rituals, at least not for now, the coming week can be filled with rituals that remind us of God’s power and God’s role in our lives.
On Yom Revii (Wednesday), April 8, we will celebrate the special occurrence of Birkat Hachamah (the sun blessing). This special ritual occurs once every 28 years when the sun returns to the place in the heavens where it was originally created. On this day, we are taught by the rabbis that we must go outside at sunrise and recite the blessing, “Blessed are You, Hashem, our God and God of the universe who makes all things in creation.” If it is cloudy, tradition teaches us to wait until we see a glimpse of the sun, even as late as mid-day, before reciting the prayer.
That evening, Wednesday night, we will begin the holiday of Pesach. What holiday contains more ritual than this? We eat special food for an entire week, food that symbolizes our lives in Egypt, our escape from there and the celebration of spring. We gather with family and friends for a festive meal as well as a learning experience; we remember together the journey of our ancestors as they moved from slavery to freedom. Also, as each of us knows, every family has its own rituals for the seder that develop over generations and continue to grow to this day.
No matter what the specifics, it is the practice of Jewish rituals that enhance our lives as Jews. This week is a great time to bring some of those rituals home.
(This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.)