7 Haiku for Parsha Tzav (where the priests learn to love meat) by Rick Lupert

Before anything
clean the ashes up from the
altar. Day begins.

Don’t forget to tip
your priest well. They can’t live on
all this meat alone.

In case I wasn’t
clear last week, do not eat blood.
It just ain’t Kosher.

You know you’ve arrived
when your costume designer
is Moses himself.

Not a good day to
be a bull. Oh, how complex
to welcome our priests.

Unleavened bread and
a ram’s thigh – recipe for

Seven days covered
in oil. Both a fantasy
and mandate from God.

Los Angeles poet Rick Lupert created a the Poetry Super Highway (an online publication and resource for poets), and hosted the Cobalt Cafe weekly poetry reading for almost 21 years. He’s authored 20 collections of poetry, including “I’m a Jew, Are You” (Jewish themed poems) and “Feeding Holy Cats” (Poetry written while a staff member on the first Birthright Israel trip), and most recently “Donut Famine” (Rothco Press, December 2016) and edited the anthologies “Ekphrastia Gone Wild”, “A Poet’s Haggadah”, and “The Night Goes on All Night.” He writes the daily web comic “Cat and Banana” with fellow Los Angeles poet Brendan Constantine. He’s widely published and reads his poetry wherever they let him.

Tzav: Sharing with others

This post originally appeared on Neesh Noosh.

This week’s parsha, Tzav, includes more details about sacrifices, including the Korban Todah (Thanksgiving offering). Again, I wrestled this week about what the sacrifices mean to me and how to translate the parsha into a recipe (though the Korban Todah “consisted of forty loaves of bread”)?

Dr. Tali Loewenthal on Chabad.orgexplains that this offering “was brought as expression of thanks to God by someone who experienced any of four specific kinds of danger: a captive who was freed; a person who crossed the sea; one who traversed the desert, and someone who has recovered from an illness.“ And, none of it could remain until the following day.

Rabbi Brad Artson, in The Bedside Torah, comments that “the Korban Todah is a celebration of life and its wonder.”

Rabbi Shai Held offers an explanation about the Korban Todah and “why the thankful person needs to invite others to share in his meal: The nature of gratitude is such that it is inherently outward-looking.”

He continues, “When one has been the beneficiary of God’s kindness, one is expected to bestow kindness oneself. . . .Deep joy is meant to be shared. In this instance, it is not just one’s family or friends who must be included, but also (and perhaps especially) those who are socio-economically vulnerable. . . .Joy that is not at least somewhat outward-looking, Maimonides forcefully suggests, is merely self-indulgence”

Indeed, this Shabbat HaGadol and Pesach next week will be times of indulgent, abundant meals as part of celebrations of our gratitude for our liberation from Egypt. But, they are also opportunities as Rabbi Held argues, to act on behalf of those who are less fortunate. “The prohibition on leaving over any part of the paschal sacrifice is intended, at least in part, to remind us that those who are hungry are our responsibility, that we are to open both our hearts and our homes to them. Both laws tell us: Open your hearts, and open your doors.”

Hungry doesn’t care where someone lives, the color of their skin or their religion. Nearly 50 million Americans are hungry. No one should be punished for being hungry. Each of us can be part of the solution to addressing this national problem.

There are countless examples of groups whose mission is to provide for those who are hungry. One is Brooklyn-basedMasbia, a kosher soup kitchen and pantry, which has served over one million meals. Also in New York is the 25-year old student run Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Soup Kitchen.  Project Chicken Soup in Los Angeles provides kosher meals to people living with cancer, HIV/AIDS and other illnesses.

The dish I prepared this week is a lemon lentil-Swiss chard soup. I’m still using the delicious lemons from the La Cienega Farmers Market that I stocked up on a couple of weeks ago. Soup is one-pot, nourishing dish that can be shared with friends, family and strangers. As you enjoy this soup, let it be a reminder (or share it) of someone who is hungry. Offering someone soup is an outward-looking joy and way to make a simple, but significant difference in someone’s life.

Tzav Soup

  • 1 medium shallot, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup lentils, rinsed
  • 2 cups Swiss chard, chopped
  • 1.5 cups vegetable broth
  • 3.5-5 cups water (depending on how much liquid you want)
  • juice of 1 lemon + grated rind (grate first and then juice the lemon)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste (this is a great use for last week’s lemon salt)


1. Dice shallots, celery and garlic. Pour 3/4 tbsp olive oil into pot on medium heat. Add shallots, celery, garlic. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Add lentils and mix well and cook for 2 minutes. Add vegetable broth and water. Cover pot with lid and bring to a boil. Then, reduce heat and let simmer, approximately 15-20 minutes (lentils should not be fully cooked).

3. Add chard to soup and mix thoroughly. Let cook for about 5-7 minutes.

4. Once lentils are fully cooked, remove from heat. Add lemon juice and lemon zest. Add remaining olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.


Sacrifices Address Emotion of Guilt

The theme of Parshat Tzav is korbanot, the animal sacrifices brought in the Tabernacle and, later, in the Temple.

The Rambam, in his “Guide For the Perplexed,” writes, “The purpose of sacrifices being incorporated into the Divine service of the Jewish people was to accommodate the transition of the people going from the extreme falsehood of idol worship to the extreme truth of worshipping one true God. The Jewish people had been steeped in an idolatrous culture and could only free themselves from it by utilizing the same form of animal sacrifice that they were accustomed to. Now, through strict rules and regiments, they could direct it toward the service of God.”

Unfortunately, this statement has been grossly misunderstood. The Rambam never meant to imply that korbanot were a temporary means of service, whose practice would be abandoned as soon as the Jewish people were weaned from their idolatrous ways. Noah and his sons offered korbanot after the flood; Avraham offered various sacrifices. Neither of them needed to be weaned from idolatry.
Although the concept of animal sacrifices seems foreign, almost antithetical to our notion of serving God, korbanot were offered in the Temple on a daily basis. The detailed rituals of sacrifices played an essential role in the celebration of each holiday, and various sacrifices were offered to mark significant events in the lives of people.

Korbanot obviously played a major role in our service to God. How are we to understand that role?

The ultimate way to serve God and come closer to Him is through prayer and Torah study, for those methods involve one’s heart and one’s intellect.
At the same time, we are created with physical drives, and we are therefore driven to relate to God in a physical, tangible way. Offering a korban (from the word karov, to come close) is a hands-on project.
But this very human need is not given free rein; rather, the offering of sacrifices is governed by strict regulations, in order that we tangibly relate to God in a true, proper way.

Furthermore, korbanot address the human emotion of guilt. After a person sins, it is natural to feel guilty about having done wrong, having failed to live up to expected standards of behavior.

Instead of allowing a person to wallow in guilt, to feel disappointed and disillusioned and to succumb to a sense of hopelessness, the Torah requires the sinner to bring a sacrifice. One must purchase a living animal, bring it to the Temple, confess the sin, express a firm resolve never to repeat it and then offer the sacrifice upon the altar.

These steps allow for the individual to express natural guilt in a constructive manner and for one to perfect and improve one’s character instead of being paralyzed by guilt.

Even in today’s times, in absence of korbanot, the Torah continues to challenge us to use our yetzer hatov, or good inclination, to sublimate our yetzer hara, or evil inclination, and always channel them to achieve a higher purpose, to relate to God in a way that allows us to grow, improve and attain psychological and intellectual perfection.

This column originally appeared April 7, 2006.

Steven Weil is senior rabbi of Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills and the incoming executive vice president of the Orthodox Union.