Community Torah Corner, March 18, 2022

Rabbi David Greenstein
Congregation Shomrei Emunah
Montclair, New Jersey
Parashat Tzav

This year our Torah portion falls right after Purim. This joyous holiday also has a darker significance. We tie it to the perpetual battle against Amalek – and their descendant, Haman. Amalek and Haman represent heartless evil, and we must remember to eradicate evil from the world.
The contrast between the weekly portion and these other concerns is stark. The Torah portion delineates priestly rituals that took place in the sacred precincts of the Tabernacle. That vanished world was closed and controlled, a purely religious world of defined rituals. But the Amalek and Purim stories are about violent accidents of history in the outside world. In Tzav we kill animals in order to give thanks to God or to seek purification. In the Amalek and Purim stories we kill each other, out of hatred or self-defense.

These two realms exist in perpetual tension, pushing and pulling us in different directions. Without a Temple, we seek to neutralize our recognition of the violent outside world by turning violent events into stories read from a sacred scroll. Yet, all around us, at this very moment, the outside world spins in blood and pain.

We struggle between the mortal chaos of everyday life, filled with both conscious and random destructive forces, and the holy impulse of our tradition, the impulse to memory and structure, courage and joy. At every conclusion of Shabbat, as we depart its safe confines to enter the turbulence of another week, we recite a verse from the Scroll of Esther: “For the Jews there was light and joy and gladness and dignity.” (Esther 8:16) And then we add: “So may it be for us!” And so may it be for all those suffering from Russia’s cruel and murderous invasion.