Parashat Tzav

Revisiting the Fire Offerings of Israel

Modern commentary and interpretation may ease some discomfort surrounding ancient liturgy.

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By understanding avodah as "worship" in general and ishei as "gifts of the heart", we arrive at a vocabulary that serves to describe current practice as well as that hoped for in the future. The key point is that God's presence should inspirit and ennoble our worship whatever form it may take. Or as the Mishnah puts it: of importance is not whether one offers a bull or a bird or a cereal offering. Scripture speaks of them equally "as a food gift of pleasing aroma to the Lord." What counts is the purity of our intention, rather than the size of our gift (Menahot 13:11).

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Rabbi Ismar Schorsch

Rabbi Ismar Schorsch served as chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary.