Monthly Archives: March 2012

Parshat Tzav: Keys to the Final Four

Isaiah 28:11 states:

“Vehayah lahem devar-adonai tzav latzav tzav latzav kav lakav kav lakav ze’eir sham ze’eir sham lema’an yelchu vechashlu achor venishbaru venokshu venilkadu.”
“The word of the Lord shall befall them commandment by commandment, commandment by commandment; line by line, line by line; a bit here and a bit there; so that they will go and stumble backward and be broken, and be tripped up and caught.” This poetic line, read as part of the Haftarah for Parshat Sh’mot, highlights the danger of thinking of God’s commandments as “mutter upon mutter, now here, now there.” The text explains how God’s words sound like murmuring, but I would contend that the text argues something else.  Law after law, we sometimes get caught up in the mundane details rather than seeing the overall picture.

This is the context in which I read Parshat Tzav (totally unrelated other than the use of the word “tzav”).  What’s the big picture here? The text describes the sacrificial worship system: the burnt offering,the grain offering, the grain offering of the high priest,the purification offering, and the sacrifice of well-being. While this may sound like the 4th book of the Hunger Games trilogy, it is not!

The word that sticks out amongst all these offerings is “torah”, derived from the verb “yarah”, or “to instruct, cast, shoot, or aim.”  The big picture here is the importance of listening to instructions, of executing x’s and o’s.  My bold prediction for this year’s Final Four is simply, in the big picture, that whomever follows instructions, makes their coach’s directions seem clear and natural (rather than murmurs), whomever shoots/aims the best, whomever scores the most points, at the end of the day, they will be champion.  Who knew that whomever scores more wins!?!

The Ultimate Bracket: Mascot Edition

On a somewhat side note, this week we read a double torah portion, Vayakhel Pikudei, which highlights the giving of donations for the construction of the Tabernacle.  Skilled artisans were then hired to use these gifts to enhance the space, the bible’s version of an HGTV show Design to Pray or Bang for Your Brakha.  The Israelites gave and gave and gave some more.  This may have been done out of guilt for the sin of the Golden calf, but I would argue that the Israelites saw the importance of giving in order to enhance the community.  They gave to the pool voluntarily and graciously.

In a season known as March Madness, we often have those office pools where we pool our money to see who can guess who is this year’s VCU or Butler University.   What would happen if half of the pool went to charity.  Or better yet, if we spent the money on a different pool entirely in order to enhance our work spaces, our community spaces, our worship spaces.  Yes, you still have time to contribute according to the IRS (at least to your IRA accounts), but God forbid we give for the sake of giving and not for a tax write off!

Just a thought.

While I normally do not participate in March Madness office pools myself, I still fill out a few brackets.  ESPN gives your account 10 or so brackets to fill out, so one is always a bit quirky each year- head to head matchups are decided by overall record, alphabetically, or even by school population.  I even have a colleague who picks based upon how Jewish the team might be (players, coaches, alumni base).  My favorite, however, is the mascot bracket- each matchup is chosen based upon who would win in a fight.

This week also happens to be Shabbat Parah, referring to the Red Heifer sacrificed in the Temple so that those who were unpure could eat the Passover sacrifice.  I was lucky enough to attend a High School (known as New Jew at the time) that had Red Heifer as its mascot (I still say we should have picked “Pioneers” as the mascot).  It was always a great conversation starter with other teams when they asked what our mascot was.  Very intimidating to say the least.  Here’s my mascot bracket on ESPN: (it will be viewable after the 1st set of games)


Parshat Ki Tissa: Deadline to Franchise an Israelite Player

Today marks the NFL’s deadline to “franchise” a player.  When teams and their respective free agents are unable to come to terms on a new contract, the team has the option to “franchise” a player, thus locking them in to playing for the team for another year, and thus creating an irresolvable tear with that player (note: each team can only franchise one player total).

This week we encounter some very long torah readings dealing with the sin of the Golden Calf.  Long story short, the Israelites miscalculate the amount of time Moses has spent up on Mt. Sinai writing on the two tablets.  There was no internet to figure out when the deadline would pass- no ticker on ESPN.  They believe the time on their original agreement with their boss has run out, allowing them to become free agents.  Moses begs God for forgiveness, and in turn God “franchises” the Israelite nation.  Like all franchised players, the Israelites present that day would be doomed to not make it into the holy land, for their rift with the ownership was too damaged to heal.

My question today is two fold:

1) What kind of things in our lives to we “franchise”? Are there items we put on a to do list and slowly but surely move to the back burner and say “sure I’ll do that later”?  Do we set timelines and deadlines that become meaningless once they’ve past?

2) Can we focus on one of those resolutions, one of those long term goals, or bucket list items- committing to a timeline and vowing that if we don’t begin to at least work on them (baby steps count) then we won’t “franchise” them , dooming them for failure?