Tzav – March 26, 2016

S.T.A.R.’s upcoming exciting events:

This Shabbat:

  • Friday Candle Lighting: 6:51 pm
  • Shabbat Ends: 7:40 pm

Torah Message:

Lions of the Soul

“…he (the kohen) will separate the ash” (6:1)

July 1956. Saturday afternoon. A taxi leisurely turns off Dizengoff Street into a side turning. A close-up on the taxi driver’s face. He is wearing a blue baseball cap.

Driver: They went to their deaths like sheep. They asked their rabbis: “Rabbis, should we run away to Israel or should we stay here in Europe? And you know what all those great rabbis said (puts on fake Yiddish accent)?“Don’t leave! Don’t go to Israel! In Israel your souls will be in mortal peril. Jews there drive down Dizengoff on a Shabbes afternoon! You’re better off here in Lodj.”

The driver chuckles, pleased with his own joke. He thinks for a second.

“So I ran away in 1937. I came here. I got a job as a taxi driver. I used to be religious but I gave it up here. Those poor fools are now ashes and I’m alive and driving down Dizengoff on Shabbes.

The picture freezes on the laugh of the driver.

Dissolve. We hear Shostakovitch’s String Quartet no. 8. A large hearse is seen leaving a graveyard. Cut to a freshly filled-in grave in the mid-distance. Hanging on the grave marker is a blue baseball cap. The camera tracks backward. All around it are grave-stones. The camera keeps tracking back through what seems to be like hundreds and hundreds of identical gravestones. They are all identical. Suddenly, the camera stops and slowly tracks in, lingering on one of thousands of identical stones. At the top of the gravestone there is a carving — six pieces of barbed wire arranged in a Star of David. The camera moves downward. We read the inscription: “For one of the Six Million — a place in the earth for someone whose ashes are blown on the four winds.”

No one gets out of here alive. We all make our exit one way or another. The question is: What we do in this brief walk between two darknesses? We can live like heroes and die like martyrs, with the name of Gd on our lips. We can die for the sake of our beliefs, for the sake of religion and our people. We can die like Jews and because we are Jews.

Or we can shorten our names, shorten our noses and vanish into the background. Either way, we all end up sitting in that same “waiting room” before our cases come up in the true Supreme Court. There, we will reflect on what we did and what we didn’t do. What we could have done and what we did.

The world sees our martyrs as passive — lambs to the slaughter. We see them as gigantic heroes of the soul. Heroes who never allowed their fiendish enemies the pleasure of seeing them falter in their trust in Gd’s ultimate justice. Heroes, who, with the worst imaginable horrors staring them in the face, never slackened in the observance of their faith. They were quick to do the Will of their Father in Heaven. And in death they are not separated from Him. Shortly before Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman (H”yd) and his talmidim were slaughtered by Latvian thugs, he cautioned his young flock that no impure thought should enter their minds, so that they might be a pure offering, an atonement for their brothers and sisters who would live on, in Israel, in America…

“Who is like Your people Israel, one nation in all the world?”

If we live on today, it is because of them. Our lives are founded on the ashes of the millions. They gave their most precious gift to us. Even though they never met us. They were not sheep. They were lions of the soul.

“…he (the kohen) will separate the ash.”

The first service of the day in the Holy Temple — the basis for the service of the rest of the day — was the terumat hadeshen. The kohen took ashes from the innermost part of the part of the Altar and placed them on the floor of the courtyard to the east of the ramp that led to the Altar’s top. These ashes had to come from the incinerated flesh of the previous day’s offerings.

Every day the kohen would remove the ash and place it at the base of the Altar. Miraculously, the ash would be swallowed by the ground around the base of the Altar. In other words, the ashes became part of the Altar on which that service was performed.

Today’s service of Gd is always built on yesterday’s service. A Jew serves Gd today with his life as willingly — as ultimately he is prepared to serve Him with his ashes.

  • Sources: Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch and a story heard from Rabbi Zev Leff