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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash


This Shabbat we read Parshat Tzav in the book of Vayikra. Parshat Tzav speaks more in detail about sacrifice. Also mentioned is the clothing that Aaron and his sons wear for their special purpose. The Mishkan is anointed with oil and Aaron is anointed as well.

Parshat Tzav is fascinating as are all the Parshiyot in VaYikra. They roll out in great detail, as though it is a guide book and stage directions rolled into one. It doesn't leave a lot to the imagination. As someone who is trying to write poetry about the parshiyot, this Parsha was a challenge so I decided to go back in time and write something about the Binding of Isaac and the concept of sacrifice, which in some small way directly relates to this Parsha.

The idea of sacrificing animals is so far removed from modern existence that it is difficult for me to comprehend, despite the huge amount of commentary on the practice. I much prefer to see the genius in the transition to prayer, once the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed.

It is easier to imagine prayer over the course of generations which allows me to blur my focus of animal sacrifice and grain sacrifice as a way to bridge the gap between God and humankind. I respect that it was part of our beginnings and that it reflected the practice of long ago but am grateful that words and deeds have taken the place of the alter, the knives, the fires and the smoke.


Early one morning

an old father and his son

rose and walked the land of Moriah

They traversed rocky hills for three days

Their feet pointed straight ahead

Their heads and hearts looked backward

and inward.

Their eyes did not meet as they walked,

but stared at the ground below them.

A father and son,

connected through their thoughts,

spoke little aloud.

They readied themselves to offer a sacrifice,

a gift to God,

who wished for proof of their belief,

a proof stained in red.

God watched

as their hearts stumbled along the way.

And so they arrived at the spot

The only son, the beloved son

And the father, a man of faith

whose cold fingers trembled,

and whose mouth was as dry as dust

And there was silence.

It was the son who lay down upon the branches

upon the alter that his father built.

As his father watched

it was the son, who bared his white belly to the sky.

As he lay there he thought of his mother,

as moments, as eternity passed.

Father and son breathed deeply,

their eyes stared upward,

both searching the clouds for answers

God's answer came in the bleat of a ram.

And the son got up, forever changed,

drew his robe around him

And descended silent to the world.

Perhaps he laughed in his heart?

But he forever felt the branches

prickling at his back as he lay

searching the troubled sky for answers.

He never looked at the sky the same way again.

The father sacrificed the ram

He held the ram's matted head as a final thank you.

Their eyes locked together in common purpose

The ram's golden eyes understood

There was deep wisdom in those eyes.

Sweat ran down the father's back

He wept as he took his knife in his hand.

His precious son by his side.

His beloved son.

God watched.

The deed was done.

The blood stained the ground red

and the smoke rose to the sky.

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