Parashat Tzav: “Burning for Change” - Vital Transformation

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Parashat Tzav: “Burning for Change”

Weekly Pearl of Wisdom for Your Shabbat Table

Parashat Tzav: “Burning for Change”

Our Parashah this week, Parashat Tzav, details the commandments for the service of our Cohanim, the Priests, in the Temple. We are in the second portion of Sefer Vayikra, which is concentrated with the energy of freedom.

What is real freedom?

The order and the commandments of Tzav teach us that real freedom is not doing whatever we want, but rather living a life with order and certainty. The concept of אמונה, emunah, means faith and certainty in the Creator. This is the most important thing. If we feel a lack of certainty with God, then we cannot fully follow His will; since, it is without full belief that His will means something. Have certainty in your relationship with God and see your relationship grow tremendously.

How zealously do we move over an opportunity for change?

Parashat Tzav describes the sacrifice, of the קרבן עולה, korban olah. The specific korban is very unique in that it is to be sacrificed quickly and is completely burnt. Why is it brought in such a hurry? Since this sacrifice is completely burnt, no physical benefit is offered to the giver or the Cohen, who usually eats from the sacrifice! There is no leftover meat to feast on. It is brought for the purpose of change and there is massive spiritual benefit, but there seems to be no gain. We want to get excited over our service to God, but it is very difficult to get excited over a service that offers no material benefit. This korban is begging us to reflect; how quick are we to do spiritual work?

How do we bring about change?

Kabbalah places a large emphasis on change, on working on and changing ourselves. How do we do this? It is through the study of Kabbalah, of Torah itself, that has the power to give you the light to transform yourself and bring about change. We cannot change negativity by ourselves, we need the study and its following מצות, commandments, too. Yes, spirituality can be confusing in that there is not necessarily a physical gain. The reward for spirituality is spirituality itself! But see, this is not only a higher benefit, but also a deeper one. When we study the Torah, we dive into spirituality. The study elevates us. Torah study is like herbs to the body. The mitzvot gives you clarity on your spiritual work. The mitzvot are like a candle that allows us to see the difference between good and bad. Whereas sin makes us blind, into ourselves, and unable to see the wrong. Mitzvot give us clarity. It is not always easy or fun. But the spiritual journey as a whole must be fun and must be with zealousness! If you become too critical, too angry, or too regretful, you are doing something wrong. There is joy in the growth, in the hard work, and in the transformation. We need to be excited! We must also be mindful of how we use our energy because excitement and love must be for the right thing. If you place too much excitement in the wrong thing, you don’t have enough for the right thing.

Why do we want to sin?

The Zohar asks; why are the Cohanim commanded to have the fire of the altar burning at all times? We learn that the fire is teaching us of the hotness and the passion of committing a sin. When someone is going to do something negative, they are burning themselves with the fire of the evil inclination.

Where does the evil inclination come in? When we want to commit a crime! Nobody wakes up wanting to do bad. The sin is the evil inclination at work to use you to commit a crime. Remember this. And when you allow it to use you, it is connected to you. So we bring the animal to sacrifice to get rid of the evil inclination within us.

What do we do when there are no more sacrifices?

What are we to do today? We are not in the times of Korbanot, so how do we get rid of our evil? The desire to sin, to be angry, to be jealous, and more is not just going away tomorrow. Moshe asked God this exact question! He asked what the Jews who don’t live near or in the times of the temple were to do. God’s answer is Torah study. This is how to sacrifice today. When you study, especially the Torah portions about sacrifice, you receive the power to burn and remove negativity. Before studying, take a moment to identify what you are struggling with and meditate that “the learning I will embark on will help me with those issues”. Then begin your studying with much intention. Dedicate that learning to what you’re struggling with. And have certainty that it will help change you.

What is transformation?

When you bring a korban or make a decision to transform, you must address your negativity and what motivated you to act negatively. This is not easy. We learn that at the end of the Tikkun, after transformation, everyone will look for the crime they committed and will be unable to find it. To understand transformation, we must understand what is a crime. For example, take the crime of stealing. Someone may steal for their survival. When they steal what is yours, they don’t feel bad because they are surviving. Their survival skills made them obsessed with stealing. To work on their stealing, they will need to feel bad, stop stealing, and rectify what they stole. This is hard work.

At the end of the transformation, they want to show everyone their change. To do this, they display their crime to show how far they have come. They become proud of the crime! Because their crime shows them how much they grew. Now they do not see the crime as bad because it’s an empowering sign of their transformation!

Adding some Adar light!

While we are in the last few days of Adar, our month of happiness, let us take a moment to discuss positivity. Kabbalah shares with us that after a very tragic event, one should count nine months. Why nine months? Because a negative event gives birth to something very good! Rav Ashlag teaches that the Creator never finishes the job of creation. It is constantly going. And with the birth of anything, it takes time to get good. Fruit is bitter or sour at first, but then with time, it gets sweet. So too, negativity is just good that is not ripe yet. People need time to ripen too! But very often, we do not have patience and so we try to change others or ourselves. We cannot rush ripening. We learn that every righteous person has a past and every sinner has a future. When we sin and panic about what we did wrong, we are stuck in the past. Get busy with doing good.

When can we focus on our sins? Put it in your calendar for a maximum of 15 minutes a day. Only in these 15 min, can we dwell on negativity. Later, take some time to focus on where you are perfect. After all, God created us perfect. Meditate on your good, study the light of the Torah, and allow it to bring change into your life!

Shabbat Shalom

-Rabbi Eliyahu Jian

Eliyahu Jian May 22, 2024

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