Shabbat Shalom Weekly

Torah Portion:  Tzav

March 23, 2019  |  16/Adar Bet/5779

A Life Lesson — If you Touch it, You Bought it
by Adam Lieberman
This week’s Torah portion spells out more of the laws regarding the sacrifices the Jewish people brought. And God said that:
“… flesh that touches any contaminated thing may not be eaten, it shall be burned in fire…”(Leviticus 7:19)
Why would flesh that was pure suddenly become contaminated by merely “touching” something else that was contaminated?
This actually teaches a valuable and powerful lesson: we are profoundly influenced by our surroundings. We do become a product of our environment.
Being around any type of behavior that we don’t want to fully engage in ourselves is never a good idea. The fact is, when you’re around people you don’t want to become more like, their behavior – whether you decide to presently do it or not – will eventually rub off on you. You can’t just declare that   “I will never become like them.” Good or bad, your environment will affect you. The sages have said this since the beginning of time.
This is true even if people aren’t involved. If someone has a problem controlling his drinking, then it’s clearly unwise for him to keep alcohol in his possession. Merely seeing the alcohol or knowing that’s it’s easily accessible could tempt an otherwise strong and determined person. In many cases, you just have to completely distance yourself from any behavior you don’t want to engage in.
Whether we like it or not, we’re influenced by the company we keep. And given enough time, we can eventually become more and more like those who surround us. So choose your environment wisely. Because no matter how much willpower and conviction we have to stay “true to who you are,” we’re all human and for better or worse, we’ll change every day whether we like it or not.

Seize the Moment
Gratitude Love Company
by Rabbi Jared Viders

This week’s Torah portion describes the Thanksgiving offering (korban todah) that is brought by one who emerged unscathed from a particularly precarious situation. (Specifically, the Talmud mentions: one who recovered from a serious illness; one who was released from prison; and those who survived a voyage through the high seas or the vast desert). This particular sacrifice is unique in two respects that, collectively, convey an important message pertinent to these special days leading up to Passover.
First, the Thanksgiving offering was accompanied with 40 loaves of bread. Second, unlike most sacrifices, these breads needed to be consumed within a 24-hour period (if not less). Now, one need not be a nutritionist to understand that even the hungriest of fellows on the most robust high-carb diet isn’t going to consume 40 loaves overnight. What’s the answer?
Pull out your contacts list, send out the email blast and invite your closest comrades, clients and third-cousins twice-removed to an elaborate and sumptuous repast.

Okay — so we spared ourselves a ton of leftovers; but obviously, the Torah is aiming for much more than mere “loafing” around and hobnobbing at a sophisticated cocktail party. The focal point is not what is being served nor who is invited, but rather the venue that it creates for the host to give over his tale of salvation, his personal in-living-color story of the glory of God Who bailed him out of such dire straits. When an individual is brimming with gratitude, the Torah orchestrates a fitting platform via which one’s personal thanks to God can be shared en masse and thereby inspire others to similarly perceive the kindliness and compassion of God in their own lives.
We find this notion in several other contexts. One can discharge his duty to hear the Megillas Esther within the comfortable confines of his own living room. There is no requirement per se for one to discharge that mitzvah in shul. Nevertheless, the halacha clearly states that one should endeavor to hear the Megillah in the venue with the largest capacity. To the extent that the Megillah constitutes a tour de force testament to God’s love and dedication to the Jewish People — and our corresponding love and dedication to God — it is most fitting that it be shared with as many of our brothers and sisters as possible. Along similar lines, the Mishna Berurah writes (695:9) that one should invite friends and family to the festive Purim meal because it is “impossible to celebrate properly in isolation.”
In his classic explanation of the fundamental tenets of Judaism, the Ramban explains “the purpose of shul and the merit of davening with a minyan is this:  that people should have a place where they can gather and acknowledge to God that He created them and caused them to be, and where they can publicize this and declare before God, ‘We are Your creations!'” (Shemos 13:16).
Can one pray at home? For sure.
Nevertheless, there is a remarkable and incalculable “strength in numbers.” For when we share life and more than that — when we share the tangible presence of God in our life — with others, our own convictions stand to be more meaningful and more empowering.
Don’t Get Offended 
by Rabbi Nesanel Yoel Safran
The less we let ourselves feel insulted by other people’s comments or opinions of us, the happier we’ll be. In the Purim story, Haman was so offended when one person out of an entire country didn’t honor him as much as he wanted, that he acted in a way that caused himself to lose everything he had. It makes so much more sense — not to take offense.
Insult or injury?
“Judy, get ready, it’s almost your turn again,” Linda smiled at her friend and star of their summer camp’s Olympics’ gymnastics competition. But instead of getting a smile back from the talented, athletic girl, her comment was met with a frown. “Why should I bother?”
“What?” “What’s the point of doing a gymnastics routine if no one appreciates it?” Judy said with a toss of her head.
“What are you talking about?” Linda asked, confused. “You got amazing scores from the counselor-judges – almost all ‘nine’s’ out of ten – on your last routine. You’re a champ; a real winner.”  “Apparently judge number three doesn’t think so.” “Huh?”
“In case you didn’t notice, she only gave me a ‘six’ when she held up her scorecard.”
“Really?”  “Yes, and to tell you the truth, I think it’s quite insulting that…”
“Next up, Judy Rider,” the master of ceremonies announced over the microphone.
The girl didn’t move.  “Hurry, Judy,” Linda urged. “Go tell the MC that I’m dropping out of the competition.”
“Dropping out? No way, you can’t be serious. You practiced so hard all summer for this event and you’re almost a shoe-in for the gold medal!”
Judy shrugged. “I don’t care. I’m just very offended over that terrible score the judge gave me.”
“But that was only one judge out of six.” Linda said. “There were five judges who thought you did great. Besides, why should you care what anyone else says? You know you worked hard, you know you have talent and you love gymnastics. Go out and do the routine, not for the judges–but for yourself!”
Judy looked into her friend’s pleading eyes. What she was saying did make some sense. Should she really blow off the highlight of her summer just because someone’s low opinion of her?
“Last call for Judy Rider,” the announcer said. Judy dashed to the stage, and, putting her previous offense behind her, threw herself into her routine and got a standing ovation.
She looked up at the large, printed scorecards the judges were holding up. Straight ‘nine’s! Even from the judge who’d previously given her a ‘six’ — she’d won the gold!
She walked to the judges’ stand to receive her camp Olympics gold medal.
“Sorry about the mix-up,” counselor-judge number three smiled at her as she placed the medal over Judy’s head.  “What do you mean?” the girl asked.
“I was a little embarrassed when I held up the scorecard upside down on your previous routine.” “Upside down?”
“I realized afterwards that the upside-down ‘nine’ must have looked a lot like a ‘six’, but don’t worry, I wrote the correct score of ‘nine’ on the score sheet. Sorry about the unfortunate mistake.”
“That’s okay,” Judy said as her mind spun around over the nearly much more unfortunate — and foolish — mistake she almost made of messing herself up by getting insulted and letting someone’s opinion change her own opinion of herself.
Discussion Questions
Ages 3-5  How did Judy feel at first about doing her gymnastics routine?
Ages 6-9  What life-lesson do you think someone could learn from this story?
Ages 10 and Up  Do you think it’s justified to return an insult to someone who has insulted us? Why or why not?
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“I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders” — Jewish Proverb

*  *  *


A baby camel was asking his mother a bunch of questions.
“Ma, why do we have huge, three-toed feet?” asked the baby camel. “They help us trek across the desert,” answered the mother camel. “The large toes stay on top of the soft sand.”
“Why do we have such long eyelashes?  “To keep the sand out our eyes on our long treks in the desert.”
“Why do we have these giant humps on our backs?”  “They help us store great quantities of water, so we can make long treks through the desert.”
Summing things up, the baby camel said, “So we have huge feet to stop us from sinking in the sand, long eyelashes to keep the sand out of our eyes and these humps to store water?”
“That’s right dear.” said the proud mother.
The baby camel thinks for a moment and says, “So why are we living here in the San Diego zoo?

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