Parashat Tzav-- Leviticus 6:1-8:36
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Questions for Young Children
• God does not allow B’nei Yisrael to eat any blood—why do you think God made that rule?
• What special steps does Moshe take to get the kohanim ready for their new positions?
• What do you do to get ready for a special occasion?

Questions for Older Children
• What are the different kinds of sacrifices and what is the reason for each?
• What happens to the leftovers once the sacrifice is made? Why?
• Who could eat from the offerings? Why?
• How are kohanim treated differently today, now that there is no longer a Temple? Do they have any special standing or special tasks?

Questions for Teens and Adults
• Both Aaron and the vessels used in the Ohel Mo'ed (Tabernacle) are anointed with oil (8:10-12). What do you conclude from the use of the same oil for both the Kohen Gadol and the utensils and altar in the Ohel Mo'ed?
• How difficult do you think it would have been for the kohanim after the destruction of the Temple in 586 BCE and, again, in 70 CE?
• What symbol does blood have according to this parasha? Do you remember a prohibition that God imposed on Noah that also dealt with eating an animal’s blood? What role will blood have in the upcoming seder?
• In 7:24 Israelite people are all prohibited from eating treyfa. What’s the simple meaning of the word from the text? Why would it be prohibited and why do you think it came to mean anything non-kosher.
• Today we remember the sacrifices both when we read parshiyot like Tzav and during the Musaf Amidah on Shabbat, for example. Siddur Sim Shalom and other prayerbooks includes optional paragraphs that do not specifically reference sacrifice. How do you feel about reciting the t’filot that recall sacrificial worship and anticipate a return to the Temple and the Temple cult?  How do you feel about updating those paragraphs?


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Peash Dips!  Why stop at dipping twice?

More than thirty years ago, our assistant rabbi, Paul Drazen, began a revolution at our sedarim that have eliminated shpilkes and the one annoying seder question...when do we eat?? He reasoned that after we've dipped the green vegetable into the salt water and said the b'rakha (blessing) "borai pri ha-adamah" (who creates the fruit of the earth), we could eat any vegetables that come from the earth.  By creating dips and very large veggie platters, we've managed to keep all our seder guests engaged in the discussion without feeling hunger pangs.  In addition, everyone has more than his or her recommended five daily portions of vegetables before we even begin the meal. 

Vegetarian Chopped Liver for Pesah

Makes loads!


  • 4 cups (about 1 pound) of mushrooms.  A mix of shittake and white mushrooms is delicious.
  • 4 cups chopped onions
  • 8 Tbsp. olive oli
  • 12 hard boiled eggs
  • 3-1/2 cups of walnuts
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper


  1. Fry the onions and mushrooms in the olive oil until the onion is golden. (You can do this ahead and freeze the mixture)
  2. In a food processor, combine the cooked onions and mushrooms, walnuts, eggs and turn them into a paté.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Refrigetate up to 3 days before serving.

For a further riff on the dip theme, I combine spring greens (dill in this case) and the bitter horseradish to create a garnish for chicken soup that has proved to be the most popular menu addition ever to our seder. 

Dill Pistou 

Makes enough to garnish 24-36 bowls of soup.


  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 5 Tbsp. grated fresh horseradish root
  • 2 cups fresh dill weed (=2/3 cups of dried dill weed but fresh is much better).
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • scant 1 cup olive oil


  1. Put everything in the food processor and combine.  
  2. Allow the pistou to sit in the refrigerator at least a day before serving. 
  3. Before serving the soup drop a spoonful of pistou in the soup.  You decide how big a spoon to use.
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Another week of details about sacrifices. Now that we’ve learned about the specific sacrifices in Vayikra chapters 1-5, Parashat Tzav focuses on the rituals for each of the different types of sacrifices, especially the role of the kohanim in the sacrifice ritual and how ritual purity is maintained. It also includes the public consecration of the kohanim and their first sacrifice in the Ohel Mo'ed (Tabernacle). And how do the kohanim survive if they serve the community. This, too, is part of the parasha-- 6:12-16. Note the use of the word torah in this and other parshiyot of Vayikra. (see Dash of Hebrew) Here it means ritual, or the correct procedure.

This parasha frequently coincides with Shabbat haGadol--the Shabbat before Pesah which used to be one of the two Shabbatot when rabbis offered a sermon. The topic was not the priestly code, but the laws of Pesah. I'm very grateful that our rabbi is willing to deliver a d'var Torah not just on two Shabbatot, but each and every week.  For a taste of Rabbi Davis's teaching, you can read his introduction to Tasting Torah.

Find the food connection

...לֹא תֵאָפֶה חָמֵץ 

It shall not be baked with leaven…
--Leviticus 6:10

Hametz—Barley! Time to finish cleaning out the hametz before Pesah’s arrival and this command goes into effect.   Barley is my choice of hametz this week.


The Side Dish

Tzav! (Command!) This parasha begins with an imperative making me think about how this parasha is related to recipes and cookbooks. The imperative was one of the most difficult verb forms for me to master in Hebrew.  Israeli cookbooks finally accustomed me to that verb construct. Add! Mix! Bake! Stir! The parasha also is a recipe of sorts—a recipe for the kohanim to follow without deviation to attain the desired outcomes.

Here's another imperative for this week. Dig into your own files and food memories! Find a recipe from someone you remember with affection! Talk about the person at the Shabbat table!

Although we all know at least someone who won’t share recipes lest the recipient alter the original, I was fortunate to grow up in a family with a mom, grandmothers, aunts, and great-aunts who were generous with their recipes and welcomed guests to their tables.  Baked Barley Casserole is one of many old favorites that I've altered slightly to be more 21st century (i.e., no canned mushrooms). This recipe reminds me of my aunt Annette-- זכרונה לברכה (may her memory be for a blessing) who gave me this recipe in August 1971. Aunt Annette left Philadelphia in the 1940s to marry my uncle Earl.  Little did she know she would be moving to the heart of Appalachia when uncle Earl became the doctor for Jackson County, Ohio. There she created a Jewish home and adapted to small town life but never losing her Philadelphia accent. It was only when I attended the funerals of my aunt and uncle in Wellston, that I began to understand how tzedakah underscored their life.  Everyone had a story about how my aunt or uncle had made a difference in their lives, how they'd stepped up to help.  The barley casserole is a hearty dish that embodies the weight of many good memories and reminds me that Aunt Annette's memory is indeed a blessing.  Oh, and the casserole dish in the photo was a gift from another aunt who also lived in a small, Ohio town.  But that's another memory and another story.




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A Dash of Hebrew
If you listen to this parasha or read the parasha in Hebrew, you will notice the repetition of the word torah. The root of the word is y-r-h, to shoot which may
seem surprising. If you think of shooting an arrow, you think about directing its trajectory and in the hif'il form torah means direction towards a goal, or to teach. Torat ha-olah means the instruction of the burnt offering, or the curriculum for offering a sacrifice. The word for parents, horim, is derived from the same root as torah.

A Dash of Weights and Measures
Ever wonder how much all these measures are? The measure mentioned in this parasha is ephah. Here’s a guide to dry measures:
Ephah--3/5 bushel
Se'ah --7 quarts
Omer / Issaron --2.09 quarts

A Dash of Cookbook Advice
If you enjoy connecting food and the parasha and you're a Hebrew reader, I suggest you examine, Matamei haMikra by Dafi Ford-Kramer published in 2008. More problematic than the imperative verbs in understanding Israeli recipes is the metric system. Still, the articles that precede the recipes in Ford-Kramer’s book are almost midrashic in their culinary approach to the parshiyot. The photography by Hagit Goren is spectacular. For Parashat Tzav, Ford-Kramer wrestles with the concept of sacrifices and comes to her own personal understanding that enables her to reflect about rahamim (mercy).  Her recipe this week is a traditional pot roast.

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Aunt Annette’s Baked Barley
Pareve--Serves 8-10


  • 1 cup chopped onions        rsz 02 tzav barley casserole copy
  • olive oil for sauteéing
  • 1 cup raw barley
  • salt and pepper
  • 5 cups pareve chicken broth
  • 8 oz. sliced mushrooms
  • ¼ cup dried shitake mushrooms (optional). Reconstitute in boiling water before using.
  • 3 oz. slivered almonds



  1. Sauté the onion in olive oil until softened.
  2. Add mushrooms and sauté until they begin to brown.
  3. Add barley and brown slightly.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and pour into a 3 qt. casserole dish.
  5. Add 3 cups of broth.
  6. Cover and bake 30 min. at 350º.
  7. Add remainder of the broth and, if desired, dried mushrooms, drained.
  8. Top with almonds.
  9. Cover and bake 1 hour longer.

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