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D'var Torah for Parshat Tetsaveh about conscious food choices and their relation to sacrifice. Originally distributed on the Hazon CSA newsletter.
Conscious Consumption, by Scott Westle
Dvar Torah for Parshat Tetsaveh
The grandeur of the Torah's sweep is partially found in its room for minutiae. Parshat Tetsaveh describes, in detail, the creation of the high priest's wardrobe, the prescribed
measurements in the sacriﬁcial ritual, and a how-to guide for consecrating the altar. The
instructions for the latter two make use of the entirety of the animals being offered: the
blood, the fat, the body - all had a part in the sacriﬁcial ritual. The altar was consecrated
with exact measurements of fresh oil and ﬂour. Nothing was unnecessary or wasted. The recipe was exact. The Torah goes beyond its normal role as a moral guidebook and here presents itself as an intricate instruction on the construction of holiness within the community of antiquity.
Why would the Torah lay out the details limiting one's ability to make an offering? One
could think that when sacriﬁcing to God, especially for expiation, more would be better,
yet that is not the reality presented in our Torah. The sacriﬁce is regulated, a single animal whose use is maximized, and that is enough for God's appeasement.
Prayer today has replaced our ancestors’ mode of worship, but we must still regulate our relationship to the food we consume. Animal sacriﬁce was gratifying as it represented either a lost meal or lost ﬁnances. As that relationship to our food continues to wane in modernity, we must not only strive to consume that which we need, but to maximize what we use as well. In making our tables and alters, we not only remember our ancestors' proximity to the Divine, but we are granted an opportunity to enact this closeness ourselves. Only through conscious consumption can we emulate holiness and be brought close to the Divine.
Scott Westle is currently a student at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. He is passionate about Jewish informal education and the San Diego SuperChargers.
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