"The clay pot the meat is cooked in must be broken; but if it is cooked in a bronze pot, the pot is to be scoured and rinsed with water.'" - Leviticus 6:28
The Torah portion for this week is Tzav, which means "command," from Leviticus 6:1-8:36, and the Haftorah is from Jeremiah 7:21-8:3; 9:22-23.
When archeologists in Israel were searching for the site of the ancient Tabernacle, they followed the Bible and looked for supporting evidence. According to the Torah's account, they looked in the town of Shiloh where the Tabernacle had stood for many years. They knew that they were getting close when they began discovering shards of pottery.
As they neared the site believed to be where the Tabernacle stood, they were sure that they had found the authentic site. Why? One of the clues was the overwhelming amount of broken pottery found beneath the surface of the ground. There was no way that a single family or group of families could have left behind so many broken pieces. This was clear evidence that thousands of people had been to that site to offer sacrifices to God and had left their pottery shards as proof.
Why was broken pottery such a clear sign that the Tabernacle had stood in that very place? The answer lies in this week's Torah portion where the Israelites were commanded: "The clay pot the meat is cooked in must be broken . . ." The Jewish sages comment that this was true of all sacrifices. The pottery used to contain the sacrifice had to be broken afterward. However, this specific directive appeared in the context of the sin offering only. The sages explain that while the commandment to break the pottery containers applies to all sacrifices, it was placed in the discussion of the sin offering to teach us that just as the clay pot containing the sacrifice had to be broken, so, too, the heart of the sinner had to be broken in offering a sacrifice.
Sometimes in life, we have to break down in order to break free. This was the case of the sinner who brought an offering to God. It wasn't enough to go through the motions; he or she had to feel remorse, regret, and brokenness. As King David wrote in Psalm 51:17, "My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise." Sometimes, we have to become broken so that we can become whole again. In Psalm 51:10 David prayed, "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Sometimes we have to break something old in order to get something better and new.
Let's take a look at our own lives and ask ourselves what we might need to break down or break free from. Is it a bad habit or addiction? A bad attitude or negative character trait? Let's break what no longer serves us and refocus on serving God anew. It is in our brokenness that we can become whole again.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President