According to modern academic scholarship of the Bible – the critical approach embraced by progressive Judaism in its centers of higher learning – the Torah is made up of separate literary strands, written in different times and places, and holding different ideologies about ancient Jewish life. In this week’s parashah, T’tzaveh, we see the P-strand, which stands for Priestly code and was likely composed by the priests’ heirs to Temple authority during the Babylonian exile after the defeat of the Judean kingdom in 586 B.C.E. Understood this way, we, as the biblical readers of today, might appreciate P’s representation of priest and Temple as a mythic argument for how the exiles can see through and beyond the upheaval and uprooting of their time.
On December 17, 2018, my wife Rabbi Jade Ross and I celebrated our first anniversary. As a gift of paper is the traditional present for this occasion, I purchased for us a small volume entitled Our Q&A A Day, a shared journal that invites us each to compose a response to 365 daily questions over the course of the next three years. The most curious question has been, "What does your kitchen smell like?" As we read Parashat T'tzaveh, I'm reminded of this question as we discuss the "pleasing odor" of sacrifices that were offered to God.