Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

Parashat Tzav: One hand for education and direction, two hands for elevation and connection

Our Portion of the Week, Tzav, deals with instructions specific to the Priests concerning offerings. The gematriah of the word Tzav is 96. Which equals 5 + 91. Five stands for five fingers, a hand and 91 is the gematriah of Amen, meaning I agree. When it comes to bringing an offer, getting closer to G^d, and prayer, the second hand needs to agree to work in tandem with the first. (Furthermore, Amen is the acronym of Keil Melech Ne’eman, G^d is our faithful King. Offers need to be dedicated to Him.)

But we use one hand when we give directions to someone, mean to tell people what to do, try to educate them.

One and Two

This distinction is everywhere in the Torah. I find that most important in the ‘sacrificing of Isaac.’ Abraham stretches out his hand to get to the knife (Genesis 22:10). He’s going slow to let G^d interfere. He knows that he would not kill his son. He just told him: G^d will provide the sacrifice (Genesis 22:8). He was making G^d hurry. The Torah mentions one hand (Genesis 22:12). This is not to deny that to slaughter may always be with one hand but here it specifically mentions it. So, this episode is for education and to say what he wants, not for elevation. But, when the ram appeared, he took it by both horns (Genesis 22:13). How can this be done? Only by both hands. That was an offering, to bring us closer to G^d.

When Moses wanted to lower the Plague of Darkness over Egypt (Exodus 10:22), he lifted his hand — singular. But when he prayed to G^d to remove the Plague of Hail (Exodus 9:33), he threw up both hands.

When we needed G^d’s help to succeed in battle, Moses first lifted one arm (Exodus 17:11) to teach the Children of Israel from where our strength comes. And then, he raised both hands, in prayer (Exodus 17:12).

When Eliezer wanted to commit to his task, he put one hand on Abraham’s loins (Genesis 24:9). But when he put bracelets on her arms (Genesis 24:22, 24:30, 24:47), he consecrated her. These were not free gifts and it was more than asking her to follow him — otherwise, it would have only mentioned one arm. She was still asked to agree (Genesis 24:58), though.

The procedure of the suspected wayward wife is to elevate the couple to unity. So it mentions that she’s holding with both hands the offering. But the Priest is holding the bitter waters in one hand (Numbers 5:18) because he is there to educate her (Numbers 5:19-22). He will take the offering from her hand (Numbers 5:25) — singular — she has now been informed.

Two — Elevating and Getting Closer

So, with consecrating animal sacrifices, both hands would lean on their heads (Leviticus 1:4, 8:14, 8:22, 16:21).

Moses took the Stone Tables with two hands (Exodus 32:15, Deuteronomy 9:17) to elevate us. When he saw the scene around the Golden Calf, he threw them down with both hands (Exodus 32:19, Deuteronomy 9:17) because it did not appear to be the time — apparently not to educate us.

But the hands are Esau’s hands (Genesis 27:22-27:23). They’re not just dissimilar in will or ability from Jacob but on a totally different moral level.

When Jacob blesses Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48:13-14, 17-18), he uses both hands at the same time. The Priests use two hands when the bless the congregants (Leviticus 9:22). When parents bless their children, they sometimes have the custom to use one hand when they’re not Cohen out of modesty, but the principle stays that the ideal way is with two hands. This is for elevating the blessed, not for telling them what to do.

When Isaac and Jacob dug wells, they must have used both hands. This was not to educate or force their will but to elevate the Land to be fit for habitation.

One — Telling You What to Do

We should not have a chance to stretch out our hand to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:22). You can want it but I’m letting you get it.

When G^d took us out of Egypt, He did that with a strong hand (Exodus 13:16, 15:6), directing us. The phylacteries on our hand are to teach (remind) us of that (Exodus 13:16). Making us holy would come later, at Mount Sinai.

When G^d wanted to educate Moses, He shows it at his hand (Exodus 4:2-7).

The Angels took Lot inside with their hand (Genesis 19:10). When the Angels left Sodom to rescue Lot, his wife and two daughters, they took each by the hand (Genesis 19:16).

And when Joseph escaped his master’s wife, she showed his garment in her hand (Genesis 29:12-13).

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach and lehavdiel bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff and Rav Meir Lubin. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, GLBTQAI, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quit a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500st blog post with the ToI. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having a peek outside of your cultural bubble. * NEW: To see other blog posts by him, his overspill blog you can reach by clicking on the Website icon next to his picture at the head of every post. There you may find precursors to later TOI blog posts, addition or corrections of published TOI blog posts, blog posts the TOI will not carry and some thoughts that are too short to be a TOI blog post. Also, the TOI only allows for one blog post per blogger per 24 hours. Sometimes, he has more to say than that. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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