July 25, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Tzav: Burning With Bruce

Vayikra 6:4

The clock was ticking.

“Dad, we’re almost out of time.”

“I don’t care.”

“This is serious.”

“I know it is. It’s serious for me, too. Check in your dresser again.”

“I already looked there. If we don’t burn the chametz in the next 10 minutes we can’t do it anymore.”

“I know, I know. But I need my shirt.”

“You’re being ridiculous.”

“Oh, am I? I’ve worn that shirt for biur chametz every year since I was a kid and burned it at my parents’ house, back when my father would incinerate those little pieces of white bread on the backyard grill.”

“You’ve told me many times.”

“I’m pretty sure you were the last one to have the T-shirt.”

“Yeah, I borrowed it for that 80s party I went to. But I’m pretty sure I gave it back to you.”

“I’m pretty sure you didn’t. Do you know what it looks like?”

“Yes.”

“It’s gray with black sleeves.”

“I know.”

“And it has a picture of Bruce and Clarence on the front, from the cover of ‘Born to Run.’ And lots of holes.”

“I’m well aware.”

“I got it at my first Springsteen concert in 1981.”

“So I’ve been told.”

“It was when ‘The River’ came out. Amazing concert.”

“Must have been great.”

“How many Bruce concerts have I taken you to?”

“Four. And how many have you been to, Dad?”

“Forty-seven.”

“That’s a whole lot of Bruce-juice, Dad.”

“You know it, Donny. Check the bottom of your closet. I know a lot of T-shirts go there to die.”

“Very funny. Why can’t you wear one of your other Bruce Springsteen shirts?

“This is a special one. It’s my biur chametz shirt. It’s unique to this event.”

“That’s just crazy, Dad.”

“Actually, I don’t think it’s crazy at all. There is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.”

“Is that a Bruce lyric?”

“Seriously?”

“Actually, it sounds more like Dylan.”

“It’s from Kohelet, you twit. I guess you’d say it’s King Solomon. Actually, the Byrds used it in their song ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’ back in ‘65.”

“Cool. Listen, Dad, you have a T-shirt from almost every tour Bruce did. Why don’t you wear a different one? I know you like that one from ‘Born in the USA.’”

“No, that’s for Lag B’Omer.”

“What about the one you bought on The Rising Tour?”

“That’s for Yom Yerushalayim.”

“Why does it have to be this one?”

“Because it’s the biur chametz Bruce jersey. That’s just the way it is.”

“So you’re saying this ratty old T-shirt, riddled with holes, has a special holiness for this event?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying.”

“You’ve gone off the deep end, old man.”

“I don’t think so, my young padawan. In fact, there is precedent in the Torah to that of which we speak.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Last week’s parsha talks about it. In Tzav, the kohen is instructed that first thing in the morning he needs to clean out the ash from the previous day’s service before bringing the morning sacrifice. The Torah commands that he change his clothes into inferior garments to remove the ash.”

“OK, so he has to change out of his nice linen vestments to remove dirty ash. Makes sense to me.”

“Ah, but it’s so much more than that. The Ha’amek Davar points out that since the Torah goes to the trouble of discussing the change of clothes, clearly the lesser garments are priestly garments as well and have holiness. It is teaching us to imbue all aspects of our service of God with holiness, even the mundane removal of ash.”

“So?”

“So I am imbuing the biur chametz with holiness by wearing my favorite Springsteen shirt during the mitzvah.”

“And your Bruce jersey is holy?”

“Donny, how long have you known me?”

“I see your point. Ooh! I found it!”

“Where was it?”

“In my sock drawer. Go figure.”

“So let’s go burn some bread.”

“Any song you want to play in the background?”

“Is there any question? The sixth track from ‘Born in the U.S.A.’”

“‘I’m on Fire?’”

“Could I be any prouder?”

By Larry Stiefel

Larry Stiefel is a pediatrician at Tenafly Pediatrics.

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