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God’s Zagat

Dining with the Deity has its own rules

Liel Leibovitz
March 27, 2009

This week’s parasha is all about the business of animal sacrifice. It’s long, detailed and extremely technical, describing the occasions and procedures for the various kinds of ritual slaughter. In short, not stuff any of us lay people could understand. Luckily though, a couple of Israelites were there to gather their colleagues’ opinions and give us a collective view of the spiritual meaning of chow. Their names? Tim and Nina Ben-Zagat.


This “ascending offering” is “burned whole” at the altar as an offering to “God.” While some consider it “a terrible waste,” suggesting that “God” has no “corporeal body” and that therefore the entire ceremony is “a waste of a perfectly good bull,” most realize the “symbolic” meaning of this act, adding that “some smiting” might follow unless “God” gets His “meaty nosh.” Everyone, however, can agree that the “awesome barbecue smell” makes Olah a perennial favorite.


“Fine flour,” “olive oil” and “frankincense” may not sound like the ingredients for “a perfect pancake,” but this “meal offering” still emits a “pleasing fragrance for the Lord” when set up in flames. This “no frills” kind of offering is “the poor man’s ritual sacrifice,” a good and affordable way to worship while traveling for “forty years” in “the desert.” Make sure you offer a portion of the Minchah to “the Cohens” if you want to get “a good table” in “the next world.”


Although forbidden to eat “any fat or any blood,” Israelites still find this sacrifice very popular because of its “personal meaning“ and “direct relation” to their “lives.” Meant as a ”peace offering” to “God,” a “bull, a sheep or a goat” are burnt at the altar, giving thanks for “good things that happened” as well as “good things that haven’t happened yet but we hope would happen soon.” Some say this system of “paying in advance” for “divine beneficence” is “stupid,” and want to “slaughter innocent animals” only after “God” has delivered “triumph,” but most Israelites agree that giving thanks “certainly can’t hurt ya.”


A favorite with “transgressors” everywhere, this offering is designed to atone for “erroneously committed sins.” The elaborate menu offers options for “ordinary individuals,” as well as “priests” and even “the entirety of Israel,” and insists that no matter “how personal” the misdeed, “repentance” is still “a very public affair.” While you may be “super embarrassed” to share “your dirty little secrets” with “the entire freakin’ nation,” at least there’s a “delicious” meal waiting for you in the end. Even the harshest critics agree that Chatat is “much yummier than confession.”


Fans of “robberies” and “withholding funds” swear by this “guilt offering,” although “trespass” and “betrayal” may also get you in. With a few of “the right words” recited by the “Cohen,” you may even be “forgiven” and spared “a strange and horrible death from above.” Although no one is especially “fond” of giving Asham, “sweaty, nervous” Jews all agree it’s “far better than the alternative.” Some merciful ones even recommend it to “Bernie Madoff.”

Liel Leibovitz is a senior writer for Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.

Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One.