Extirpating Anger and Desire (Parsha Tsav)

This coming week’s (4/27/21) Torah Parsha is Tsav (Lev. 6:1-8:36). In this parsha we read:

And Moses took the breast, and waved it for a wave offering before the LORD: for of the ram of consecration it was Moses’ part; as the LORD commanded Moses.
(Lev. 8:29 KJV)

Philo of Alexandria sees this ritual as symbolic, with the breast of the ram representing anger which abodes in the breast:

(66) But some go far beyond these persons in wickedness, not only indulge in every description of desire, but also acquire that passion which is akin to desire, namely, anger, wishing to excite the whole of the irrational part of the soul and to destroy the mind. For what has been said in words, indeed, is applicable to the serpent, but in reality it is meant to apply to every man who is irrational and a slave to his passions, being truly a divine oracle, “Upon thy breast and upon thy belly shalt thou Go;” (Gen. 3:14.) for anger has its abode about the breast, and the seat of desire is in the belly. (67) But the foolish man proceeds always by means of the two passions together, both anger and desire, omitting no opportunity, and discarding reason (logos) as his pilot and judge. But the man who is contrary to him has extirpated anger and desire from his nature, and has enlisted himself under divine reason (logos) as his guide; as also Moses, that faithful servant of God, did. Who, when he is offering the burnt offerings of the soul, “washes out the Belly;” (Lev. 9:14.) that is to say, he washes out the whole seat of desires, and he takes away “the breast of the ram of the Consecration;” (Lev. 8:29.) that is to say, that whole of the warlike disposition, that so the remainder, the better portion of the soul, the rational part, having no longer anything to draw it in a different direction or to counteract its natural impulses, may indulge its own free and noble inclinations towards everything that is beautiful;
(Migrations of Abraham 66-67)

From this we learn that when we are guided by desire and anger we are no longer being guided by reason. We must learn to extricate anger and desire from our natures, so that our rational minds may be our pilot and judge so that reason becomes our natural impulse instead.

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