Every Task is Holy
ולבש הכהן מדו בד ומכנסי בד… והרים את הדשן אשר תאכל האש את העלה על המזבח ושמו אצל המזבח
The Kohen shall don his fitted linen Tunic, and he shall don linen breeches on his flesh; he shall separate the ash of what the fire consumed of the elevation offering on the Altar, and place it next to the Altar (Vayikra 6:3)
Tzav opens by describing the first duty of the Priest (Kohen) as he began the day’s services, known as Separating of the Ash (Terumot Hadeshen). In this service, the Priest removed a portion of the previous day’s ashes from the Altar and placed it next to the Altar.
Before giving this commandment, the Torah states the obligation of the Priest to put on his special vestments before performing this service – an obligation already stated (Shemot 28: 40 – 43) with regard to the Priests’ performance of their services. Why was it necessary for the Torah to repeat this requirement with regard to the Separating of the Ashes?
Rabbi Aaron Lopiansky points to an unusual dichotomy in the Priest’s service. On the one hand, the Priests were specifically chosen by G-d to serve as His emissaries. People approached the Priest for inspiration and spiritual renewal. Their garments reflected their elevated status. On the other hand, many of the particular tasks associated with the Priest’s duties could be misinterpreted as undignified. To the observer, the slaughtering of animals and burning their organs, seems to run contrary to their regal status. Removing the previous day’s ashes seems even less dignified. As such, there is a danger that a Priest might consider this service beneath his dignity.
In fact, the Talmud (Pesachim 57a/b) records an incident with a Priest, Yissachar Ish Kfar Barkai (Yissachar, the man of the village of Barkai), who showed disregard for this service by wrapping his hands in silk so as not to sully his hands in the performance of his duties. His attitude was extremely displeasing to G-d, and he was punished for his actions.
To guard against this attitude, the Torah declares that all of the Priest’s duties were holy and elevated in nature. Even those tasks that an individual might consider lowly had to be performed while wearing his special vestments. There is no such thing as a menial task when it comes to serving the Creator.
The following story illustrates this idea. Baruch was a school bus driver in Jerusalem, whose job was to take a group of boys to and from school each day. When he was younger, Baruch did not mind his job, but as he got older he grew less and less patient with the boys, who were often noisy and not very well behaved. One day, he informed the principal that could no longer serve as the driver. The principal, who valued Baruch’s work and did not want to lose him, offered him a raise and promised to speak to the boys about their behavior. It was no use. Baruch’s mind was made up.
In a last-ditch effort, the principal convinced Baruch to meet with a certain well-respected Rabbi for his perspective on the situation. After hearing Baruch’s story, the Rabbi explained that Baruch was not simply a bus driver transporting a group of unruly children; he was driving a portable Aaron Kodesh (Holy Ark), and the boys were living Torah scrolls! Though they were acting like young boys – each was special and represented the future of the Jewish people. After hearing this perspective, Baruch gladly agreed to continue, which he now understood as part of a much higher mission. (from Touched by a Story for Children ,by Rabbi Yechiel Spero)
Being a part of the Jewish community carries a variety of responsibilities. There are events to run, students to teach, elderly people who need care and comfort, fundraising duties, supplies to be bought – the list is endless. Often, what needs to get done is not necessarily glamorous or appealing. When we feel like giving up, we would do well to consider that, when it comes to helping the Jewish community, there are no menial tasks. Just as the Priest wore his holy garments – with pride – no matter what service he was performing, so too must we realize that every contribution of time, effort or resources adds to the collective good of our people.
Recognizing the Good in the Bad
וזאת תורה זבח השלמים אשר יקריב לד’ אם על תורה יקריבנו
“This is the law of the feast peace-offering that one will offer to G-d: if he shall offer it for a thanksgiving offering…” (Vayikra 7:11-12)
Our verses discuss the Korban Todah (Thanksgiving Offering), a korban brought by an individual who was in a very dangerous situation and was saved. In connection to the Korban Todah, the Medrash quotes a verse in Psalms (50:23) תורה יכבדנני זבח – one who brings a Thanksgiving-Offering honors Me.” However, the Medrash notes that the word יכבדנני – “honors Me” – is peculiarly spelled with a double “נ” in lieu of the usual one. The Medrash cryptically explains that this anomaly is coming to teach that a person who brings a Korban Todah doubly honors G-d, כבוד אחר כבוד. What is the additional respect shown by this person who was saved from potential danger and is now bringing a sacrifice to express his gratitude?
An insight into resolving this perplexing Medrash may be derived from a fascinating story recounted by the Meam Loez. The Ramban (1194-1270) had a student who became deathly ill. Upon visiting his student, the Ramban quickly realized that there was unfortunately no hope for him. Realizing that his time was near, the Ramban asked his student to do him a favor.
The Ramban explained that there were a number of questions which had been troubling him regarding G-d’s conduct toward the Jewish people, who were suffering greatly at that time. As he was deeply versed in the secrets of Jewish mysticism, he wrote for his student a kamea (roughly translated as amulet) full of Divine names. After his death, the student would be able, with this kamea, to ascend to a very lofty level of Heaven where he could ask these questions and return in a dream to tell his teacher the answers.
Shortly after the student’s death, he appeared to the Ramban and explained that everywhere he arrived, he simply showed the kamea and was permitted to continue his ascent. However, when he finally reached his destination and began to ask the questions that he had prepared, everything became so crystal clear to him that there were no longer any difficulties that needed resolution. With his newfound insight, it was immediately clear that any apparent suffering was, in the big picture, actually for the person’s good.
With the lesson of this story, we can now understand an explanation given by the K’tav Sofer (1815-1871) for our confusing Medrash. He explains that human nature is that after we are miraculously saved from peril, we express our gratitude to G-d for watching over us and rescuing us from danger. However, we certainly don’t feel appreciation at having been placed in the situation to begin with, as we would clearly prefer to have never been placed in the line of danger than to have been exposed to death and rescued from it.
To counter this, the Medrash comes to teach us that the Torah’s philosophy is that a person who brings a Korban Todah is required to express double gratitude – not only for his salvation, but also for being exposed to the perilous situation from which he was rescued. Although it may not have been clear to him at the time, and may still not be apparent at the time of his bringing his sacrifice, he is nevertheless expected to recognize that the suffering itself was ultimately for his benefit. Suffering can effect atonement for misdeeds or bring in its wake unexpected good. It is incumbent upon the sufferer to feel and express appropriate gratitude.
Even if we aren’t there yet, and aren’t able to see the good in a given situation, the knowledge that it is there, and that we will eventually understand, should give us the strength to persevere with faith and trust until the goodness is revealed.
Being Saved From Grave Danger
וזאת תורת זבח השלמים אשר יקריב
“If he shall offer it for a thanksgiving offering…” (Vayikra 7:11).
The Hebrew word todah means thank you. In the times of the Temple, when a person survived a life-threatening situation, he or she brought a korban todah — a thanksgiving offering. This offering, which consisted of a cow, sheep, or goat, was brought together with thirty matzahs and ten loaves of bread. One tenth of this was given to the kohen (priest), and the rest was to be eaten within one day and a night.
The Netziv (an acronym for Rabbi Naftail Zvi Yehuda Berlin) asks how the Torah can require a person to eat an entire animal plus a tableful of matzah and bread — all within 24 hours (Ha’emek Davar,7:13). In fact, it is nearly impossible. The person bringing the todah offering therefore had no choice but to invite family and friends to take part in his meal. At this meal, he would explain to all of his guests what had transpired to require him to bring the todah, publicly acknowledging G-d’s help in saving him from a dangerous situation. All those present would hear a moving, firsthand account of G-d’s benevolence.
Hearing a story — even a certifiably true story — third- or fourth-hand can be uplifting, even inspiring, but it doesn’t compare to hearing a first-person account of how G-d clearly saved the day. Everyone present at such a meal would hopefully reflect on the role G-d plays in their own lives and realize that, when the chips are down, G-d can come to my aid. If He helped that person, He can do the same for me.
The Medrash (Vayikra Rabba 9:7) explains that when the Messiah comes, there will no longer be a need for sacrifices to atone for sin; as there will be no evil inclination, sin will no longer exist. However, not all sacrifices will cease. The todah sacrifice will still be offered. Why? According to Rabbi Henoch Zundel (a commentator on the Medrash known as the Eitz Yosef), there will be no illness and no grave perils after the Messiah arrives. What evil can G-d save a person from, that he would be required to offer a todah sacrifice?
The Eitz Yosef understands that the todah will no longer be an obligatory offering when the Messiah comes. Rather, it will be brought voluntarily, as a way for people to express their utter appreciation for everything G-d does. And when it is shared, as it must be, with a large group of people, the whole group will develop a greater appreciation for G-d’s goodness.
The todah offering teaches us the value of thanking G-d not only when He saves us from grave danger, but for everything He does. It also teaches us the need to express our gratitude to anyone who has done something for our benefit — even for something as trivial as emptying our trash can. How much more so must we express our appreciation for those who do much greater things for us! How about our parents? Or spouses? It wouldn’t hurt to ask ourselves whether there are things we’ve taken for granted over the years.
Thanking people not only prevents us from taking favors for granted, but it also helps us realize all the good we actually do have in our lives.
…אם על תודה יקריבנו If he is bringing it as a thanksgiving offering… (Vayikra 7:12)
If he is bringing it as a thanksgiving offering… (Vayikra 7:12)
In this week’s parsha, Tzav, we continue the theme started last week in discussing various services done and offerings brought in the Temple. We learn about one offering that seems a bit strange, the todah (the thanksgiving offering). This offering was brought after a person emerged safely from a perilous situation, such as a serious illness or a hazardous journey. The question begs to be asked: does G-d really need our praise or a ‘thank you’ card?
G-d, the source of everything, certainly doesn’t need our praise. But we need to be people who give praise and gratitude. We need to recognize where the good in our lives comes from, and express it with our actions. In a world where G-d is so hidden, it is incumbent on us to recognize that the fortuitous events in our life are not the product of happenstance, but gifts from Above. The todah offering was a vehicle for showing that recognition.
Rabbi Akiva Eiger (1761-1837, Hungary- Poland), one of the greatest Torah minds of the last millennia, expands this idea further. He says that not only was the todah a way to express appreciation for the role G-d plays in someone’s life, it also paves the way for more kindness from Above. When a person shows heartfelt gratitude to someone else, it compels that person to continue doing whatever they did, as they know how much it means to the recipient. On the other hand, when someone shows no appreciation for the good others do for them, the giver is likely to refrain from giving again. No one enjoys giving when it isn’t appreciated. Rabbi Akiva Eiger supports this idea with a verse in Psalms, “One who slaughters a thanksgiving sacrifice honors Me, and I will prepare the way; I will show him the salvation of G-d” (Psalms 50:23). When someone shows proper gratitude to G-d, He responds by showing us even more kindness.
There is a story that illustrates this point beautifully. A wealthy American individual, who we will call Mr. Stern, went to Israel on a philanthropic mission. Over the course of the week in Israel, he visited many of the institutions that he previously supported, and never left without writing a fresh check. In the evenings, he set up shop in his apartment in Jerusalem. For a few hours each evening people, would stream into the apartment with requests for families, orphans, people stricken by illness, and a variety of other causes.
As he was about to leave for the airport on his last day, he asked his assistant if they could go to the Western Wall so that he could pray at our holiest site one last time before heading back to the US. They got to Western Wall well past midnight, and the plaza was almost empty. But upon approaching the Wall, Mr. Stern couldn’t help but notice a Hasidic man crying tearfully at the wall, totally absorbed in a conversation that seemed to stretch up to the heavens.
After hearing this man crying for five minutes, Mr. Stern approached him and asked him if there was anything he could do to help. The man thanked him, said he was not in need of anything, and returned to his prayers. But Mr. Stern couldn’t bear seeing this man crying his heart out, and after another few minutes, approached him again, explaining that he had just helped many people, and would be happy to help him, whatever the situation. Again, he was rebuffed. Finally, Mr. Stern said, “I accept that you don’t need my help, but can you share with me why you’re in so much pain? It hurts to see a fellow Jew crying so much.”
The man explained, “I’m not crying out of pain, I’m crying tears of joy! I just married off my tenth and last child, and I just wanted to express my appreciation to G-d for everything He did for me!”
This gentleman obviously understood the todah concept. May we all merit to develop such appreciation for all that G-d does for us.
Thank You for the (Everyday) Miracles
על חלת לחם חמץ יקריב קרבנו על זבח תודת שלמיו
“With loaves of leavened bread shall he bring his offering, with his feast thanksgiving peace-offering.” (Vayikra 7:13)
The Shabbat before Passover is referred to as Shabbat Hagadol- the great Shabbat. There are numerous reasons for this title, including the fact that Rabbis worldwide, deliver important, well-attended, pre-holiday sermons. However, the primary reason for this title goes back to ancient Egypt – over 3,300 years ago. It was on this day that the Hebrews, as they were then known, selected sheep for their Passover offerings.
This action was fraught with danger as the lamb was more than an animal; it was the Egyptian god! In a courageous act of defiance, the Hebrews tied the lambs to their bedposts – oblivious to their incessant bleating. When the incredulous, outraged Egyptian masters demanded an explanation, they were told the truth: the lambs would soon be slaughtered and eaten.
After 210 years of immersion within Egyptian civilization, many Jews had also adopted the lamb as their god. When G-d commanded that a lamb be set aside and tied to the bedpost for four days, the Jewish people abandoned their idolatrous practice, and courageously fulfilled this mitzvah, demonstrating their complete trust and faith in G-d. Despite this daring act, the Egyptians miraculously did not utter a word or lift a hand. They watched helplessly as their god was being prepared for slaughter. This was indeed a great miracle (nes gadol) and gives this Shabbat the name, Shabbat Hagadol – the great Shabbat.
The Passover Offering and the Thanksgiving Offering, discussed in this week’s Torah portion, have something in common.
The Thanksgiving Offering is an obligatory sacrifice brought by one who had recovered from a serious illness, survived a perilous journey, was liberated from captivity, or survived a desert expedition. Two unique aspects distinguish the Thanksgiving Offering from most other offerings – it is accompanied by forty loaves of bread, and must be consumed in a relatively short time-span. Likewise, the Passover offering had its unique aspects. It too had to be consumed in a short time-span and had to be eaten as part of a group. Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehudah Berlin, commonly known by the acronym Netziv (1816-1893, Russia/Poland), explains that the purpose of this offering is to give thanks and publicly praise G-d for His salvation. Gratitude and joy are feelings that are intensified when shared with a large number of people (as in the common practice of making large-scale celebrations for weddings and bar mitzvahs). The Torah’s stipulation that the Thanksgiving Offering be offered with large amounts of bread and that it must all be consumed within a short-time span necessitates a large group of people. The large group intensifies the experience and thus brings greater honor to G-d.
Similar to the Thanksgiving Offering, the Passover Offering was an expression of thanks and appreciation to G-d. Our condition in Egypt was far more perilous than a single person’s illness or incarceration; the Jews were facing genocide on both a physical and spiritual level. Therefore, when thanking G-d for taking us out of Egypt, we make sure to do it publicly.
Our obligation to give thanks to G-d is not limited to the miracles He performed many years ago. His involvement in our day-to-day lives generates numerous obligations and opportunities to offer thanks. As we sit at our seder, let us take a moment to quietly step back, look around and expression our appreciation to G-d, not only for delivering us from the Egyptians, but also for all the good He bestows upon each and every one of us, each and every day.
Overcoming Our Natural Instincts
ויעש אהרן ובניו את כל הדברים אשר צוה ה’ ביד משה
“Aaron and his sons carried out all the matters that G-d commanded through Moses.” (Vayikra 8:30)
After discussing more of the laws governing the various offerings, Parshat Tzav turns its attention to the inauguration of the Kohanim (Priests). It relates at length the procedure by which Aaron and his sons were consecrated to serve as Priests. After relating all of the details of the process, the parsha summarizes and concludes by recording that Aaron and his sons did everything that Moses had commanded them to do in the name of G-d.
In his commentary on this verse, Rashi explains that the Torah specifically records that Aaron and his sons did everything which G-d commanded in order to praise them, in that they followed G-d’s instructions without the slightest deviation. This is difficult to understand. Why does the Torah find it noteworthy that the righteous Aaron and his sons obeyed G-d’s explicit commands, something that we would have naturally assumed and taken for granted?
In his work Darkei Mussar, Rabbi Yaakov Neiman notes that the prophet Jeremiah relates (15:17), “I didn’t sit together with a group of jokers.” This is also perplexing; would we have expected a prophet to waste his valuable time with such unproductive members of society that it was worth mentioning otherwise? Wouldn’t it strike us as odd to hear somebody mention in a eulogy of Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (also known as the Chofetz Chaim) or Rabbi Moshe Feinstein that he didn’t spend his days at the circus or the bar?
Rabbi Moshe Rosenstein, who was the Mashgiach (spiritual supervisor) of the Lomza yeshiva in Europe, answers that human nature is innately interested in frivolous matters. It is indeed praiseworthy and worth noting that these individuals refused to remain with their inborn tendencies. Instead, they worked on themselves until they reached a level at which they had completely uprooted their natural inclinations, and doing G-d’s will became second nature.
Similarly, Aaron was born as a “regular” person; only through many years of hard work did he become the great Aaron that we are familiar with. Instead of remaining typical, he became a person for whom there was no possibility of intentionally deviating from G-d’s commandments. Although at the time of the building of the Mishkan Aaron was already on a level where strict adherence to the precise details of the commandment was now his norm, the Torah still praises him for his lifetime of work that brought him to that high level.
Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, known as the Beit HaLevi (1820-1892) was renowned for his tremendous Yirat Shomayim (fear of Heaven). A Rabbi in Europe once remarked in jest that if he was on the Heavenly Court at the time of Rabbi Soloveitchik’s death, he would refuse to reward him for any sin that he didn’t commit.
Rabbi Soloveitchik was on such a high spiritual level that he didn’t have the inclination to transgress. Because he had no internal struggle, he wasn’t deserving of any reward for his choices. The Rabbi added that he would, however, give Rabbi Soloveitchik unimaginable reward for using his free-will to develop himself to the point that he reached such a lofty level!
While we may not be on the level of Aaron, Jeremiah, or Rabbi Soloveitchik, this lesson is still applicable. We all have areas of life with which we struggle. Our natural instincts often guide us in the opposite direction of where we know we’d like to be going. We can take strength from seeing that true and lasting change is possible, and we should be encouraged by the knowledge that we will receive eternal reward for our efforts – even after they become second nature to us.
For Discussion Around the Shabbat Table
And G-d spoke to Moses saying, Tzav (command) Aaron and his sons, saying, “This is the law of the burnt offering; on the flame, on the Altar, all night until morning, and the fire of the Altar shall constantly be kept aflame.” (Vayikra 6:1-2)
The word “tzav” (command) is the root of the word “mitzvah” (commandment). Rashi notes that the term tzav is used only when urging is necessary. Rabbi Shimon adds that the term tzav is needed when a mitzvah involves a financial loss, when an extra measure of nudging may be necessary.
As a benefit of his service, the Kohen (priest) generally receives a share of the ritually-slaughtered animal. The burnt offering however was entirely consumed, and the Kohen’s sole reward was the animal’s hides. This was considered a meager compensation in comparison to other offerings. An extra measure of urging was thus necessary for the Kohen to perform this service.
1) Why would a gift of any size be considered a financial loss? While the Kohen did not receive his normal more generous bonus, he still received the hides!
2) Using special language to address the Kohen’s perception of a loss seems to be sending the wrong message. Are we not supposed to serve G-d without anticipation of a reward?
3) Other commandments seem to have a more tangible financial loss (take Passover for example!). Why then don’t we find the word “tzav” in regard to every commandment that involves a financial outlay?
The Parsha begins with the mitzvah of removing the ashes of the consumed sacrifices from the altar (Vayikra 6:3-4). Although it was necessary in a practical sense to remove the accumulated ashes, why did G-d make it a mitzvah for the holy Kohen to engage in an activity which was essentially a form of taking out the garbage and seemingly well beneath his dignity? (Rabbeinu Bechaye, Shelah HaKadosh by Rabbi Yeshaya Horowitz)
Q: Our parsha begins with the mitzvah of removing the ashes of the consumed sacrifices from the altar (Vayikra 6:3-4). Although it was necessary in a practical sense to remove the accumulated ashes, why did G-d actually make it a mitzvah to do so?
A: The Shelah HaKadosh explains that this mitzvah symbolically alludes to the fact that after a person has repented and brought a sacrifice in the Beit HaMikdash to complete his atonement, his previous mistakes are to be forgotten and no longer mentioned. By requiring the Kohen to remove all physical reminders of his offering, the Torah teaches us that from now on he is to be respected as any other upstanding Jew, as the Gemora teaches (Berachot 34b) that a sinner who repented is able to stand on a higher level than even the completely righteous. For the same reason, the Kli Yakar (Vayikra6:9) writes that the Korban Asham and Chatat, which are brought to atone for transgressions, are referred to by the Torah as “קדש קדשים” – the holiest of holies. The Gemora in Yoma (86b) teaches that a person who is motivated to repent for his sins out of love for G-d will have his misdeeds not just erased but turned into merits. Although the perfectly righteous are considered “holy,” the extra merits accrued through proper repentance transform a sacrifice ostensibly associated with sin into “the holiest of holies.” (Rabbi Ozer Alport)
Rabbeinu Bechaye writes (Vayikra 6:2) that a bride and groom used to bring a Korban Todah (Thanksgiving-Offering). The Gemora in Berachot (54b) explains that a Thanksgiving offering was brought to express one’s gratitude at being saved from potential danger. Were the bride and groom in danger, and if not, why did they bring this sacrifice?
The Medrash (Medrash Rabba Parsha 7:1) says that Moses prayed on Aaron’s behalf, with regard to his role in the Priestly service. Why, Moses asked, are the various Priestly services mentioned in Vayikra (last week’s Torah portion) in the domain of “the sons of Aaron” (as opposed to Aaron himself)? Is a tree only valued because of its branches? Why isn’t Aaron receiving his due honor?” G-d replied, “Because of you, I will bring him close (i.e., make him primary and his sons secondary” as it states (in the opening of this week’s Torah portion), “Command Aaron and his sons, saying…”.
1) In what way was Aaron’s honor diminished by having his son’s perform the service? Wouldn’t having his children and future kohanim performing the Temple services bring the greatest pride to Aaron?
2) As inanimate objects, trees do not have a need or a desire for honor. What idea was Moses conveying by comparing the “honor” of a tree to Aaron’s honor?
Q: Rabbi Yeshaya Horowitz, known as the Shelah HaKadosh, writes in the name of Rabbi Moshe Kordovero that a person who is being troubled by disturbing thoughts should repeat verse 6:6 from this week’s parsha “A permanent fire shall remain aflame on the Altar: it shall not be extinguished”. This will help him remove the troubling thoughts from his mind. Although there are clearly mystical concepts involved in this technique, how can we understand its basic idea on a rational level?
A: Nachmanides writes that the entire Torah consists of various Divine names, and every verse contains names relevant to the concept discussed therein. For example, one of G-d’s names which is associated with the resurrection of the dead is contained in the episode in which the prophet Ezekiel revives dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14). Similarly, the Chafetz Chaim (Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan) writes that the recitation of the verse (Psalms 51:12) “Create in me, G-d, a pure heart, and renew within me a proper spirit” can be helpful in restoring purity of mind and heart.
Rabbeinu Bechaye writes that the Burnt-Offering is burnt throughout the night because it comes to atone for inappropriate thoughts, which are most prevalent during the night. In light of this, Rabbi Shimshon Pinkus explains that it isn’t surprising that a verse discussing a sacrifice which effects atonement for thoughts also contains within it a special ability to ward them off. (Rabbi Ozer Alport)
Q: Although the Korban Todah (Thanksgiving-Offering) is considered to be a variety of Korban Shelamim (Peace-Offering), some of its laws differ. In contrast to a regular Korban Shelamim which may be eaten for two days and one night, the Torah prescribes that the Korban Todah must be consumed in only one day and one night. Additionally, it is accompanied by forty loaves, ten each of four different types (Vayikra 7:11-15). Why did G-d give such unique rules for this sacrifice?
A: The Abarbanel and Netziv suggest that upon learning these laws, a person to whom a miracle occurred will have no choice but to invite friends and relatives to a special “seudat hoda’ah” – meal expressing gratitude – in order to assist him with the overwhelming task of consuming such a massive amount of food in such a short period of time. Upon arriving, they will surely query him about the reason for the gathering, and he will proceed to relate publicly the events of his wondrous salvation. Through the unusual laws governing the Korban Todah, the Torah indirectly brings about a publicizing of G-d’s miraculous ways and a sanctification of His Holy Name. (Rabbi Ozer Alport)
The Medrash states (Vayikra Rabbah 9:7) that all sacrifices will be nullified in the Messianic era except for the Korban Todah (Thanksgiving-Offering). The Gemora in Berachos (54b) rules that this offering is brought as an expression of gratitude at being saved from potential danger. How will it be applicable at a time when all will dwell in peace and tranquility?
The sages compare the leavening in bread to the evil inclination within — the yetzer hara — which influences a person to sin. On Passover, when we commemorate that G-d took us out of Egypt, away from its culture of rampant sinning, we do not eat chametz (leavened bread) or se’or (leavening agents, such as yeast or sourdough), symbolizing that we, too, must remove ourselves from sin. Likewise, leavened bread is forbidden to be used in sacrifices. Sacrifices were brought after a person sinned (following his evil inclination); therefore, as on Passover, we avoid chametz in a sacrifice, since the person is now repenting, distancing himself from his evil inclination. However, there are two sacrifices that do contain chametz: the korban todah (thanksgiving offering), and the korban shtei halechem which was sacrificed on Shavuot.
- The korban todah, brought when a person survived a life-threatening situation, includes leavened bread. Why might the normal consideration of avoiding leaven, associated with one’s evil inclination, not be necessary for a person who survived a life-threatening situation?
- Shavuot celebrates the receiving of the Torah. The offering brought on Shavuot, which was intended to bring blessing to the upcoming harvest, consisted of leavened bread, suggesting that we are not as concerned about our evil inclination at that point as we are on Passover. How could receiving the Torah affect how we relate to the yetzer hara?
Many of the sacrifices described in our parsha are completely voluntary in nature. If these mitzvot are so important, why isn’t their performance obligatory? If they are not obligatory, why did G-d give them and what is their purpose? (Birkat Peretz by Rabbi Yaakov Yisroel Kanievsky)
Q: This is the time of year when we celebrate the holiday of Purim. As there are no coincidences in the Jewish calendar, what is the significance of the fact that this holiday specifically falls out in the month of Adar, the last month in the Jewish calendar?
A: Rabbi Gedalyah Schorr notes that as the Jewish months are counted from Nissan, Adar is the final month of the year. On a spiritual level, Nissan represents renewal. It is the beginning of a new year and the first month of the spring when the earth begins to awaken from its winter slumber. It is full of potential and energy, and for that reason was chosen as the month for the redemption from Egypt. The further a month is from the source of light and energy, the darker and more hidden it will seem. For this reason, Haman was ecstatic at the choice of Adar, the last and darkest month of the year (and not surprisingly the month in which Moses was taken from us), as the most auspicious time for the annihilation of the Jews.
Within the apparent concealment however, a pool of light is hidden away. In fact, this source must be even stronger than at other times in order to allow it the ability to penetrate the darkness and not be completely swallowed up. In the midst of the tremendous darkness, the month of Adar contains within it a tremendous source of radiance. When the Jewish people were inspired to properly repent, they were able to access and reveal this brilliant light, reversing all of the negative energy into forces for good. This potential energy is present every Adar, available and waiting for us to tap into it in order to reveal the ultimate light. (Rabbi Ozer Alport)
Jumping Points for Discussion and Further Study
“The Kohen shall dress in his linen garment, and he shall wear linen pants on his skin; and he shall separate the ash of what the fire consumed of the elevation-offering on the altar and place it next to the altar. He shall then remove his garments and dress in other garments, and he shall take out the ashes beyond the encampment, to an undefiled place.” Vayikra 6:3-4
He shall separate the ash – He would rake a full pan of ashes from the innermost ashes that were consumed and place them on the east [side] of the ramp. – Rashi
By first taking of the ash of yesterday’s offering and placing it beside the Altar in preparation for today’s offering, the Kohen symbolized that today he would continue to serve Gd in precisely the manner that he served Him yesterday. There was no need to create a new service. The same one that was effective yesterday would continue to be effective today. – Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch
Rabbeinu Bachya explains that one of the lessons of this verse that insists that the Kohen don the priestly garments even while performing this menial task of removing the ashes, is that when we serve the Almighty, we must always seek to honor Him, not ourselves. When that alone is our intent, even the most menial tasks are beautiful and praiseworthy. Likewise, King David, the mighty and beloved king, danced excitedly before the Holy Ark, an act that earned him the criticism of his wife, but that he defended vehemently. He reasoned that before the Almighty, even a king must subjugate and humble himself.
He shall remove his garments and dress in other garments – The garments worn to remove the ash remains were not the regular priestly garments because there was a possibility of soiling them. – Talmud, Tractate Yoma
He shall remove his garments and dress in other garments – This was not an obligation but rather a proper practice, because his garments will become soiled when he removes the ash from the camp, and it is not proper to use soiled clothes in regular service. Even these clothes however had to be priestly garments. They were distinguished only by the fact that they were of a lesser quality.– Rashi
To an undefiled place – Since the ash originated in a sacred place, it was proper to dispose of it in an undefiled location. The opposite is true for stones that were afflicted with leprosy about which the Torah instructs, “And they shall be discarded in an impure place.” Because unlike the ash, they represented impurity and therefore deserved to be cast in an impure place.
R’ Meir Premishlan zt”l explained that the dictum requiring the Kohen to don different clothes was a reminder of the day of one’s death. On that day, each person will be forced to don lesser garments [i.e. shrouds], and his earthly, lifeless remains will be taken outside the encampment to an undefiled place [i.e. the cemetery]. He will meet his Maker, and should it be necessary, G-d forbid, the words of the next verse will apply, “A continual fire shall be lit on the Altar – it will not go out” [i.e. his soul will require cleansing by the fires of fires of Hell to rid itself of the contaminating effect of its sins].
“A permanent fire shall remain atop the Altar; it shall not be extinguished.” Vayikra 6:6
It Shall Not Be Extinguished – “Even during their travels the fire must remain lit. How did they accomplish this? They would cover the flames with a large copper pot that contained the flames and protected the cloth that rested above it.” – Talmud Yerushalmi, Yoma 4:6
In the name of Rav Meir Rotenberg zt”l it is said that this is a lesson for all generations to fashion a “protective vessel” that will prevent the fire of Judaism from extinguishing during the course of their travels through the exile. The Jewish people took this lesson to heart and throughout the centuries constructed Jewish communities, yeshivas, and houses of worship that served as protective vessels and ensured the continued vitality of the flame of Torah.
LIKE NEW AGAIN
“Speak to Aharon and his sons saying, ‘This is the law of the sin-offering. It shall be offered in the same place as the [Olah] elevation-offering – before G-d – it [i.e. the sin-offering] is the holiest of holies.” Vayikra 6:18
In The Same Place As The Olah – A “Chattat” [sin-offering] was brought as part of the atonement process following a sin. An “Olah” [elevation-offering] was brought voluntarily by one who wished to raise his spiritual level.
One of the reasons a sin-offering is brought in the same place on the Altar as the Olah, although the Olah represents a desire to attain a higher level of spirituality, whereas the Chattat represents the sinners’ desire to rebuild his frayed relationship with the Almighty, is to demonstrate that once a person sincerely repents, he is on the same level as one who never sinned. The greatness of teshuvah [repentance] is that it offers the ability to completely purge the negative effects of sin, and completely restore one’s relationship with G-d as before. This serves as a great source of comfort for all who’ve acted contrary to the will of the Almighty. The gates of righteousness are wide open once proper repentance is achieved.
NO, NOT TURKEYS
“If he brings it as thanksgiving offering he shall bring, along with his thanksgiving offering, matzah loaves mixed with oil, matzah wafers anointed with oil and loaves of saturated fine flour mixed with oil..” Vayikra 7:12
If he brings – If he brings the offering regarding a matter of thanksgiving for a miraculous act which occurred to him, such as those which happen to seafarers, or those who traverse deserts, or those incarcerated in prisons, or a sick person who was healed, all these are among those who must give thanks. For it is written regarding them: ‘Let them thank G-d for His graciousness and His wonders for humankind, and let them sacrifice thanksgiving offerings.’ If it is because of one of these situations that he vowed these peace-offerings, then they are peace-offerings of thanksgiving, and require the loaves of bread mentioned in this section, and are eaten for only one day and night, as set forth here. – Rashi
He shall bring – In the Messianic Era, offerings that are brought to atone for sin will no longer be required. Thanksgiving offerings, however, will continue to be brought even then. – Medrash Tanchuma, Emor 14
This is hinted to in the words, “He shall bring,” which essentially reiterates the words, “If he brings,” which precede them. The reason the other offerings won’t have a place any longer is because the Almighty will remove the Evil Inclination from within our midst and sin will no longer be our constant companion.– Sifsei Kohen
Some suggest that the very fact that we will no longer be under the influence of the Evil Inclination and challenged to disobey the will of the Almighty, will itself be a reason to bring a thanksgiving offering. The negation of the need for the other offerings is precisely the cause for this one.
JUST ONE PEACE
“This is the law for the burnt-offering, the meal-offering, the sin-offering and the guilt-offering; for the installation-sacrifices and for the peace-offering that G-d commanded Moses on Mount Sinai.” Vayikra 7:37
The burnt-offering…for the peace-offering – This verse begins with the burnt-offering and concludes with peace-offering, because the burnt-offering is the most prestigious of all offerings since all of it is dedicated to G-d, and peace is the foundation upon which the entire universe rests. – Rabbeinu Bachya
Peace is so desirable that our sages instituted that the final blessing of the daily Amidah [Shmoneh Esrei] be a request for peace. Similarly, King Solomon concluded Song of Songs with a verse praising peace.
Rabbeinu Bachya points out that the only Divine Name found in the entire section discussing the offerings is A-donay. The names E-l, E-lohim, E-lohechah etc. are not mentioned because those names imply “power” and are not exclusive to G-d. They can be used to describe all forms of power, including those mistakenly believed to be divine. These offerings could not be offered to any power other than the Almighty Himself, for an offering brought to any other deity constitutes idolatry and is forbidden.
IT’S ALL MY FAULT
“Take Aaron, along with his sons, the garments, the anointing oil, the bull for the sin-offering, the two rams and a basket of matzot.” Vayikra 8:2
Take Aaron – The word take indicates “convince him with words.” Moses was instructed to convince Aaron and his sons to assume the priesthood. – Rashi – The word take is often used to connote “convince with words” as in the case of Korach etc. – Medrash Rabbah, Bamidbar 18:2
Take Aaron – Reassure him that his role in the sin of the Golden Calf did not create distance between him and G-d. – Maskil L’Dovid
The difference between great and ordinary people is not whether they sin or not, because all people stumble at some point in their lives. Rather, the key distinction between them lies in their divergent attitudes toward their failings. An ordinary person is likely to dismiss his failings with a wave of the hand, certain that they’re not worthy of too much attention. The failings of others, of course, do not pass as subtly for him, but his own are never worth getting excited over. A righteous person, on the other hand, refuses to allow the slightest personal misstep to pass unnoticed and unattended to. As soon as he realizes his error, he immediately sets to work repairing whatever damage he caused with his actions. It’s the faults of others to which he is blind, assuming that they were not intentional or indicative of anything too concerning.
That Moses had to convince Aaron that his role in the Golden Calf didn’t irreparably damage his status as a righteous person, is the clearest indication that this was something that worried Aaron greatly. In his eyes, his involvement diminished his status and rendered him unworthy of his role as High Priest. This is the very same Aaron who was so beloved by all the people because of his penchant to see only the best in each individual. This dichotomy is the essence of a “Gadol” [great man], and precisely the reason that Aaron was so suited to be the Kohen Gadol.
“He brought near the sin-offering bullock, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the sin-offering bullock. He slaughtered it, and Moses took the blood and smeared it atop the corners of the altar all around with his finger and he purified the altar. He poured the blood into the base of the altar and sanctified it, to atone upon it.” Vayikra 8:15-16
He purified the altar – What sort of purification could this newly constructed altar possibly have required? Moses cleaned and purified it from any contact with a person or substance forbidden to touch it, so that it might enter into a state of holiness. – Rashi
He purified the altar – What sort of purification could this newly constructed altar possibly have required? When donations were sought to build the Tabernacle, there was great enthusiasm among the populace and donations poured forth from people eager to participate. Perhaps there were individuals who were not as motivated as the others, but who felt an external social pressure to contribute and this would have constituted a mild form of theft. The altar had to be 100% pure of even the remotest form of theft, and it was this questionable sin that Moses sought to atone for with this blood-offering. – Toras Kohanim
Rabbi Aharon Kotler zt”l added that one who wishes to grow closer to the Almighty through Divine service must ensure that his motives are pure and that all the implements he will utilize to this end are equally pure. Even the altar which was fashioned with the purest of motives had to be rendered free of any taint of theft, even the most far fetched scenario, or it would not be effective. Similarly, if we donate to worthy causes with tainted funds, or subsidize our children’s Torah education with ill-begotten money, we should not expect stellar results. Those will only result from pure intent coupled with equally uncontaminated resources.
JUST DO IT
“And Aaron and his sons did in accordance with all the things G-d instructed him through Moses” Vayikra 8:38
Did in accordance – This tells us his praise that he did not deviate from anything that he was instructed to do although these laws of offerings and Tabernacle service were new to him and very complicated. He performed them flawlessly and meticulously. – Rashi
Did in accordance – This tells us his praise that he did it with joy as if he had heard it from the Almighty himself, and not through Moses. – Toras Kohanim
Human nature is that one who hears instructions firsthand is more accepting of them than one who hears them secondhand. In this case, Aaron treated whatever he heard from his younger brother Moses as if he’d heard it directly from the Source and did not consider the fact that he, too, was a prophet and could have received this message directly. – Maharal, Gur Arye
Rabbi Moshe Rosenstein zt”l explained that the mere fact that Aaron did exactly as he was asked to without even contemplating doing otherwise is a great praise for him. Although for a person of his elevated stature this would seem rather elementary, it is only so because he has toiled to make it so. The reason a righteous person does not struggle with everyday temptations is not because he was born with a higher soul, but because he struggled to eradicate all interest in such foolishness to the point that he no longer even considers them for a moment. The ease, then, with which he carries out what is asked of him, even the simple matters, is itself worthy of great praise.
Hey, I Never Knew That
The Torah forbids the consumption of cheilev, a specific type of fat found around the kidneys and loins of an animal (Vayikra7:23). However, the Torah explicitly permits the use of this fat for “all manner of work” (ibid 7:24). This means that one may benefit from forbidden fat, but one may not eat it (Mishneh Torah, Ma’achalot Asurot 8:15). Rabbeinu Bachya (commentary on Shemot 12:4) quotes a statement of the sages that “The Torah cares about the money of the Jews” and demonstrates from a number of different laws that the Torah attempts to alleviate, as much as possible, monetary loss. One of the examples that he cites is the law permitting the use of forbidden fat for anything other than food. Similarly, the Torah states that one may sell or give away an animal that died in any way other than kosher slaughter, so that we do not incur the loss of having to destroy the carcass.
Word of the Week
The parsha is called tzav — צו which means “command” as an imperative, as in the verse, “Command the children of Israel.” The word has the same root, צוה , as mitzvah — מצוה , a commandment. Rashi, based on the Talmud, understands that the expression צו is always meant to enthuse and encourage, especially where there may be reason for a person to hesitate or hold back. Some maintain that the word is related to צות, meaning “group” or “joined together,” since a mitzvah — מצוה is that which binds together the Commander and the commanded (Rabbi Moshe Shapiro).
The chazzan (cantor) of a community was growing old and was not capable of leading the community in prayer. He appointed his son to assist him and to lead the prayers. But the son’s voice was not as good as the father’s. Members of the community objected to the son leading the prayers and asked the Rashba (Responsa Rashba 1:300) if they could prevent the son from leading prayers. The Rashba concluded that if the son was a G-d-fearing individual, and was competent in leading the prayers, even if his voice was not as pleasant as his father’s, he had the right to take his father’s place. He cites the verse in the Torah portion this week as evidence for his ruling. The verse states that, “The priest who is anointed instead of him from his sons shall do [the service]” (Vayikra 6:15), implying that the anointed successor to the High Priest should be one of his sons. The Code of Jewish Law cites this response and rules in accordance with the Rashba (Orach Chaim 53:25).
Parsha at a Glance
Following the preliminary descriptions of the offerings from last week’s portion, Tzav begins by emphasizing numerous laws that apply directly to Aaron and his sons in their service.
After burning all night, the first Temple Service of the day required a Priest (Kohen) to remove ashes from previous day’s fires from and place them beside the Altar. He would then change into other garments and take the ashes to a specific “clean” place outside the camp. The fire of the Altar was to remain burning at all times and was prohibited from being extinguished.
Tzav next returns to the topic of the Meal Offerings. A small amount of the flour-oil mixture and all of the frankincense was scooped up and placed on the Altar to burn. The remainder was eaten in the Courtyard of the Tent of Meeting by male Priests serving at the time of the offering.
Each day, the High Priest (Kohen Gadol) would bring a Meal Offering of 12 loaves, half in the morning and half in the evening. This Meal Offering was not to be eaten and instead was completely consumed on the Altar.
The Sin Offering was slaughtered in the same place as the Elevation Offering (the north side of the Altar). The Priest who brought the Sin Offering eats the meat. In certain cases, the blood of the Sin Offering was brought into the Tent of Meeting.
Someone who has survived a life-threatening crisis brings a Thanksgiving Offering, accompanied by 40 loaves (30 unleavened with oil; 10 leavened without oil). According to the Talmud, four categories of people are required to bring a Thanksgiving Offering: Someone who has someone who has survived (1) a desert journey (or other potentially hazardous journey); (2) dangerous imprisonment; (3) serious illness; (4) sea voyage.
The Torah lists several prohibitions associated regarding offerings: Eating offerings after their permissible time (Rejected, or Pigul); eating offerings while in a state of spiritual contamination; eating forbidden fats of sacrificial animals; eating blood.
Tzav concludes with G-d commanding Moses to take Aaron and his sons, the special garments of the Priests, the sacrificial animals, and the anointing oil, and perform the inaugural ceremonies for the Tabernacle in the presence of the People. Moses dresses Aaron in the garb of the High Priest, anoints him, the Altar, and the vessels of the Tabernacle. Moses also dresses Aaron’s sons.
For the period of the Inauguration, Moses performed the offerings. A Sin Offering bull was brought on Aaron and his sons. The bull was slaughtered and part of its blood was put on the corners of the Altar and on its base. Parts of the bull were placed on the Altar. The remainder was burned outside the camp. Next a ram was brought as an Elevation Offering, followed by a second, Inauguration ram. Moses took some of the its blood and placed it upon the middle part of Aaron’s right ear, upon the thumb of his right hand and upon the big toe of his right foot. He did the same to Aaron’s sons.
After further anointing Aaron and his sons, Moses instructed them to eat from the Inauguration Ram and its accompanying loaves by the Tent of Meeting. Any remainder was to be burned.
The same service was repeated for each of the seven days of the Inauguration. During that time Aaron and his sons were to remain at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, immersed in their service. The portion ends by stating that Aaron and his sons carried out everything that G-d commanded them through Moses.