• Rav Yaakov Beasley






In memory of Yakov Yehuda ben Pinchas Wallach
and Miriam Wallach bat Tzvi Donner







By Rabbi Yaakov Beasley




Our parsha suffers from dיjא vu.  At first glance, it appears to regurgitate material taught last week in Parshat Vayikra, outlining once again the different sacrifices of the service in the Mishkan.  Some argue that the repetition of the details is intended for the benefit of the priests,[1] but surely the specific details relevant to the kohanim could have been subsumed within the general presentation of the sacrifices in Parshat Vayikra.  Instead, our parsha contains a large amount of duplication and repetition, without any apparent explanation for the redundancies.  This week’s study will attempt to analyze the Torah’s dual discussion of the sacrifices.




In comparing and contrasting the parshiot, the outstanding variation between the two is the sequence of the sacrifices in each:




Korban olah (burnt offering) – ch. 1

Korban olah  - ch. 6:1-6

Korban mincha (meal offering) – ch. 2

Korban mincha - ch. 6:7-11

Korban shelamim (peace offering) – ch. 3

Korban chatat - ch. 6:12-23

Korban chatat (sin offering) – ch. 4, 5:1-3

Korban asham – ch. 7:1-10

Korban asham (guilt offering) – ch. 5:14-26

Korban shelamim – ch. 7:11-21


The differences in the sequence can be explained through the intended recipient of each address, as suggested above.  Dr. Nechama Leibowitz explains,


When the Torah addressed the Israelites, those who brought and contributed the sacrifices, precedence is given to those which can constitute voluntary offerings, such as the olah, mincha, and shelamim, and afterwards come the obligatory offerings, such as the sin and guilt offerings, which have to be brought only on the appropriate occasions.  On the other hand, when the Torah addressed the priests, the order is in accordance with the grade of holiness attached to the offerings: first the holiest (kodesh kodashim), the olah, mincha, chatat and asham, and afterwards those of lesser or lighter sanctity (kodashim kalim), such as the shelamim, since it is the duty of he priests to be conversant with the ritual details and varying sanctities of the various offerings.[2] 


While Dr. Leibowitz’s approach serves as a partial explanation for the contrasting order of appearance in each parsha, it does not address the question we raised at the beginning of this study. Couldn’t the specific details for the kohanim have been subsumed within the general presentation of the sacrifices in Parshat Vayikra?  A deeper glance at the two parshiot suggests that Parshat Vayikra is more descriptive of the procedure of the actual act of offering than Parshat Tzav is, even among those details that are specific to the kohanim!  To fully answer our question, we must build upon the foundation suggested by Dr. Lebowitz and attempt to explain not only the rationale of the differences between the two presentations, but also why two separate presentations are necessary at all.




I suggest that the first clue to uncovering why two distinct lists of sacrifices appear in the Torah can be deduced from the opening comment of Rashi on this week’s parsha:


“Command Aharon and his sons” – The word tzav - command – implies urgency, immediately and in future generations.  Rabbi Shimon stated, “Where there is monetary loss, the Torah is necessarily mindful of the need for urgency.”


Rashi’s comment apparently derives from the Torah’s deviation from its standard form of introducing a command – Va-yedaber Hashem el Moshe – and Hashem spoke to Moshe.  In his commentary, Torah U-Mitzvah, the Malbim explains that while the usage of the word va-yedaber  can be used to either give a command or to relate an episode, the use of the word tzav always implies an order and comes to stress one of three possible conditions: (a) urgency, (b) immediately, and (c) for future generations.  Rabbi Shimon adds another condition concerning tzivui: it applies where there is any monetary loss. 


It is unclear whether Rabbi Shimon disagrees with the previous three conditions or is simply adding a fourth possibility. In the beginning of his comments, the Ramban states that Rabbi Shimon’s interpretation clearly does not apply in this context, as the kohanim suffer no monetary loss in the offering of the korban olah, even though it is entirely burnt. On the contrary, since the hide of the animal belongs to them, they actually benefit from the sacrifice.  Rabbi Shimon agrees with the preceding opinions in our instance; he adds, however, that on other occasions, the word tzav does not imply an immediate command or one for future generations, but is rather found when a question of monetary loss may dampen the ardor with which people perform the commandments (such as the setting aside of oil for the menorah, or when the Jewish People had to set aside cities for the Levi’im).


The super-commentators on Rashi approach Rabbi Shimon’s interpretation differently.  According to Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrachi, Rabbi Shimon’s explanation is an added condition that expands the concept of tzav, so that in addition to the first three conditions, the fourth condition, monetary loss, must also apply.  If there is no monetary loss involved in the command, although the other three conditions of urgency, immediacy, and/or for future generations do apply, the use of the word tzav would be inappropriate.  This does not imply, however, that according to Rabbi Shimon, monetary loss would be sufficient cause to use the word tzav in the absence of the other three conditions. Thus, according to the Mizrachi, Rabbi Shimon explains that the word tzav is used in our context because the command to offer the korban olah is urgent, immediate, intended for future generations, and involves monetary loss on the part of the kohanim.


Based on the Mizrachi’s interpretation, some commentators attempt to discover what possible monetary loss the offering entails.  According to the Mizrachi, the monetary loss in the case of the korban olah is the result of the anxiety and effort involved in keeping the fire burning throughout the night and in donning the special garments properly.  Mental anguish is considered monetary loss, and the Torah therefore uses the word tzav to convey an appropriate sense of urgency. 


Similarly, the Chizkuni states that people might be lazy in keeping the fire burning on the altar and in cleaning out the ashes from the altar.  Also, if the korban olah is offered incorrectly, then the person will have to bring another one to replace it, creating a monetary loss (this suggestion is also offered by the Torah Temimah).


Rabbi Yehudah Lowy suggests in his Gur Aryeh that the kohen must forsake his other work in order to offer the olah, and the Or Ha-Chaim explains that the kohanim might resent the need to have three fires burning constantly, the third only lit to fulfill the command, “A permanent fire shall burn on it.”  The command for urgency is meant to counteract the potential resentment felt by having to perform a superficially “wasteful” practice that came from public funding.  




The final suggestion that we will consider is that of the Levush Ha-Orah, and it may be used as a foundation for an approach that would answer our oringial question regarding the repetition of the sacrifices.  The Levush Ha-Orah explains that in Parshat Vayikra, the Torah speaks of a korban nedava – a free-will offering – that is brought as an olah. There, the word tzav is absent; it is inappropriate because there is no need to urge or encourage the person to donate an offering voluntarily.  By definition, the value of the sacrifice lies in the free-will and generosity of the giver.  If the donation derives from a sense of command or imposition, it loses all meaning.  In Parshat Tzav, however, the subject of discussion is not the sacrifice, but the sacrificial process.  The korban olah is burned in its entirety, and the owner will gain nothing.  The Torah urges the kohanim to act with alacrity and to offer the animal quickly so that the owner is not bothered and regretful of the original feelings that led him to offer it (which, in the worst-case scenario, would lead to terminating the animal’s sanctity and the unwitting offering of a non-sacred animal on the altar).  That is why Rabi Shimon adds his comment that, “Where there is monetary loss, the Torah is necessarily mindful of the need for urgency.” 


The Levush Ha-Orah’s distinction between the sacrifice and the service leads to an explanation for the apparent repetitions in Parshat Vayikra and Parshat Tzav, as well as to a deeper understanding of the dynamics of Avodat Ha-Mishkan – the sacrificial service - and Avodat Hashem – how we should serve Hashem in general. Parshat Vayikra, although it discusses obligatory offerings, begins with, “A man who brings close an offering.”  As Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch explains, the offerings serve as a means to elevate ourselves and bring ourselves closer to Hashem. They do not come out of a sense of compulsion or imposition, but out of a desire to draw closer to the Divine.  Ideally, a person’s actions, both in the act of offering a sacrifice and in the general performance of any of the commandments, should emanate from a joyous, pure desire to act in accordance with Hashem’s desires.[3]  However, the fact that the offering is willingly given does not entitle the person to decide the rules and the form by which the service is performed.  When discussing the actions themselves, the service, the details must be followed meticulously, with alacrity and purpose, in recognition that these precepts remain commandments - tzav. 


According to the Netziv (Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin), it was the blurring of this fundamental distinction that led to the tragedy at the beginning of next week’s parsha.  Nadav and Ahivu’s demise, after offering the foreign fire before Hashem, resulted from their overwhelming desire to achieve closeness to Hashem, which tragically led to their bringing the foreign fire against Hashem’s will.  Had they managed to contain their love of Hashem within the acceptable and defined boundaries, they would have merited great reward.  By offering what was not commanded, however, they essentially violated the relationship between Hashem and His creation by trying to dictate, although from the purest motives, the terms of their encounter with the Divine.  Parshat Tzav, therefore, must follow Parhat Vayikra, for although the sacrifices themselves must come of a person’s own free will, he must also simultaneously acknowledge the Divine yoke that remains upon him.

[1] In Parshat Vayikra, Moshe directs his remarks to the Jewish people (see Vayikra 1:2), while the beginning of our parsha instructs him to “Command Aharon and his sons” (6:2).  This approach to the issue first appeared in Nechama Leibowitz’s first series of Studies in the Weekly Sidra, (World Zionist Organization, 5715), p. 24.


[2] Ibid. See R. Moshe Sokolow’s treatment of this issue in his Studies in the Weekly Parsha: Based on the Lessons of Nechama Leibowitz, (Urim Publications, 2008), p. 148-9.


[3] This may help us understand an enigmatic proclamation of Yermiyahu that has occupied the commentators for centuries.  In Chapter 7, Yermiyahu declares, “For I did not speak with your forefathers, nor did I command them on the day that I took them out of Egypt, concerning burnt-offerings or peace-offerings” (v. 22).  We can suggest that the essence of Yerimiyahu’s complaint is not, God forbid, that the Jewish People are bringing sacrifices that were never commanded, but that the sacrifices were being brought under a sense of obligation and imposition, rather then through joyous free-will and desire (analogous to giving a wife flowers and chocolates on her anniversary, yet attaching a note that says “Here are the flowers that I have to give you.”)  Of gifts like these, say the prophets, Hashem has no need.