The Laws of the Sacrifices
Yeshivat Har Etzion
parasha series is dedicated
Le-zekher Nishmat HaRabanit Chana bat HaRav Yehuda Zelig zt"l.
Please pray for Techiya Gitit bat Simcha, critically injured in a car accident.
she and the entire family be comforted among the mourners of
The Laws of the Sacrifices
By Rav Yehuda Rock
The body of laws pertaining to the sacrifices set out in Sefer Vayikra chapters 1-7 i.e., Parashat Vayikra and the first part of Parashat Tzav actually comprises two sections: all of the sacrifices that are listed in Parashat Vayikra (chapters 1-5) reappear in the first part of Parashat Tzav (6-7).
The section in Parashat Tzav is not only distinct from Parashat Vayikra; it is a unified entity with much that is common to its various elements.
The units discussing the various sacrifices in these chapters are referred to as teachings (torot): This is the teaching of the burnt sacrifice And this is the teaching of the meal offering This is the teaching of the sin offering And this is the teaching of the guilt offering This is the teaching of the peace offering . This is not the case in Parashat Vayikra. In addition, the central laws pertaining to each type of sacrifice here are conveyed in a Divine utterance to Moshe, which begins with an explicit command to transmit the laws to the kohanim: Command Aharon and his sons, saying (6:2); Speak to Aharon and to his sons, saying (6:18).
Within this section (chapters
6-7) there are two units that deviate from the style of the rest of the
parasha in both respects. The units in question are the sacrifice of
Aharon and his sons (6:12-16) and the unit on all fat (7:22-36). In both
cases, the formula this is the teaching of
is missing, and both units start
with a new Divine utterance to Moshe, devoid of any command to transmit the law
to Aharon and his sons. While the unit on the sacrifice of Aharon and his sons
does discuss them, there is no specific command to convey the information to
them. The unit on all fat includes an explicit command to transmit the law to
Apparently, these two units are not an integral part of the body of teachings of the sacrifices; they are independent of this body, but the Torah nevertheless includes them in amongst those laws. It appears that the more fundamental level consists of only one Divine utterance, described in the opening verses: God spoke to Moshe, saying: Command Aharon and his sons, saying ." The Torah adds the parenthetical unit on the sacrifice of Aharon and his sons," and subsequently the Torah repeats its introduction in verses 17-18, indicating a return to the utterance aimed via Moshe to Aharon and his sons.
We shall not discuss here the reasons and significance of the integration of the above two units among the teachings of the sacrifices; rather, we shall focus on the teachings of the sacrifices themselves, as a unified body of laws.
Difficulty of Categorizing the Parasha and its Details
To Rambans view (as noted in his introduction to the parasha), the latter characteristic mentioned above concerning the laws of the sacrifices the command to convey the laws to Aharon and his sons reflects the fundamental difference between the two parashot. He states:
Vayikra, the Torah teaches: Speak to Bnei Yisrael,' for there [Moshe]
was about to be commanded concerning the bringing of the sacrifices, and it is
Parashat Vayikra, then, concerns
the bringing of the sacrifices i.e., the reasons leading a person to bring a
sacrifice, while Parashat Tzav concerns the performance of the
sacrifices." To Rambans view, this explains the difference in the respective
recipients of the commands: the bringing belongs to all of
This explanation is not satisfactory. When we come to examine the details of each of the two parashot, it becomes difficult to match their contents to this theory.
There is no doubt that
Parashat Vayikra does, indeed, address the initiative of bringing
the sacrifice on the part of the person who brings it. There is a fundamental
inner division into freewill offerings (burnt offering, meal offering, peace
offering) and obligatory offerings (sin offering and guilt offering). Each of
these inner units starts with a description of the sacrifice being brought by
the person. In the context of freewill offerings: If any person among you
offers a sacrifice to God from the animals
and if a person offers a meal
offering to God
and if his sacrifice is a peace offering, if he offers of the
." In the context of the obligatory offerings, we find: If a person
he shall offer
and if all the congregation of
Parashat Vayikra includes the principal laws of the various sacrifices including the activities that are performed exclusively by the kohanim. What, then, is the essential theme of the teachings of the sacrifices in Parashat Tzav, justifying a separate parasha that follows on Parashat Vayikra?
Aside from the question of characterization of the parasha, we note some gaps in the teachings of the sacrifices in Parashat Tzav; these are difficult to explain. The most obvious example concerns the teaching of the burnt offering (6:1-6). This unit addresses the laws of the offering of ashes and the fire upon the altar, but includes no laws pertaining to the sacrifice itself! Likewise, the teaching of the sin offering (6:17-23), where we find laws concerning the slaughter and the sanctity of the flesh, its consumption, and its burning (in the case of an inner sin offering). But the most basic details concerning the sprinkling of the blood on the altar, and the offering as a sweet savor of the fats and the inner parts, are nowhere to be found!
We cannot suppose that activities such as the sprinkling of the blood and the offering as a sweet savor fall outside the scope of the parasha, since the matter of the blood does appear in the context of the guilt offering, and the offering of the sweet savor appears in connection with the meal offering and the guilt offering. We might propose that the details in Tzav come to complement the details set out in Vayikra, in the same way that some of the details that have already appeared in Vayikra are omitted from Tzav. However, this theory turns out to be unfounded: the details of the performance of the meal offering the "handful" and the offering as a sweet savor appear in Tzav although they have already been set out in Vayikra.
Difficulty in the Conclusion of the Parasha
Let us set aside the above questions for the meantime, and turn our attention to the conclusion of the teachings of the sacrifices, at the end of chapter 7 (37-38):
This is the teaching for the burnt sacrifice, for the meal offering and for the sin offering, and for the guilt offering, and for the consecration offering, and for the sacrifice of the peace offering; which God commanded Moshe at Mount Sinai, on the day He commanded Bnei Yisrael to offer their sacrifices to God, in the wilderness of Sinai.
These verses conclude the entire body of laws of the sacrifices in Parashat Tzav, as is evident in the expression the teaching," as well as in the list of sacrifices mentioned here, which follows the order of the sacrifices treated in the parasha: the burnt offering, the meal offering, the sin offering, the guilt offering, (the consecration offering) and the peace offering. However, this conclusion gives rise to two main difficulties:
a. The conclusion makes mention of a consecration offering," but there is no teaching concerning such a sacrifice in the parasha. The command describing the ram of consecration a special sacrifice offered on each of the seven days of consecration of the Mishkan is recorded in Shemot 29. Why, then, is it included in the conclusion here?
In the description of the time
and place of this parasha, there is an obvious contradiction. The first
part of verse 38 states that these teachings were given at
Ramban addresses the second question (b) and suggests three possible explanations:
1. As our Rabbis explained it," all the commandments that appear in the Torah, even those described as having been transmitted from the Tent of Meeting or on the plains of Moav, were actually given first at Sinai, and God then repeated them later on at those locations. On the basis of this theory, Ramban suggests, what the verse is telling us here is that the teachings in Parashat Tzav, along with the laws of bringing sacrifices that are recorded in Parashat Vayikra, were first given at Sinai, and then again in the wilderness of Sinai.
This explanation presents a number of problems:
i. This hypothesis of our Rabbis like many other teachings of Chazal is not grounded in the literal text. According to the literal reading of the text, certain commandments were given at Sinai, while others were conveyed later on.
ii. If all of the commandments were given at Sinai, why does the Torah choose to note specifically with regard to these laws in our chapter that they were first given at Sinai?
iii. If the verse indeed means to indicate that the laws were given twice, it should read, and (i.e., as well as) on the day He commanded ," rather than just on the day He commanded."
2. Ramban proposes a second explanation, in accordance with the literal text: some of the teachings of the sacrifices listed here (This is the teaching ) were given at Sinai, while others were given here, at the Tent of Meeting. The laws of the consecration offering were given at Sinai, as stated explicitly in Shemot 29. The burnt sacrifice and sin offering also appear there, in the context of the sacrifices offered during the days of consecration of the Mishkan, and are repeated in our parasha. The meal offering, guilt offering and peace offering appear only in Sefer Vayikra, and were transmitted from the Tent of Meeting. In other words, the laws of the sacrifices in the parashot of Vayikra and Tzav were given only from the Tent of Meeting, but verses 37-38 of chapter 7 sum up all of the teachings pertaining to the sacrifices, starting with those conveyed in the context of the days of consecration and continuing up until the laws of the sacrifices in Parashat Tzav.
The advantage of this explanation is that it also addresses the first question that we posed above the matter of the consecration sacrifice and why it appears here. On the other hand, this explanation also brings certain difficulties:
i. As we have already shown, the expression the teaching," as well as the order of the sacrifices in verse 37 (aside from the consecration sacrifice), prove that these verses of conclusion pertain only to the teachings of the sacrifices in Parashat Tzav contradicting this explanation of Ramban.
Here the Ramban himself notes
that the descriptions of the time and place should be regarded as being
connected: Meaning, which God commanded Moshe at
iii. How can the word, this teaching," with its specific and focused denotation, refer to a collection of scattered chapters, from Tetzaveh to Tzav?
3. Ramban offers a third possibility: It is possible that [the words] at Mount Sinai means at this place, in front of Mount Sinai," i.e., in the Tent of Meeting and therefore the text here reads that this is the teaching of the burnt sacrifice," and all the sacrifices, which God commanded at Mount Sinai on the day He commanded him in the wilderness of Sinai, specifying that it was at Mount Sinai and in the wilderness of Sinai," so as to tell us that it was not given on the actual mountain, at the place of Glory, where God told [Moshe] the Ten Commandments, nor in the wilderness of Sinai, after they had journeyed away from the mountain, but rather in the wilderness of Sinai while still in front of the mountain, within its precinct and close to it; that was where the Tent of Meeting was the text is telling us where the Tent of Meeting was at the time.
In other words, the Torah is
deliberately combining the two expressions so as to specify the location of the
Tent of Meeting, which was close to
This explanation once again entails difficulties:
i. If the Torah wants to tell us about where the Tent of Meeting is situated, the most appropriate place to do so would seemingly be in the parashiyot dealing with the construction of the Mishkan, rather than here.
ii. This does not seem the clearest way of indicating the location of the Tent of Meeting. On the contrary, the formulation is clumsy and confusing.
In summary, the questions arising from the teachings of the sacrifices in Parashat Tzav fall into three main categories: a.) the question of the characterization and definition of the parasha, including the difficulty in understanding the considerations guiding the selection of details to be included or omitted from the various sacrifices; b.) the appearance of the consecration sacrifice in this context; and c.) the contradiction between the two parts of verse 38 with regard to the location of the parasha in terms of time and place.
Explanation Offered by Rav D. Hoffman
It would appear that the best solution to the first two problems is proposed by Rav David Tzvi Hoffman, in his commentary on Vayikra (p. 20 onwards). We shall review the crux of his argument here, and then use this as the basis for solving the third problem.
According to Rav Hoffman,
chapters 6-7 were indeed conveyed to Moshe at Mount Sinai, as noted in the first
part of 7:38 at
To Rav Hoffmans view, not only was our parasha conveyed after Shemot 29, but it also complements that chapter in terms of content: our chapter supplies details of the laws of sacrifices that are not known to us from Shemot 29.
Thus, the laws of performing the burnt offering are clear from the verses commanding the ram offered as a burnt offering during the seven days of consecration (Shemot 29:15-18): You shall take one ram, and they shall lay hands and you shall slaughter and you shall take its blood and sprinkle it upon the altar and you shall offer the ram wholly upon the altar, it is a burnt offering to God ." For this reason, when our parasha presents its orderly list of the laws of the sacrifices, the teaching of the burnt offering can skip the fundamental laws of performing this sacrifice.
The obligation of the daily sacrifice offered at twilight is likewise known to us from Shemot 29:39-41, and therefore we already know that there is a burnt offering that is burnt upon the altar during the night, such that the teaching of the burnt sacrifice can treat as a familiar phenomenon the burnt sacrifice which is burned upon the fire on the altar throughout the night."
The meal offering is not mentioned in Shemot 29 at all, and therefore the teaching of the meal offering lists all the details of the performance of this sacrifice the offering," the handful, the offering as a sweet savor, and the consumption by the kohanim in the courtyard of the Tent of Meeting.
In the command concerning the days of consecration we find the details of the sin offering (29:10-14): And you shall offer the bull and place hands and you shall slaughter and you shall take of the blood of the bull and place it upon the horns of the altar and you shall take all of the fat and offer it upon the altar, and the flesh of the bull and its skin you shall burn with fire outside of the camp; it is the sin offering. However, the sin offering of the days of consecration is distinguished from the sin offerings throughout future generations in that the former is an external offering (i.e., its blood is placed only on the altar in the courtyard) whose flesh is burned, while for all future generations a regular, external sin offering may be consumed by the kohanim, and only an internal sin offering (i.e., an offering whose blood is brought into the Tent of Meeting) is burned. Therefore, the teaching of the sin offering in our parasha adds these laws concerning the consumption and the burning.
The guilt offering does not appear in Shemot 29, and therefore the teaching of the guilt offering in our parasha lists all the details of these laws slaughter, the service involving the blood, the offering of the inner parts, and the consumption by the kohanim in the Mishkan precincts.
The offerings of the days of consecration included no peace offerings, but these are mentioned in the command of the days of consecration in the context of the gifts of the ram of consecration, and in comparison with it. To Rav Hoffmans view, the general picture that arises is that the peace offering is similar to the ram of consecration (with the obvious exception of whatever is unique to the context of the consecration of the kohanim). For this reason, apparently, the teaching of the peace offering (7:11-21) mentions the placing of the blood only as an aside, while the slaughter, offering of the inner parts as a sweet savor and the gifts are all omitted; the text here focuses on the loaves that accompany the thanksgiving offering, and the laws of consuming the meat.
The conclusion of the parasha, according to the above analysis, relates not only to Vayikra 6-7, but also to the laws of sacrifices set out in Shemot 29. For this reason the conclusion also makes mention of the consecration sacrifices: This is the teaching of the burnt sacrifice, of the meal offering and of the sin offering, and of the guilt offering, and of the consecration sacrifices ," since these, too, were an independent category worthy of their own name, even though they were not applicable for future generations.
Back to the Conclusion
We have shown that the source of
this parasha is Sinai, and not the Tent of Meeting. How, then, are we to
explain the closing verse (7:38)
which God commanded Moshe at
In his article in Megadim
2, A. Shama uses Rav Hoffmans thesis to answer this question as well. To his
view, the second part of the verse (on the day he commanded
) also refers to
the command at
This interpretation is
problematic in several respects. Firstly, the textual reference to the lamb
offered as a daily sacrifice, in Shemot 29, is to a single sacrifice, in
the singular (Shemot 29:42): the daily burnt offering." Likewise
in the parallel unit in Parashat Pinchas (Bamidbar 28):
This is the offering by fire
the daily burnt offering
burnt offering that is made
an offering by fire to God, and it
." Secondly, the simplest understanding of the term their
sacrifices would appear to indicate something far broader than just the daily
sacrifice. Furthermore, it is stated explicitly in the unit describing the daily
sacrifice that the command is for all your generations; it is not something
that applies only then and there, in the wilderness. In addition, the language
of the text here is, on the day he commanded them to Bnei Yisrael." In
the unit discussing the daily sacrifice in Shemot 29 there is no command
to Bnei Yisrael; there is only a command to Moshe! While it is clear that the
intention is for the command to be relayed to Bnei Yisrael, this cannot be the
meaning of the phrase, on the day he commanded them to Bnei Yisrael." Clearly,
then, the second part of our verse refers to Parashat Vayikra,
where there is indeed a command to
A structure similar to that of our verses is to be found in Bereishit 2:4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created; on the day the Lord God made earth and heavens." Let us compare them, as follows:
These are the generations of the heavens and the earth
When they were created
On the day the Lord God made earth and heavens.
This is the teaching of the burnt offering, of the meal offering and of the sin offering, and of the guilt offering, and of the consecration sacrifice, and of the sacrifice of the peace offering, which God commanded Moshe
On the day he commanded Bnei Yisrael to offer their sacrifices to God in the wilderness of Sinai."
In both cases there are two
expressions describing time or place. The first expression in each case is
introduced with a bet, meaning "at" or "when" (when they were created;
But the parallel extends further than this. The first part of the verse in Bereishit (These and the earth when they were created) sounds, in terms of style, like a conclusion of what has preceded it (the act of Creation, 1:1-2:3). This is reflected in the word generations," which is common in the context of biblical units that use the name Elokim rather than the Name of God; the fact that the word heavens precedes earth," as in Bereishit 1:1; and the expression created," which is used in chapter 1. Similarly, in our chapter, the verses are a conclusion of the preceding body of laws.
In contrast, the second part of the verse in Bereishit, in terms of style, does not seem to conclude chapter 1, but rather to introduce what follows (as reflected in the Name the Lord God; the verb to make," which does not appear in chapter 1 but does appear in 3:21; and the earth preceding the heavens," in contrast to the order in chapter 1). Thus, in Bereishit, too, we find a sort of combination within the same verse of two descriptions of time that seemingly do not belong together.
The verse in Bereishit was given an original interpretation by my revered Rabbi and teacher, Rav Mordekhai Breuer z"l (Megadim 11, and thereafter in Pirkei Bereishit). The first part of the verse would appear to be suited to serve as a heading for chapter 1 of Bereishit, with its content and style molded accordingly. The second part of the verse appears suited to stand alone as a heading for what follows it; its content and style are likewise molded accordingly. (In the article in Megadim, Rav Breuer points out that were this to be the case, the verse should include the word va-yehi: And it was, on the day that the Lord God made earth and heavens ; this comment does not appear in Pirkei Bereishit.) In order to bring the messages of both chapters together, the Torah transfers the heading of chapter 1 to the end of the chapter, combining it with the introduction to the chapters that follow.
It would seem that the verses in our chapter may be explained in the same way.
Parashat Tzav really deserves its
own heading, meant not only to indicate the subject of the body of text that
follows, but also to emphasize that what follows represents a deviation from the
chronological continuity of the narrative, which now stands at the point after
the Mishkan has been built, the Divine Presence has descended into it,
and God has spoken to Moshe (Parashat Vayikra), to provide the
description of an event that took place many months previously, when Moshe was
at Mount Sinai. A similar phenomenon is to be found in Parashat
Behar, where the Torah once again deviates from the chronological
continuity in order to go back to a command that issued at
The second part of our verse, in
accordance with the model in Bereishit, should be read as an introduction
to what follows. What follows is Gods command to Moshe to embark on the
procedures related to the days of consecration (those procedures which he was
commanded in detail in Shemot 29). Were the second part of our verse to
stand alone, perhaps the Torah would indeed introduce the word va-yehi,"
so as to read: And it was (va-yehi) on the day that He commanded Bnei
Yisrael to offer their sacrifices to God in the wilderness of Sinai, that God
spoke to Moshe, saying: Take Aharon and his sons
." The meaning of the verse
would then be that on the same day that God commanded Moshe, in the Tent of
That would indeed be a logical formulation, in terms of each parasha independently. But the Torah transfers what should logically have been the introduction to the teachings of the sacrifices," to the end of this body of laws, joining it together with the heading of the next unit a heading that, chronologically speaking, should have connected the next parasha to Parashat Vayikra.
If we now take an overall look at the Torahs editing of the various commands, we see that the body of laws concerning the sacrifices, which was conveyed at Sinai, is inserted in between two events: the command of the sacrifices in Parashat Vayikra, conveyed from the Tent of Meeting, and the beginning of the service of the days of consecration. The verse that should have connected these two events is brought together with the verse that concludes the teachings of the sacrifices." What is the significance of this technique?
Let us first try to understand
the significance of the teachings of the sacrifices in their original context
as the continuation of the unit describing the daily sacrifice, at the end of
Shemot 29. The daily sacrifice is described there as a constant system,
maintaining the conditions for the Divine Presence to rest there. The constant
service of Am Yisrael towards the Tent of Meeting causes God to come and
meet with them, as it were, at the Tent of Meeting: The daily burnt sacrifice
for your generations at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting before God
shall meet there with Bnei Yisrael
and I shall dwell amongst Bnei Yisrael, and
I shall be their God
." The teachings of the sacrifices are meant to expand this
system: the function of the kohanim in the Sanctuary is to accept the
Parashat Vayikra, on the other hand, brings the message of how each and every individual among Bnei Yisrael has the ability of coming close to God and finding favor before Him. For this reason, Parashat Vayikra lists the voluntary sacrifices before the obligatory ones. A voluntary offering, indicating mans quest for extra closeness to God, is a higher expression of closeness to God than are the obligatory sacrifices, where the distanced sinner seeks atonement that will allow him to close some of the gap that has been created, and to regain normal closeness.
From the perspective of
chronology, the teachings of the sacrifices in Parashat Tzav were
conveyed at Sinai, long before Parashat Vayikra was conveyed. The
reason for this is that the maintenance of the system of daily sacrifices and
the dwelling of the Divine Presence precede both logically and chronologically
the possibility of the individual coming before God, to the Sanctuary. But if
all of this were to be set out in order of chronology, it would seem as though
the kohanim enjoy preference and greater closeness to God, being more
favored by God than the rest of
Translated by Kaeren Fish