What's in a Name?

  • Rav Avraham Walfish

 

Our parasha opens with a directive to Moshe to command (tzav) Aharon, regarding the olah offering and regarding the fire on the altar. This opening is reminiscent of the opening of a parasha with a similar name: parashat Tetzaveh (you shall command). In fact, not only the openings of the two parashiyot are similar, but the themes and many of the contents as well:

 

Parashat Tetzaveh (Shemot)

Parashat Tzav (Vayikra)

1. the ner tamid (27:20-21)

the olah and the esh tamid(6:1-6)

2. the priestly vestments (28)

priestly portions of korbanot (6-7)

3. sanctification ceremony of kohanim (29:1-37)

sanctification ceremony of kohanim

4. the two daily olat tamid offerings (29:38-46)

(Chapter 8)

5. the daily (tamid) incense offerings (30:1-10)

 

 

The basic focus of parashat Tetzaveh is the sanctity of the kohanim. Sections 2 and 3, lengthier by far than the other three sections of the parasha, deal with two aspects of priestly sanctity: their sacred garments, regarding which the Torah remarks (Shemot 28:3), "and they shall make the clothes of Aharon to sanctify him to serve as kohen to me." The sanctification ceremony continues the theme of the priestly garments section, as indicated by the concluding pasuk of section 2: "And you shall clothe with them Aharon your brother and his sons with him, and you shall anoint them and fill their hands and sanctify them to serve as kohanim to me" (Shemot 28:41). The anointing and "filling of hands," alongside Moshe dressing the incipient kohanim with the priestly garments, are then described in section 3 as part of the sanctification ceremony, which also includes three special korbanot.

 

These two sections, dealing with the sources of priestly sanctity, are founded on one central idea: the sanctity of the kohanim is something which is conferred upon them. The kohanim are public functionaries; their sanctity derives from their mission, as representatives of the people of Israel. Hence their sanctity is conferred upon them by their clothes, the publicly visible symbol of their mission, in two senses. They are originally sanctified by a ceremony which centers upon clothing them in their sacred garments. In addition they must wear these garments in order to function as kohanim, as Chazal noted (Sanhedrin 83b): "When their vestments are upon them, their priesthood is upon them; when their vestments are not upon them, their priesthood is not upon them." Moshe inducts them into priesthood in a public ceremony, in which the anointing and the sacrifices, in addition to the priestly vestments, draw them nearer to Hashem, inaugurating them into their special station of entering the mishkan, approaching the indwelling divine Presence in the name of and on behalf of the people.

 

The remaining three sections of parashat Tetzaveh (1, 4, 5) deal with the three main daily services carried out by the kohanim in the mishkan. We may see these services as the main expressions of the sanctity of the kohanim as functionaries of the mishkan. The unity of the parasha may be seen in the fact that it opens and closes with Aharon's daily service, in pesukim that allude to one another: the lighting of the ner tamid (27:21) and the incense offering - "And when Aharon lights the candles in the evening he shall burn it, a continual (tamid) incense before Hashem for your generations" (30:8). These tamid services show how parashat Tetzaveh complements the parasha preceding it, parashat Teruma. Parashat Teruma focuses on the theme of the sanctity of the mishkan, as the structure which enables Hashem to "dwell in the midst" of the Israelite people (25:7 - Refer to Study Question 1). Each of the structural features and the furnishings of the mishkan symbolizes an aspect of the indwelling divine Presence.

 

Tetzaveh adds the human aspect: the sanctity of the mishkan is incomplete so long as the mishkan is merely a structure. The kohanim and their service are an integral part of the structure of the mishkan, which is not designed to be an empty structure, furnished only with sacred vessels. The lighting of the ner tamid, which opens parashat Tetzaveh, exemplifies the human activity which transforms a piece of furniture into a functional utensil. The Menorah is designed to enable the lighting of a ner tamid. Hence the sanctification of the kohanim (Tetzaveh) serves as an integral part of the sanctification of the mishkan (Teruma). Similarly, the sanctification of the kohanim is required for the other daily services, which bring to expression the function and meaning of the two altars: the tamid sacrifice on the outer altar and the incense offering on the inner altar. The idea that the daily service of the kohanim serves as the fullest expression of the mishkan's sanctity is expressed by the Torah quite clearly. Concluding the command of the tamid offering, in parashat Tetzaveh, the Torah declares (Shemot 29:42 ff.): "An olat tamid for all your generations at the opening to Ohel Moed before Hashem, where I will meet with you (plural) to speak with you (singular) there... and I will sanctify the Ohel Moed and the altar and I will sanctify Aharon and his sons to serve as kohanim to Me. And I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel and I will be your God." (Refer to Study Question 2).

 

In sum, we may say that parashat Teruma deals with the mishkan as the symbol of the relationship between Hashem and the Israelite people. The sanctification of the kohanim, in parashat Tetzaveh, enables the daily service in the mishkan, completing the groundwork for the appearance of the indwelling presence in the midst of the people.

 

II

 

Parashat Tzav stands towards parashat Vayikra in much the same relation that parashat Tetzaveh stands towards parashat Teruma This may be clearly seen by comparing the opening verses of the two parashiyot. As Ramban notes (6:2): "Scripture opens parashat Vayikra with, 'Speak to the Children of Israel (1:2), because there He commands the bringing of korbanot and Israel brings them; however here it says 'Command Aharon,' because He will speak of what is done to the korbanot, and it is kohanim who perform these things." We thus see that Vayikra presents the korbanot from the perspective of the Israelite who offers it, whereas Tzav views korbanot from the perspective of the kohanim.

 

This insight is further borne out by the order in which each parasha presents the list of korbanot:

 

Vayikra

Tzav

olah = burnt offering

olah

mincha = meal offering

mincha

shelamim = well-being offering

chattat

chattat = sin (or: purification) offering

asham

asham = reparation offering

shelamim

 

In Vayikra, shelamim comes after mincha, in Tzav it is deferred until the end of the list, after the chattat and asham. Nechama Leibowitz (Iyyunim Be-sefer Vayikra, pp. 58-59), explains the rationale for the different order: "When the parasha is addressed to all of Israel, to those offering the sacrifices, the order is: The sacrifices which may be brought voluntarily: olah - mincha - shelamim, and then the obligatory sacrifices (which must be brought on certain occasions): chattat and asham. However, when the laws are addressed to the kohanim, the order is according to the gradations of holiness, hence first the kodshei kodashim (holy of holies) are brought: olah - mincha - chattat - asham, and then kodashim kalim: shelamim, because the kohanim are required to know the order of the sacrificial service pertaining to them, the caution required in their service, and so forth." (For further discussion of Nehama Leibowitz and for alternate suggestions, refer to Study Question 3). Just as parashiyot Teruma and Tetzaveh present the mishkan from the perspective of the people and of the kohanim respectively, so too parashiyot Vayikra and Tzav present the korbanot from the respective perspectives of the people and of the kohanim.

 

As we saw in our shiur last week,the presentation of korbanot in parashat Vayikra focuses on the relationship between the divine Presence and the people. How may an Israelite approach the divine Presence? How may he safeguard this Presence - and himself - by atoning for offenses committed against Him? The order of korbanot in parashat Vayikra reflects these emphases, opening with the olah offering, continuing with other voluntary offerings, which also express the positive meaning of approaching Hashem in various ways, and concluding with the obligatory atonement\purification offerings.

 

Parashat Tzav opens likewise with the olah offering, but with a different focus. The Torah immediately clarifies that it is concerned primarily with a particular kind of olah, the daily (tamid) olah offered, not by the individual Israelite, but by the kohanim on behalf of the community (6:2): "Command Aharon and his sons, this is the torah of the olah, that is the olah upon the hearth on the altar all night until morning and the fire of the altar is kept burning on it... A perpetual fire (esh tamid) shall burn on the altar, it may not be extinguished." As R. Hoffman notes, the olah which burns all night every night upon the altar is the evening tamid, the final sacrifice of the day. While every olah, consumed entirely upon the altar, serves as fuel for the esh tamid, the evening tamid is the main fuel for the esh tamid at night, when its presence is most visible and most dramatic, when indeed the entire edifice of the mishkan may be seen as focusing on the altar's esh tamid.

 

Milgrom (p. 389) explains the need for esh tamid: "The sacrifices offered up at the inauguration of the public cult were consumed miraculously by a divine fire (9:24), and it is this fire which is not allowed to die out so that all subsequent sacrifices might claim divine acceptance." I believe that, relying on the same event on which Milgrom bases his suggestion, we may arrive at a deeper understanding: the divine Presence in the mishkan is symbolized by fire, hence this fire, symbolic of the Presence, is never allowed to be extinguished (See Study Question 4).

 

From the perspective of the kohanim, this is the directive which expresses the spirit of torat hakorbanot. The primary job of the kohanim is to maintain the symbols of the divine Presence in the mishkan. The tamid services, and especially the maintenance of the esh tamid, are their main mission. Seen from this perspective, the korbanot serve primarily as fuel for the esh tamid, and especially the olah. Other korbanot have a portion offered upon the altar, while another portion is taken "from my fire offering" (6:10) and given to the kohanim (See Study Question 5). Thus the mincha, chattat, asham, and shelamim offerings all have a portion to be burnt upon the altar and a portion to be consumed by the kohanim (See Study Question 6). The granting to the kohanim of a portion of the sacrifices is an integral part of their consecration as kohanim (7:35-36): "This is the perquisite of Aharon and the perquisite of his sons, from the fire offerings of Hashem, once (lit. "on the day") they were brought near to serve as kohanim to Hashem - Which Hashem commanded to give them once they were anointed, from the Israelites, a statute for all time." Only insofar as the person of the kohen is consecrated to the mishkan, becomes part of the mishkan, can granting the kohen a portion of a sacrifice to Hashem become meaningful. Hashem commands to have part of His sacrifice offered upon His altar and another part of the sacrifice to be consumed by His kohanim, who are, as it were, a kind of "walking altar" (See Study Question 7).

 

 

III

 

Parashat Tzav is not only parallel to parashat Tetzaveh, in terms of its structure and dominant themes. It also directly continues what was described in parashat Tetzaveh. Section 3 of parashat Tzav (Chapter 8) narrates the carrying out of the instructions for the sanctification ceremony of section 3 of Tetzaveh (Chapter 29). As we found both literary and thematic unity among the sections of parashat Tetzaveh, so too we may perceive literary and thematic unity in parashat Tzav. In 7:37-38 we read: "This is the ritual (torah) for the olah, for the mincha, for the chattat and for the asham, for the ordination offering (milluim) and for the shelamim sacrifice. Which Hashem commanded to Moshe at Mt. Sinai, on the day that He commanded the children of Israel to offer their sacrifices to Hashem in the wilderness of Sinai." While these pesukim present difficulties and complications which we cannot examine in detail (refer to Study Question 8), we will note one surprising detail: the surprising inclusion in these pesukim, which sum up Chapters 6-7, of the milluim offering. The Torah thus ties together this section of the parasha with the next section (Chapter 8), the sanctification ceremony, in which the milluim offering is described. The sacrifices of the ceremony in which the kohanim and the mishkan are consecrated and the sacrifices brought in the already-consecrated mishkan have similar laws and similar status.

 

Examination of the sanctification ceremony of the kohanim will show the idea we found to be central in Chapters 6-7, that of assimilating the kohanim to the mishkan, to be an important feature of the procedure. This may be seen in many details of the ceremony, but for reasons of space we will briefly note two details alone: (a) "Moshe took some of the anointing oil and some of the blood that was on the altar and he sprinkled it upon Aharon and his sons and upon his vestments and upon his sons and his sons' vestments and he sanctified Aharon and his vestments and his sons and his sons' vestments" (8:30). As Chizkuni notes to Shemot 29:21: "Nowhere have we found a sprinkling procedure like this, in which blood is gathered after being sprinkled [on the altar], but in order to unify them with the altar he took the blood which had been consecrated through contact with the altar and sprinkled it upon them...." (b) "And from the opening of Ohel Moed you shall not depart for seven days, until the completion of your days of milluim, because for seven days you shall fill your hands." (8:33). Both of these details express powerfully and palpably the unity between the kohanim and the mishkan.

 

Parashat Tzav teaches the Israelites that the sacrifices which they have been taught, in parashat Vayikra, to bring to Hashem, may be viewed from a different perspective. From their perspective, as Israelites, desirous of coming near to the divine Presence, each korban affords a means towards and a perspective upon the meaning of entry into the presence of Hashem. From the perspective of the kohanim, however, korbanot are not a means to approaching the divine Presence. For them the divine Presence is a living, ever-present, all-absorbing reality. Their entire being is devoted to maintaining the eternal fire, representing the consuming Presence to whose service they are bound. Parashat Tzav presents the sacrifices from their perspective, along with the consecration procedure which informs and justifies that perspective. They are part and parcel of the sacrificial procedure, as they are part and parcel of the mishkan, the human representatives of the living divine Presence embodied by the sanctuary and by the altar in its midst, in which the divine fire never ceases to burn.

 

Study Questions:

 

1. Which pesukim in Teruma, other than 25:7, present the theme of the mishkan as the locus for the indwelling divine Presence?

 

2. How does the conclusion of the description of the daily tamid offering in Shemot 29:42 ff. fit with the general meaning of the olah offering, as we analyzed it in last week's shiur?

 

3. Nechama Leibowitz's explanation of the order of korbanot in parashat Tzav explains why shelamim comes after chattat and asham (gradations of sanctity: kodshei kodashim before kodashim kalim). Can it also be used to explain the order of korbanot within the framework of kodshei kodashim (olah, mincha - especially minchat kohen - chattat, asham)?

 

a. What criterion for grading sanctity did you employ in your answer?

 

b. Are there other criteria for grading sanctity of korbanot? How should the korbanot be ordered in accordance with these criteria? (Hint: how are the sacrifices ordered in Zevachim Chapter 5 = Perek Eizahu Mekoman shel Zevachim?)

 

c. Based on our analysis of the themes and structure of parashat Tzav, can you suggest a different explanation of the order of sacrifices in parashat Tzav?

 

4. R. Hoffman cites 1:7 as proof that the olah is designed to feed the fire on the altar. How is this a proof - pay attention to the context?

 

a. Does 1:7 fit in with the idea that the eternal fire on the altar is a divine fire? Explain. (Refer to Rashi)

 

b. Other than 9:24, where else in the Torah have we encountered fire as a symbol of the divine Presence?

 

c. Other than 6:2, where has fire as a symbol of the divine Presence been associated specifically with the night?

 

d. How is fire, as a symbol of divine Presence, different from other symbols? Why is this symbol, in particular, appropriate for the mishkan?

 

5. How does the phrase "their portion I have assigned them from my fire offerings (ishai)" (6:10) explain why "You shall not bake it as leaven" (ibid.)? Refer to comment of Hizkuni.

 

a. Milgrom, p. 394, translates the word "ishai" differently than above. He renders the word as "food gift," based on a semitic root meaning "gift." He suggests (p. 162) that this is a shortened version of "lechem isheh" (3:11, 16). How does this suggested derivation support his translation?

 

b. Milgrom (p. 161) argues that the word "isheh" is found in offerings that do not enter the altar fire and is not found in certain offerings which do. Assess his argument, referring to: Shemot 29:13 18, 25; Vayikra 7:30, 35-36; 8:21, 28; 23:18; 24:17; Bemidbar 15:10; 28:15; 29:36, 38).

 

6. Locate the pesukim where parashat Tzav spells out which section of each sacrifice is to be given to the kohen. Which korban differs from the others, and how?

 

a. Which korban, other than the olah, has no portion given to the kohanim? Can you suggest a rationale?

 

b. To which kohen\kohanim is the portion of the mincha, the chattat, and the asham given?

 

c. To which kohen\kohanim are the portions of the shelamim given, according to 7:31-33?

 

d. See Rashi to 7:33 - why does Rashi interpret this pasuk differently than the peshat? (Hint: note carefully the language of 7:34). Can you suggest a resolution of Rashi's difficulty, closer to the peshat of 7:33?

 

7. In the sanctification ceremony of the kohanim, described in Chapter 8, there are sacrifices which normally require a portion to be given to the kohanim. Since there weren't yet any kohanim, to whom were these portions given, and why?

 

8. In 7:37-38, the Torah tells us that the commands regarding korbanot were given on Mt. Sinai. Why is this problematic?

 

a. The Ramban suggests three solutions to this problem: "derekh Rabbotenu" and two solutions according to "derekh hapeshat." Explain the approaches and how they differ.

 

b. Why does the Ramban assume, in one of his approaches, that Mt. Sinai and the wilderness of Sinai are two different things? How does he suggest equating them, in the other approach?

 

c. Milgrom, Anchor Bible, p. 438: "although chaps. 6-7 were commanded to Moses on Sinai (vv. 37-38a), they were taught to Israel, together with chaps. 1-5, in the Wilderness of Sinai (v 37b), that is, in the Tent of Meeting (1:1)." How does this explanation differ from those of the Ramban?

 

d. Milgrom's approach assumes that pasuk 37 sums up Chapters 6-7 alone, not Chapters 1-7. On what basis does he assume this? (Hint: note the use of the word "torat" in pasuk 37. Where did the Torah speak of the "torah" of various sacrifices?)

 

e. Milgrom's approach further assumes that pasuk 38b refers to Chapters 1-5. What in the language of 38b suggests this?