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עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

Parshat Tzav

Posted by rabbiart on April 21, 2008

Torah Reading: VaYikra 6:1 to 8:36 Haftorah Reading: Jeremiah 7:21 to 8:3 and 9:22 to 9:23

The word tzav means “command”. As the parshah opens, HaShem speaks to Moshe and gives Moshe additional instructions for Aharon and his sons. Details of additional sacrifices are provided, and then in the fourth aliyah Moshe is commanded to gather the people and to consecrate Aharon and his sons to the service of the priesthood. The ceremony is carried out in front of all the people. After all the procedures are completed, Aharon and his sons are to sit in the doorway of the ohel mo’ed (tent of meeting) for seven days, lest they die.

The parshah presents several challenges to the post-Temple Jew. The sacrifices are no longer observed, even though some are described as permanent law for all generations (hok olam l’dorotechem. We must dig into the midrashic works to explore the deeper meaning of the Torah’s message here. The great Biblical scholar Nehama Leibowitz (Studies in Vayikra) sheds light on the commandment that the priests must collect and remove the ashes from the altar. (VaYikra 6:3 to 4). She quotes Bahya ibn Pekuda who observes that this seemingly lowly and unimportant duty is a safeguard against the priests thinking too much of themselves.

Referring to the priests, Bahya writes “…that he should belittle his own works in his own eyes, that he should thunder at his soul for its incapacity in spiritual matters before G-d and man… leaving haughtiness to his Creator, forsaking greatness and honor whenever he performs for G-d whether in private or public.” Therefore the priests must remove their “officiating” garments, and put on other clothes, then collect and remove the ashes to a different place. Hmm… perhaps it would be a good practice for business leaders and politicians (clergy too!) to be required to clean their own floors and take out their own garbage.

Shabbat Shalom


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