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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Parashat Tzav

Parasha: Tzav – Leviticus 6:1 – 8:36
Haftara: Jeremiah 6:21-8:3; 9:22-23
Reading date: 22nd March 2008 – 15th Adar Bet 5768

Please note that some English Bibles start this portion from verse eight. There is sometimes a disparity between translations. I use the Hebrew Bible for my verse indications etc.
Chapter 6 and 7 relate to the offerings that were mentioned in last weeks portion: the ‘olah’ (burnt offering), ‘minchah’ (meal offering), the ‘shlamim’ (peace offering), ‘chatat’ (sin offering) and the ‘asham’ (guilt offering). Here Torah teaches Aaron and his sons additional laws relating to the sacrificial service.

6:3 The first two Temple services of the day were ‘tromat hadeshen’ the separating of the ash. This entailed removing a portion of the previous day’s ashes from the Altar and then placing two logs of wood on the main Altar fire.

6:5 The fire shall never go out. The Tabernacle was use for about 116 years, during which the fire burned continuously, yet the Altar’s thin copper layer never melted and its wooden structure was never charred.

6:17 This is the North side of the Altar.

6:19 From Lev.10:17 we learn that the priest by eating the sin offering of the people were bearing their sin and typically removing it from them. This was also part of their maintenance or what Scripture call their inheritance. In the second Temple period this was abused as non Levites were getting in to the priestly office just that they may gain a secular provision. This sounds very familiar!

6:20 What ever touches the flesh becomes holy. We through coming into contact with Messiah, our supreme sacrificial Lamb, become holy.

6:21 An earthen vessel is used here as a metaphor for a person because YHVH created us from earth. Thus in the metaphorical sense, a ‘vessel of earthenware’ in which a ‘sin offering was cooked’ – refers to the person in whom the sin offering was ‘cooked’ – he person becomes so part of the sin and engrained in his very being – just as the flavor of something cooked in a pot remains within the pots walls. So for one whose character is absorbed in the way of sin, the solution is to break the pot! Remorse over one’s wrongdoings to the point of a ‘broken’ heart is a key ingredient of repentance.

7:8-10 The parts of the offering that go to the Cohenim are divided among all who were at the Tabernacle and were eligible to perform the service, not only those who actually did so.

7:12 Some one who survives a life threatening crisis is to bring a ‘todah’ or thanksgiving offering, to express gratitude to YHVH. From Psalm 107, David’s hymn of gratitude, the Sages (Berachot 54b) derive that survivors of four categories of danger are required to bring an offering: a desert (or other potentially hazardous) journey, dangerous imprisonment, serious illness or a sea voyage.

7:20, 21, 27 The term ‘the soul will be cut off’ – ‘venecharta hanefesh’ refers to the type of punishment ‘kares’ which includes excision of the soul and premature death.

7:22-27 In terms of this prohibition, the ‘fat’ means only the fatty tissue of sheep goats and cattle that would be placed on the Altar on the case of offerings.

7:27 Here again is the reiteration of the prohibition of the consumption of blood.

7:30 The wave offering is performed with the parts of the peace offering that will be placed upon the Altar, and with the parts that will be presented as a gift to the Cohenim.
They are waved in all four directions, and then lifted and lowered. These motions signify that YHVH controls existence everywhere, in all four directions as well as above and below (R’ Hirsch).

At the end of this chapter it is good to have summary of all the offerings that where required of Moses and the people on Sinai:
1. Asham, Trespass-offering, from the Hebrew ‘asham’, to be guilty, or liable to punishment; for in this sacrifice the guilt was considered as being transferred to the animal offered up to YHVH, and the offerer redeemed from the penalty of his sin
2. Isheh, Fire-offering, probably from ‘ashash’, to be grieved, angered, inflamed; either pointing out the distressing nature of sin, or its property of incensing Divine justice against the offender, who, in consequence, deserving burning for his offense, made use of this sacrifice to be freed from the punishment due to his transgression.
3. Havavim, Iterated or Repeated offerings, from ‘yachav’, to supply. The word occurs only in Hosea 8:13, and probably means no more than the continual repetition of the accustomed offerings, or continuation of each part of the sacred service.
4. Zevach, A Sacrifice, a creature slain in sacrifice, from ‘zavach’, to slay; hence the altar on which such sacrifices were offered was termed ‘mizbeach’, the place of sacrifice.
5. Chag, a festival, an annual occurance, from ‘chogeg’, to celebrate a festival, to dance round and round in circles.
6. Chatat and Chatah, Sin-offering, from the Hebrew ‘chet’, to miss the mark. People are continually aiming at and seeking happiness; but as they do not seek it in YHVH, hence the Scripture represents them as missing their aim, or missing the mark.
7. Cofer, the Expiation or Atonement, from the Hebrew ‘capar’, to cover. It is used often to signify the atonement or the pardon of iniquity.
8. Mo’ed, an appointed annual festival, from the Hebrew ‘ya’ad’, to appoint or constitute. As these feasts were instituted in commemoration of some great event or deliverance, such as the deliverance from Egypt, this then differentiates between a ‘chag’ and a ‘mo’ed’.
9. Miluim, consecrations or consecration-offerings, from the Hebrew ‘mala’, to fill; those offerings made in consecrations, of which the priests partook, or, in the Hebrew phrase, had their hands filled, or which had filled the hands of them that offered them.
10. Mincha, Meal-offering, from the Hebrew ‘nach’, to rest or settle after working. It generally consisted of things without life, such as green ears of corn, full ears of corn, flour, oil, and frankincense and may be considered as having its name from that rest from labor and toil which a man had when the fruits of the fall were brought in. The jealousy-offering was a simple mincha, consisting of barley-meal only.
11. Mesech and Mimsach, a mixture-offering, or mixed libation, called a drink-offering, from the Hebrew ‘masach’, to mingle
12. Maseet, an oblation, things carried to the temple to be presented to YHVH, from the Hebrew ‘nasa’, to bear or carry, to bear sin.
13. Nedava, free-will, or voluntary offering; from ‘nadab’, to be free, liberal, princely. An offering not commanded, but given as a particular proof of extraordinary gratitude to YHVH for especial mercies, or on account of some vow or engagement voluntarily taken.
14. Nesech, libation or drink-offering, from the Hebrew ‘nasach’, to pour out. Water or wine poured out at the conclusion or confirmation of a covenant.
15. Olah, Burnt-offering, from the Hebrew ‘alah’, to ascend, because this offering, being totally consumed, ascended as it were to YHVH in smoke. In most other offerings the Cohen, and often the one bringing the offering, had a share, but in the whole burnt-offering all was given to YHVH.
16. Ketoret, incense offering, from ‘katar’, to burn, i. e., the frankincense, and other fragrances used as a perfume in different parts of the service.
17. Korban, the gift-offering, from ‘karav’ to draw close to or approach. Korban is the name for a kind of offering that gives us access to YHVH. Yeshua was the ultimate Korban.
18. Shlamim, Peace-offering, from the Hebrew ‘shilem’, to complete, make whole; viz., the covenants of YHVH.
19. Todah, Thank-offering, from the Hebrew ‘yadah’, to confess; offerings made to YHVH with public confession of his power, goodness, mercy, etc.
20. Tenufa, Wave-offering, from the Hebrew ‘naf’, to stretch out; an offering of the first-fruits stretched out before YHVH, in acknowledgment of his provision. This offering was moved from the right hand to the left.
21. Terumah, Heave-offering, from the Hebrew word ‘ram’, to lift up, because the offering was lifted up towards heaven, as the wave-offering, in token of the kindness of YHVH in granting rain and fruitful seasons. As the wave-offering was moved from right to left, so the heave-offering was moved up and down; and in both cases this was done several times. These offerings keep alive in us a sense of our dependence on the provision of YHVH for our needs.

8:2 The Hebrew word ‘kach’ –take- suggests that Aaron was to be won over as he felt unworthy of the task.

8:12 Aaron and his sons had not been anointed until now. There are two kinds of anointment. A king is anointed to invest him with a spirit of power but the Cohen haGadol is anointed to elevate him to holiness. Aaron is anointed before the sacrifices are slain, while in the case of the Cohenim the application of blood precedes the anointing.

8:23 Moses slew the sacrifice as Aaron and his sons were not yet established in their office.

8:33-36 The Torah prescribes isolation at the end of this parasha. As the long awaited consecration of the Tabernacle draws near YHVH instructs that Aaron and his sons stay outside of the Tabernacle for seven days. Despite the separation that YHVH commands, we are confronted by a striking irony. YHVH clearly states the benefit of the separation “that you may no die”. Aaron and his sons faithfully adhere to the command but in just over a chapter, at the height of the consecration, two of Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu offer a strange fire which resulted in their death.

Rabbi Nachman comments that as Nadav and Avihu did not do as ‘YHVH commanded Moses’ but rather they added something of their own. YHVH commands them to separate for 7 days to prepare for the consecration of the Tabernacle. In their detachment they lose sight of their role to lead the community and instead offer up their own fire. This fire was brought on the eight day. Was it this extra day of isolation that pushed them over the edge? The sages support this idea.
We must remember to balance our sometimes necessary isolation in the quiet of the Tabernacle within us and not forget about the lives of our families, friends and our community at large.

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