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Parshat Hashavua Tzav

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Last Updated on October 25, 2021

Weekly Torah Portion – Parshat Hashavua TZAV

By: Rabbi Nissim Mordechai Makor

Rav Nissim Mordechai Makor

TZAV in a nutshell: This week’s Torah reading, Tzav, continues describing the various sacrifices offered in the Tabernacle and Temple — a topic started in last week’s reading. This is followed by an account of the seven-day inaugural of the Tabernacle.

When Hashem told Moshe to gather the people before the Communion Tent’s entrance, Moshe said to Hashem, “Lord of the universe, the whole area in front of the entrance is only fifty [seventy-five feet] by fifty cubits.” The Torah had said earlier, “The length of the courtyard shall be one hundred cubits and its width shall be fifty by fifty” Shemos 27:18. The Me’am Loez tells us that Moshe then said, How can such a small area hold all of Israel? There are 600,000 adult men and at least that many women and children.”

“Do not wonder about this,” replied God. “I can take the firmament, which is like the membrane of an eye, and spread it out from one end of the earth to the other. I will tell My prophet, “He spreads out the heaven like a curtain and spreads it out as a tent to live in” [Isaiah 40:22]. Also, millions of angels came to Mount Sinai, yet they all stood on the mountain. [This was a great miracle; God commanded that the mountain stretch out.] Here too, through My Word, the place will stretch to hold them all.”

With Hashem’s help, this will also happen at the resurrection Everyone, from Adam until the end of time, will come back to life, and they will stand in Yerushalyim, yet Yerushalayim’s area will increase at Hashem’s command, as it is written, “Expand the place of your tent and the curtain of your Tabernacle; spread out; DO NOT STOP. “[Isaiah 54;2].

The Torah informs us that when the dawn of that morning [of redemption] finally looms, G-ds anger will burn and consume all those who have tortured us during the many years of our exile and especially the Western nations [i.e. the inquisition, pogroms’ and Holocaust]. The words “and the fire of the alter” are an allusion to the many afflictions we have endured at the hands of the merciless Gentiles who did not have pity on us seeing G’d had already punished us for so many years. The word also recalls the self-sacrifice exhibited by Yitzchak when he lay bound on the alter. The word “alter” always conjures up the attribute of Justice in our minds.

The thanksgiving-offering symbolizes the union of opposites. It was brought with both matzah and chametz, hinting that one should try to join these opposites together, creating a cause for true thanksgiving. On Pesach, we eat only matzah; on Shavuot, we bring two loaves of bread (referred to as “thanksgiving loaves”) as a Temple offering. These “opposite” holidays are linked through the Torah portion of Parashat Tzav, which details the thanksgiving-offering and is usually read before Pesach to remind us that the main goal of the Exodus on Pesach was to attain the Torah on Shavous.

Verse 7:23 SAYS “Do not eat any of the fats of an ox, sheep or goat.” Fats represent pride and haughtiness, as in “they enclosed themselves in their fats; their mouths spoke arrogantly” Psalms 17:10. Therefore the fats must be place upon the Alter, for all pride belongs to God, as in “God has reigned, in pride He has dressed.” By sacrificing the fats, one elevates blemished haughtiness to God.

The fats lie adjacent to, and conceal, the kidneys. The fats represent the enticements and materialistic desires of this world, which negatively affect one’s ability to determine the correct path in life. Therefore, the fats are forbidden. However, the fats are permitted indeed, required to be placed upon the Alter when a sacrifice is brought. This action rectifies wrong advice and elevates it to the realm of holiness.

Fats, which are whitish, represent Laban [whose name literally means “white”]. Blood represents Esau [whose complexion was red, see Genesis 25:25]. Both fats and blood are forbidden, yet the second is conceptually worse than the first.

Though Laban was a deceitful person who used his cunning for evil, his root source lay in the lofty levels of holiness. He represents the kelipah of nogah, which contains both good and evil. Thus, Yaakov worked to marry Laban’s daughters in order to reveal the holiness that was present in Laban in the form of his daughters and he worked an extra six years in order to elevate the sparks of holiness in Laban’s wealth. Esau, in contrast, represents total evil. Therefore, Yaakov avoided Esau entirely for 22 years and when they met again, he refused Esau’s offer to travel together and instead parted ways.

The Lakueti Halachat teaches us that Laban and Esau also represent two types of sinners. Laban is like the person who commits an accidental sin because he finds himself caught up in a situation that leads to sin. It is as if the situation itself deceives and traps him. This type of sin is very difficult to avoid. But Esau is like the person who commits an intentional sin because of his “hot blood.” This type of sin is easier to battle, simply by confronting it head on.

By eating, a person nourishes his blood and adds to his bodily fats. By fasting, a person stops his blood and his fats from increasing. Both the blood and fats of a sacrificial animal are placed upon the Altar. Therefore, through the act of fasting, a person is regarded as if he sacrifices himself to Hashem.

The verse 7:37 “This is the Torah of the burnt-offering, to bring their sacrifices.” Man’s primary mission is to elevate all levels of creation mineral, vegetable and animal to the highest level, that of the “speaker” [i.e. man himself]. One who merits the level of “speaker” can bring forth all the good found in others by judging them favorably and elaborating on that good in articulated speech. Similarly, the sacrifices were meant to elevate creation by bringing mineral, vegetable and animal components upon the Alter to God. In the absence of the Temple sacrifices today, our Sages teach: “When a person studies the laws of the sacrifices, it is as if he has offered all the sacrifices” [Menachos 110a]. Thus, our speech has the power to elevate to God.

The Shem Mishmuel leads us to a discussion of the nature of accidental sin. Why does it happen at all? At a simple level, for example, a person forgets that it’s Shabbos or that a particular action is prohibited, and during this period of forgetfulness breaks a law of Shabbos.  Since his act was accidental, we treat him accordingly, obliging him to bring a chatas offering to atone for it.

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But why does this happen?  We may suggest that when a person accidentally sins, there is more to it than mere chance. In reality the person concerned has a strong desire to do a particular act but refrains from actually doing it because he knows that the Torah prohibits it. He doesn’t actually hate the idea of doing the act but his consciousness of God’s will prevails, holding him back from fulfilling his desires. This means that despite the fact that he is controlling himself, his desire for the act is creating a connection between his psyche and the deed. The consequence of this is that he is controlling himself, his desire for the act is creating a connection between his psyche and the deed.  The consequence of this is that while he would never consciously do the sin, when his guard is down, that is when he isn’t thinking, his reflex will be to do it. This is the true accidental sin one which he has a desire to do and controls, but when he isn’t mindful it just slips out.

The connection between the olah and the chatas should now be clear.  Quite unexpectedly, both are offered for sins for the mind, for inappropriate, sinful thoughts. In the case of the OLAH, the thoughts remained thoughts, but in the case of the chatas, they resulted in accidental sin. As such, the atonement for this is very similar. And, given that they are both sins of the mind they are both slaughtered in the north, which as we have seen, symbolizes the power of the intellect.

Shabbat Shalom

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