Parshas Tzav – Shabbos Hagadol 5778
Sacrificing with Diligence and without Delay
“צו את אהרן ואת בניו לאמר זאת תורת העולה” (ויקרא ו:ב)
“Command Aharon and his sons saying this is the law of the burnt offering” (Vayikra 6:2)
The language of “command” was said only regarding the burnt offering. Why is this so?
Now, it would appear that it would be fitting to use the word “command” regarding all the sacrifices, for every sacrifice demanded exacting, diligent and quick effort, especially considering the fact that we are dealing with Hashem’s holy service. Therefore, we can suggest that the language of “command” stated regarding the burnt offering applies equally to all sacrifices and was only mentioned regarding the burnt offering for it is the first sacrifice mentioned in the Parsha.
Rashi comments here that the wording “צו” / “command” is used as an urging to the Cohanim to do the service quickly, without delay. Rebbi Shimon said the Torah needs to urge the Cohanim especially here regarding the burnt offering, for it is wholly burnt on the alter leaving no meat for the Cohanim in return for their efforts!
Now, from Rebbi Shimon’s explanation it appears that he too holds that the word “command” should be stated by each and every sacrifice, for there are numerous laws regarding each of the sacrifices whose fulfillment demand exacting knowledge and precise and quick-paced effort. Some of these laws are checking the animal for blemishes, slaughtering it, collecting and transferring its blood to the alter, sprinkling the blood on the alter, burning the organs of the animal, removing the ashes from the fire, etc. Only, Rebbi Shimon says that it is especially appropriate to “command” regarding the burnt offering for the Cohanim receive absolutely no benefit from it, as mentioned above, and this can lessen the diligence of the person doing the service.
Even though the sages have said (Shabbos 20a) that the Cohanim are always diligent in their service, they have said as well (Makos 23a) that it is only worthwhile urging those who are nevertheless diligent on their own. In addition, we can suggest that the reason that the Cohanim are so diligent is because the Torah explicitly urged them to be so.
The Sacrifice Most Beloved in Hashem’s Eyes
“זאת תורת העולה” (ויקרא ו:ב)
“This is the law of the burnt offering/sacrifice” (Vayikra 6:2)
Regarding the burnt offering which is offered twice daily it is written (in posuk 5) “והאש על המזבח תוקד בו לא תכבה ובער עליה הכהן עצים בבקר בבקר וערך עליה העולה והקטיר עליה חלבי השלמים” / “And the fire on the alter shall burn on it and shall not be extinguished and the Cohen/Priest shall burn on it wood each and every morning and shall arrange on it the burnt offering and sacrifice on it the fats of the shlamim/complete offerings”. Chazal (Pesachim 58b) derived from the above posuk that the burnt offering is the very first offering to be sacrificed in the morning after the fire is arranged on the alter, and as well it is the very last sacrifice to be offered at the end of the day. What can we learn from these words of the sages?
One possible answer is that the order of the sacrifices is not meant for the benefit or in praise of the burnt offering but in order to teach us about the standing of all the other sacrifices. That is, the burnt offering, as its name implies, is completely consumed (see Vayikra 1:9, Shmuel I, 7:9), and the fact that all other sacrifices are offered between the morning and the late afternoon burnt offerings teaches us that just as the daily offering is offered completely to Hashem without any benefit to the Cohanim, so too the other sacrifices, such as the sin-offering where the Cohanim are given a portion of its meat and even the complete-offering where the one who brought the sacrifice is also given a portion of its meat, are considered to have been sacrificed completely to Hashem – similar to the burnt offering!
In a similar vein, the Gaon, Rabbi Moshe Sternbach shlita explains (in his sefer Ta’am Veda’as) that the first tithe of farmed produce is called תרומה / Trumah, which means uplifting, and not הפרשה / Separation, to teach us that when a person tithes his produce he is not only separating the tithe from it but he also “uplifts” the remaining part of the produce along with it as well. So too here, even though only the burnt offering is offered totally to Hashem, since it contains within it all the other sacrifices, it is considered as though those sacrifices as well have been offered totally to Hashem! This is similar to the concept that mitzvos were not given to derive pleasure form in this world (Eruvin 31a).
We learn from here as well that the daily sacrifice is especially beloved to Hashem! And so we find that when Hashem, so to say, opens up the heavens in the morning and allows the sun to shine on the earth, he sees only the daily sacrifice, as it is the very first sacrifice offered in the morning. And when Hashem, so to say, closes down the day at sunset, He sees only the daily sacrifice which is the last offering of the day to be sacrificed, making it look as though He sees only the daily offering!
This endearment for the daily sacrifice is seen as well and even more explicitly in Parshas Pinchas where its written“את קרבני לחמי לאשי ריח ניחוחי תשמרו להקריב לי במועדו… שנים ליום עולה תמיד” / “My sacrifice, My bread, for My offering, My pleasant fragrance, you shall guard to offer me in its time… twice daily, the day burnt offering” (Bamidbar 28:2-3). From the fact that Hakadosh Baruch Hu calls the daily sacrifice “His sacrifice”, the Torah reveals to us that it finds more favor in His eyes that all the other offerings which are sacrificed by His command and to His name!
What is so special about the daily sacrifice that it is so beloved to Hashem?
Simply speaking, we can say that it is because the korbon is always offered before Hashem without missing even a single day, and this faithfulness is greatly “appreciated” by Hashem.
Alternatively, we can suggest that the answer lies in that which the Torah states at the end of the section regarding the daily sacrifice“עולת תמיד העשויה בהר סיני” / “the daily burnt offering sacrifice which is made at Mt. Sinai” (Ibid. 28:6). We must ask, why does the posuk state that the daily sacrifice was made at Mt. Sinai? Were not all the sacrifices and all the mitzvos given at Mt. Sinai!? In addition, we must ask, why does it say “made” and not “given” at Mt. Sinai!?
We can suggest, with Hashem’s help, that the posuk is hinting to us that the Torah which was given to the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai was afterward implanted in the mitzvah of the daily sacrifice, so that the offering of the daily sacrifice causes a reawakening of the Jewish people’s acceptance of the Torah at Sinai!
According to the above explanation, we can answer as well why the posuk says “העשויה בהר סיני” / “made at Mt. Sinai” and not “מצווה בהר סיני” / “commanded at Mt. Sinai, and why it mentions Mt. Sinai at all! That is, for the posuk is not merely referring to the individual law of sacrificing the burnt offering but to the fact that a covenant was made between Hashem and His people at Mt. Sinai!
Possibly, from this reason, the daily burnt offering is divided into two; one korbon is brought in the morning and one in the late afternoon, hinting to the covenant between Hashem and His people, for it is the custom of two parties who enter into a covenant with each other that they take an animal and divide it into two and then pass between the two parts (as Rashi explains in Bereishis 15:10). And this reminds Bnei Yisrael daily of their covenant with Hashem; ie. Teaching us that it is as relevant today and every day as the day it was given at Sinai. From this reason, the daily offering is so beloved to Hashem!
An additional reason for Hashem’s great love for the daily offering is that it houses within it five laws, unlike other sacrifices.
(1) It is sacrificed completely to Hashem,
(2) It is sacrificed daily, even on Shabbos and Yom Tov, unlike any other korbon,
(3) It is sacrificed in the morning and in the late afternoon,
(4) The first offering is sacrificed before all the other sacrifices,
(5) The second offering is sacrificed after all other sacrifices.
From these laws we learn as follows:
(1) It being completely consumed teaches that one should rid himself of all personal interests when preparing to sacrifice a korbon, having only Hashem’s command in mind,
(2) The fact that it was sacrificed daily teaches the characteristic of faithfulness,
(3) That the korbon was divided into two teaches of the mida/characteristic of humility and acceptance,
(4) The fact that it was sacrificed before all the other sacrifices teaches one to be diligent and quick in his avodas Hashem,
(5) The fact that the afternoon korbon was the last korbon sacrificed teaches that one should complete a mitzvah upon beginning it.
All this comes to teach us that a person who has the above five characteristics is beloved to Hashem! In short, these traits are:
(1) To be humble,
(2) To fulfills Hashem’s command without expecting any material gain,
(3) To be faithful,
(4) To work diligently and quickly,
(5) To complete any mitzvah he has begun. Our sages have learned this obligation from Devorim 8:1 (see there in Rashi).
A person who contains all the above traits is beloved in the eyes of Hashem and is called “קרבני לחמי לאשי ריח ניחוחי” / “My sacrifice, My bread, for My offering, My pleasant fragrance”!
Pillars of Avodas Hashem/Service of G-d
“ולבש הכהן מדו בד ומכנסי בד ילבש על בשרו” (ויקרא ו:ג)
“And the Cohen/Priest shall wear (the priestly garments) according to his size and pants he shall wear on his flesh” (Vayikra 6:3)
Rashi explains that “מדו בד” / “garments according to his size” is referring to the priest’s robe and teaches us that he shall dress in a robe according to his size. “על בשרו” /”on his flesh” teaches us that nothing should separate between his garment and his skin.
Now, Rashi’s explanation that “על בשרו” is teaching us that there shall be no separation between his garment and his skin teaches a law that the Cohen has to follow. However, his explanation that the Cohen should only wear a garment which fits him is hard to understand, for does the Holy Torah go out of its way to teach people how to dress!?
To answer this question, we can suggest that the Torah is teaching us here that just as it is prohibited to do the service in the Beis Hamikdash when there is something separating between his flesh and his garment, so too it is prohibited for the Cohen’s garment to be too large, for the outer folds may serve as a barrier between him and his service.
From the fact these these two laws are derived from the same posuk teaches us that each law is to be extended to the other garments as well. Afterwards, I saw that so wrote Rabbeinu Bechaye in the name of the Sifra.
In addition, we can suggest that the wording “מדו בד” / “garments according to his size” teaches us that the Cohen is obligated to fulfill his holy work as required; not to do more than is required and not less than is required. That is, the measurements of his garments are meant to “fit” the measurements of his actions. And, although it appears as though this requirement is included in the posuk“את כל הדבר אשר אנכי מצוה אתכם אותו תשמרו לעשות לא תוסף עליו ולא תגרע ממנו” / “All of the thing that I command you, you shall guard to fulfill it, don’t add to it and don’t detract from it” (Devorim 13:1), the above-mentioned posuk only prohibits one to add a section onto a mitzvah, as Rashi explains, that is forbidden to add a fifth section in Tefillin, a fifth species in the mitzvah of Lulav, or an additional section to the priestly blessing; or to omit a part of the mitzvah, whereas here the Torah is only urging the Cohen to fulfill his obligations with exactness, diligence and speed! For instance, to sacrifice in the correct time, in the right order of korbonos, with the right intention regarding the place of the sacrificing, the place and time of its eating, to sacrifice with speed and exactness, to be proficient and diligent in the receiving of the blood of the korbon, bringing it to the alter, the sprinkling of the blood on the alter, bringing the right parts of the sacrificed animal to be burnt on the alter, removing those sacrifices which were wrongly placed there, removing the ashes to the side of the alter, etc. Even though the Cohanim are diligent in their work (Shabbos 20a) the Torah only urges diligent people to be even more diligent (Makos 23a).
That law of “ומכנסי בד ילבש על בשרו” / “and cloth pants he shall wear on his flesh” which teaches us that there may not be a separation between his pants and his skin, on a deeper level is hinting that the Cohen should first examine his traits and his deeds before he approaches his service making sure that he has not committed even a small sin, and if he has, to immediately correct his ways and return to Hashem before he begins his service.
The wording of “מדו בד” / “garments according to his size” which teaches that the Cohen should wear clothes which fit him, hints to the Cohen to be aware of his true level in avodas Hashem and not attempt to perform his service according to a level beyond his, and as well not to perform below his capabilities. In addition, the wording “על בשרו” / “on his flesh” teaches that the Cohen should connect his body to his soul and as he climbs spirituality, so that his consideration of his bodily needs and involvements should follow the lead of his spiritual actions.
In summary, a Cohen, and similarly each and every Jew who aspires to climb the ladder of Hashem’s service, should approach his service with the following four traits which are learned from our Parsha: (1) To guard oneself from sin, (2) To act diligently and speedily in the performance of the mitzvos, (3) To act according to his true level and abilities, and (4) To act as a complete person with his bodily needs and involvements following the lead of his soul and good deeds. A person who strengthens himself in these four traits is sure to put himself on the path of true spiritual growth!