Torah Weekly - Parshat Tzav

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Parshat Tzav

For the week ending 18 Adar II 5760 / 24 & 25 March 2000

  • Summary
  • Insights:
  • Lions Of The Soul
  • Haftorah Parshat Parah
  • A New Heart
  • Love of the Land
  • Nebi Samuil (Tomb of the Prophet Shmuel)
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    The Torah addresses Aharon and his sons to teach them additional laws relating to their service. The ashes of the korban olah -- the offering burnt on the altar through the night -- are to be removed from the area by the kohen after changing his special linen clothing. The olah is brought by someone who forgot to perform a positive commandment. The kohen retains the hide. The fire on the altar must be kept constantly ablaze. The korban mincha is a meal offering of flour, oil and spices. A handful is burned on the altar and a kohen eats the remainder before it becomes leaven. The Parsha describes the special korbanot offered by the kohen gadol each day, and by Aharon's sons and future descendants on the day of their inauguration. The chatat-korban brought after an accidental transgression is described, as are the laws of slaughtering and sprinkling the blood of the asham guilt-korban. The details of shelamim, various peace korbanot, are described, including the prohibition against leaving uneaten until morning the remains of the todah, the thanks-korban. All sacrifices must be burned after they may no longer be eaten. No sacrifice may be eaten if it was slaughtered with the intention of eating it too late. Once they have become ritually impure, korbanot may not be eaten and should be burned. One may not eat a korban when he is ritually impure. Blood and chelev, forbidden animal fats, are prohibited to be eaten. Aharon and his sons are granted the breast and shank of every korban shelamim. The inauguration ceremony of Aharon, his sons, the Mishkan and all of its vessels is detailed.




    "He (the kohen) will separate the ash." (6:1)

    July 1956. Saturday afternoon. A taxi leisurely turns off Dizengoff Street. Close up on the taxi driver's face. He is wearing a blue baseball cap.

    Driver: "They went to their deaths like sheep. They asked their Rabbis, "Rabbis -- should we run away to Israel or should we stay here in Europe? And you know what those great rabbis said? (Puts on fake Yiddish accent) "Don't leave! Don't go to Israel! Here, your life is in peril. But in Israel, your souls will be in peril. Jews there drive down Dizengoff on Shabbes afternoon! You're better off here in Poland."

    The driver chuckles, pleased with his own joke. He thinks for a second.

    "So I ran away in 1937. I came here. I got a job as a taxi driver. I used to be religious but I gave it up here. Those poor fools are now ashes and I'm alive and driving down Dizengoff on Shabbes.

    The picture freezes on the face of the driver.

    Dissolve. We hear Shostakovitch's String Quartet no. 8. A large hearse is seen leaving a graveyard. Cut to a freshly filled-in grave in the mid-distance. Hanging on the grave marker is a blue baseball cap. The camera tracks backward. All around are grave-stones. The camera keeps tracking back through what seems to be like hundreds and hundreds of identical gravestones. Suddenly, the camera stops and slowly tracks in, lingering on one of thousands of identical stones. At the top of the gravestone there is a carving, six pieces of barbed wire arranged in a Star of David. The camera moves downward. We read the inscription: "For one of the Six Million, a place in the earth for someone whose ashes are blown on the four winds."

    No one gets out of here alive. We all make our exit one way or another. The question is what we do during our brief stay here. We can live like heroes and die like martyrs, with the name of G-d on our lips. We can live for our beliefs, for the sake of religion and our people. We can die like Jews and because we are Jews.

    Or we can shorten our names, shorten our noses and vanish into the background. Either way, we all end up in that same room waiting before our cases come up in the "Supreme Court." There, we will reflect on what we did, and on what we didn't do.

    The world sees our martyrs as lambs to the slaughter. We see them as gigantic heroes of the soul. Heroes who never allowed their fiendish enemies the pleasure of seeing them falter in their trust in G-d's ultimate justice. Heroes who, with the worst imaginable horrors staring them in the face, never slackened in the observance of their faith. They were quick to do the Will of their Father in Heaven. And in death they are not separated from Him.

    Marching to the "showers," one great rabbi cautioned his students that no impure thought should enter their minds so that they might be a pure offering, an atonement for their brothers and sisters who would live on in Israel and in America.

    "Who is like Your people Israel, one nation in all the world?"

    If we live on today, it is because of them. Our lives are founded on the ashes of the millions. They gave their most precious gift to us. Even though they never met us. They were not sheep. They were lions of the soul.

    "He will separate the ash..."

    The first service of the day in the Holy Temple -- that on which the service of the rest of the day was built -- was the terumat hadeshen. The kohen took ashes from the innermost part of the altar and placed them on the floor next to the altar. These ashes came from the incinerated flesh of the previous day's offerings.

    Every day the kohen would perform this service, placing the ashes at the base of the altar. And, miraculously, the ash would be swallowed by the ground around the base of the altar. In other words, the ashes, became part of the altar on which that service was performed.

    Today's service of G-d is built on yesterday's service. A Jew serves G-d today with his life as willingly as ultimately he is prepared to serve Him with his ashes.

    • Rabbi S. R. Hirsch
    • Rabbi Zev Leff

    Haftarah Parshat Parah

    Yechzkel 36:16-38


    This year, accompanying Parshat Tzav is the haftarah of Parshat Parah, the third of the four special Parshiot.

    Just as Parshat Parah concerns the laws of spiritual purity, so too its haftarah contains the words "and I will sprinkle upon you the waters of purity." Its prophecy consoles the exiled Jewish people, relating to the reasons of the exile and to the future restoration and establishment in the Land of Israel. In the future, spiritual purity, together with a "new heart and new spirit," will be bestowed from above upon those who return to the Torah.


    "And I will remove the heart of stone from within you and give you a heart of flesh." (36:26)

    When a person transgresses against the Torah, he actually harms himself; his suffering soul introverts within his conscience, his feelings become numb and his emotions phlegmatic. This state not only hinders spiritual elevation but lures him to deepen his depression with additional sin. This is the meaning of the statement "a sin motivates a sin," (Pirkei Avot 4:2) as the spiritual harm caused by the first decision to sin strengthens his desire for future sin.

    Our Sages compared this situation to a thirsty sailor drinking salt water; the more he drinks the more he thirsts.

    Nevertheless, when a person is determined to return to the Torah path, Hashem removes his heart of stone and furnishes him with a new, sensitive heart of supple flesh, enabling him to embark on a new beginning.

    Love of the Land
    Selections from classical Torah sources
    which express the special relationship between
    the People of Israel and Eretz Yisrael


    When the prophet Shmuel passed away he was buried in Ramah (Shmuel I 28:3). Tradition has it that his tomb is marked by the large building with a spire which the Arabs called Nebi Samuil, Arabic for Shmuel the Prophet.

    During the Six-Day War the Jordanians shelled Jerusalem from a military installation near this tomb. Not far from the tomb is the large Ramot section of Jerusalem which was built after the war.

    The Crusaders had another name for the area -- Mount of Joy -- which expressed their delight in catching from this high spot their first glimpse of Jerusalem.

    The recovery of this sacred site from the hands of the Arabs has enabled Jews to resume their age-old custom of visiting the tomb of this great prophet and praying there.

    Love of the Land Archives

    Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
    General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
    Production Design: Michael Treblow

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