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Parshas Tzav

V’heirim es ha’deshen asher tochal ha’aish es ha’olah al ha’mizbeach … v’hotzee es ha’deshen el mi’chutz l’machaneh (6:3-4)

            Our parsha begins with the mitzvah of removing the ashes of the consumed sacrifices from the altar. The Shelah HaKadosh quotes Rav Menachem HaBavli as explaining that this mitzvah symbolically alludes to the fact that after a person has repented and brought a sacrifice in the Beis HaMikdash to complete his atonement, his previous mistakes are to be forgotten and no longer mentioned. By requiring the Kohen to remove all physical reminders of his offering, the Torah teaches us that from now on he is to be respected as any other upstanding Jew, as the Gemora teaches (Berachos 34b) that repented former sinners are able to stand on a higher level than even the completely righteous who never sinned to begin with. For the same reason, the Alshich HaKadosh and Kli Yakar (6:9) write that the Korban Asham and Chatas, which are brought to atone for transgressions, are referred to by the Torah as “Kodesh Kodashin” – the holiest of holies – as the Gemora in Yoma (86b) teaches that a person who is motivated to repent for his sins out of love for Hashem will have his misdeeds not just erased but turned into merits. Although the perfectly righteous are considered “holy,” the extra merits accrued through proper repentance transform a sacrifice ostensibly associated with sin into something even greater, “the holiest of holies.”


Zeh korban Aharon u’vanav asher yakrivu l’Hashem b’yom hi’mashach oso … v’hakohen ha’mashiach tachtav mi’banav ya’aseh osah (6:13-15)

            The Torah describes the special meal-offering to be brought by every Kohen on the occasion of his beginning to perform the Temple service. The Gemora in Horayos (12b) relates that in addition to bringing this meal-offering on the day of his anointment, the Kohen Gadol was also required to bring this sacrifice every day of his tenure. The S’fas Emes posits that the difference between the Kohen Gadol and a regular Kohen is that the Kohen Gadol is required to refresh and symbolically re-inaugurate himself on a daily basis, thus necessitating his daily offering of this sacrifice.

            Based on this explanation, the Ohr Gedalyahu suggests that we may derive from the Kohen Gadol that part of the definition of the word “Gadol” – greatness – is renewal. If so, we may now offer a new understanding into the special name of this Shabbos – Shabbos HaGadol. There are those who write that the word “Shabbos” comes from the root “Shav”, which means to return, as Shabbos is a time when everything in creation returns to its source, thus rendering it specifically suited for renewal. In particular, this Shabbos corresponds to the time when our ancestors separated their sheep for the Korban Pesach and began to prepare for their redemption. As the physical world parallels the spiritual, and our world begins to rejuvenate and herald the coming of spring, Shabbos HaGadol represents a unique opportunity to begin our own personal spiritual rebirth.


U’kli cheres asher t’vushal bo yishaveir (6:21)
L’fi she’ha’blia she’nivla’as bo na’aseh nosar v’hu ha’din l’kol ha’Kodashim (Rashi)

            The Torah requires that an earthenware vessel in which a sacrifice is cooked must be broken. Rashi explains that this is because particles from the sacrifice become embedded in the walls of the earthenware, and after the passage of a day and a night, the taste of those particles – which would enter any offering to be subsequently cooked inside this vessel – becomes known as “nosar” and is forbidden. However, Tosefos in Avodah Zara (76a) points out that this is difficult to understand according to the opinion of Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam, who maintain that after the passage of one night, the taste of food absorbed in a utensil goes bad and is therefore Biblically permitted in consumption. If so, why does the Torah require the earthenware vessels to be broken?

            Rav Yosef Shaul Nathanson beautifully answers based on a Mishnah in Avos (5:5), which relates that one of the ten miracles which occurred in the Beis HaMikdash was that the meat of the sacrifices never spoiled. The particles which remain overnight in the walls of the vessel become “nosar” and their consumption is prohibited, and because their taste is miraculously retained without spoiling, it would indeed cause anything cooked inside to become forbidden even Biblically, and there is therefore no choice but to break it!


V’zos Toras zevach ha’shelamim asher yakriv l’Hashem im al todah yakrivenu (7:11-12)

            The Gemora in Berachos (54b) rules that a Thanksgiving offering is brought by four groups of people to express their gratitude at being saved from potential danger: one who recovered from a serious illness, one who was released from prison, a person who traveled through the desert, and one who crossed the ocean. Today, in the absence of the Beis HaMikdash, these individuals are unable to bring a Korban Todah but instead publicly recite a blessing known as Birkas HaGomel. It is peculiar to note that after hearing another person recite a blessing, we answer simply, “Amen,” with one exception. After hearing somebody say Birkas HaGomel, we respond: “Amen, mi sheg’malucha kol tov hu yig’m’lucha kol tuv selah” – He who has given you all good should continue to bestow upon you all good), something we find in no other place.

            The Gemora in Shabbos (53b) relates an interesting episode. The wife of a certain poor man passed away shortly after giving birth to a child. The man didn’t have the means to hire a nurse-maid for his newborn, who surely would have died if not for a miracle in which the father’s body was transformed and became capable of nursing the baby, thus saving its life. The Amora Rav Yosef praises the man, saying he must surely have done great deeds if he merited such an open miracle. Abaye, on the other hand, remarks how lowly the man must have been that he needed a miracle performed on his behalf. In the introduction to his book, the Shalmei Nedorim explains that Abaye’s intent is not to say that the man is wicked, as after all he did merit the performing of such an extraordinary miracle. Rather, Abaye is lamenting the fact that the man used up so many of his merits as a result (see Rashi Bereishis 32:11).

With this understanding, he beautifully explains that Birkas HaGomel is recited after one has been saved from illness or other potential danger. While we are happy that the person making the blessing survived, we are also afraid that it may have come at the cost of whatever merits he may have accumulated until now, so that a simple “Amen” won’t suffice, and we must add a special supplication requesting that the good should continue and not be depleted through this miracle.


V’zos Toras zevach ha’shelamim asher yakriv L’Hashem im al todah yakrivenu (7:11-12)

            In connection to our verses, which discuss the laws of the Korban Todah, the Medrash (Vayikra Rabba 9:2) quotes the verse (Tehillim 50:23) zove’ach todah y’chab’dan’ni – one who brings a thanksgiving-offering honors me. However, the Medrash notes that the word “y’chab’dan’ni” – “honors me” – is peculiarly spelled with a double “nun,” in lieu of the usual one, and cryptically explains that it is coming to teach that a person who brings a Korban Todah doubly honors me, “kavod achar kavod.” What is the additional respect shown by this person who was saved from potential danger and is now bringing a sacrifice to express his gratitude?

            The K’sav Sofer explains that human nature is that after we are miraculously saved from peril, we express our gratitude to Hashem for watching over us and rescuing us from danger. However, we certainly don’t feel instinctive appreciation at having been placed in the situation to begin with, as we would clearly prefer to have never been placed in the line of danger than to have been exposed to death and rescued from it. To counter this, the Medrash comes to teach us that the Torah’s philosophy is that one who brings a Korban Todah is required to express double gratitude – not only for his salvation, but also for being exposed to the perilous situation from which he was rescued. Although it may not have been clear to him at the time, and may still not be apparent at the time of his bringing his sacrifice, he is nevertheless expected to recognize that the suffering itself was ultimately for his benefit, either to effect atonement for his misdeeds or bringing in its wake good that he has yet to recognize, and to feel and express appropriate gratitude.


Al chalos lechem chametz yakriv korbano al zevach todas sh’lamav … u’basar zevach todas sh’lamav b’yom korbano yei’acheil lo yaniach mimenu ad boker (7:13-15)

            Although the Korban Todah is considered to be a variety of Korban Shelamim, some of its laws differ. In contrast to a regular Korban Shelamim which may be eaten for two days and one night, the Torah prescribes that the Korban Todah must be consumed in only one day and one night. Additionally, it is accompanied by forty loaves, ten each of four different types (7:12-13).

            The Abarbanel and Netziv suggest that upon learning these laws, a person to whom a miracle occurred will have no choice but to invite friends and relatives to a special “seudas hoda’ah” – meal expressing gratitude – in order to assist him with the overwhelming task of consuming such a massive amount of food in such a short period of time. Upon arriving, they will surely query him about the reason for the gathering, and he will proceed to relate publicly the events of his wondrous salvation. Through the unusual laws governing the Korban Todah, the Torah indirectly brings about a publicizing of Hashem’s miraculous ways and a sanctification of His Holy Name.

            Alternatively, the Imrei Emes suggests that while the Korban Todah comes to thank Hashem for His miracles, we must simultaneously recognize that we are constantly surrounded by His miracles on a daily basis. In the daily prayers, we thank Hashem “v’al nisecha sheb’chol yom imanu v’al nifl’osecha sheb’chol eis erev va’voker v’tzaharayim” – for Your miracles which are with us daily, and for Your amazing acts and kindnesses which are with us always, morning, afternoon, and night. When we bring a Korban Todah, we have become consciously aware of one of His miracle, but there are countless others to which we remain oblivious. The Torah therefore requires the Thanksgiving Offering to be consumed in only one day in order to remind us that tomorrow there will be new miracles for which we must be grateful!


Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1)     Rabbeinu Bechaye writes (6:2) that a bridge and groom used to bring a Korban Todah. The Gemora in Berachos (54b) rules that a Thanksgiving offering is brought by four groups of people to express their gratitude at being saved from potential danger: one who recovered from a serious illness, one who was released from prison, a person who traveled through the desert, and one who crossed the ocean. In what way were the bridge and groom in danger, and for what reason do they bring a sacrifice regarding which they seemingly have nothing in common with the other groups which are required to bring it? (Taam V’Daas)

2)     Rabbeinu Bechaye writes (6:2) that the 13 types of sacrifices brought in the Beis HaMikdash correspond to the 13 Attributes of Hashem’s Divine Mercy. How many of them can you name?

3)     The Medrash states (Vayikra Rabba 9:7) that all sacrifices will be nullified in the Messianic era except for the Korban Todah. The Gemora in Berachos (54b) rules that this offering is brought as an expression of gratitude at being saved from potential danger. If so, how will it be applicable at a time when all will dwell in peace and tranquility?

4)     The Torah forbids (7:18) one to consume a sacrifice which was rendered “pigul” by the person performing the blood service intending to eat or offer the sacrifice after its appropriate time. Must the person actually say that this is his intention, or does it become disqualified even if he merely thinks that he will do so? (Mishneh L’Melech Hilchos P’sulei HaMukdashin 13:1 D.H. Shalosh Mach’shavos and Gilyonos Rav Akiva Eiger there, Chasam Sofer Chullin 37b, Aruch L’Ner Kerisos 2b, Sfas Emes Zevachim 29b)

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