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 Parshas Tzav - Vol. 2, Issue 20

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

Parshas Tzav begins with the mitzvah of removing the ashes of the consumed sacrifices from the Altar. Although it was necessary in a practical sense to remove the accumulated ashes, why did Hashem actually make it a mitzvah to do so?

The Shelah HaKadosh explains that this mitzvah symbolically hints that after a person has repented and brought a sacrifice in the Beis HaMikdash to complete his atonement, his previous mistakes are forgotten and no longer mentioned. By requiring the Kohen to remove all physical reminders of his offering, the Torah teaches that from he is to be respected as any other upstanding Jew.  In fact, the Gemora teaches (Berachos 34b) that repented former sinners are able to stand on a higher level than even the completely righteous.

For the same reason, the Kli Yakar (6:9) writes that the Korban Asham and Chatas, which are brought to atone for transgressions, are referred to by the Torah as “Kodesh Kodashim” – the holiest of holies. The Gemora in Yoma (86b) teaches that a person who repents 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.”


Aish tamud tukad al hamizbeiach lo sich’beh (6:6)

            The Shelah HaKadosh writes in the name of Rav Moshe Kordovero that a person who is being troubled by sinful thoughts should repeat our verse, which will help him remove the forbidden ideas from his mind. He adds that it is clear that this remedy was revealed to Rav Kordovero by Eliyahu HaNavi himself, but in his great humility he chose not to disclose the source of his knowledge.

Rav Shimshon Pinkus suggests that while there are certainly mystical concepts at work, we may also attempt to understand the logical significance of this technique. The Ramban writes in one of his treatises (Drashas Toras Hashem Temimah) that the entire Torah consists of various Divine names, and every verse contains names relevant to the concept discussed therein.

For example, one of Hashem’s names which is associated with the revival of the dead is contained in the episode in which the prophet Yechezkel revives dry bones (Yechezkel 37:1-14). Similarly, the Mishnah Berurah writes (98:2) that the recitation of the verse (Tehillim 51:12) Lev Tahor b’rah li Elokim v’ruach nachon chadesh b’kirbee – create in me, Hashem, a pure heart, and renew within me a proper spirit – can be helpful in restoring purity of mind and heart.

Rabbeinu Bechaye writes (6:2) that the Korban Olah is burnt throughout the night because it comes to atone for inappropriate thoughts, which are most prevalent during the night. In light of this, it isn’t surprising that a verse discussing a sacrifice which effects atonement for impure thoughts also contains within it a special ability to ward them off!


Zeh korban Aharon u’vanav asher yakruv l’Hashem b’yom himashach oso … v’haKohen hamashiach tachtav mibanav 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) rules 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 Sfas 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, thereby 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. With this understanding, we may now offer a new insight into the special name of this Shabbos – Shabbos HaGadol. Some commentators explains that the word “Shabbos” comes from the root “Shav,” which means to return. Shabbos is a time when everything in creation returns to its source, 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 imminent 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.


V’zos toras zevach hashelamim 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 quotes a verse in Tehillim (50:23) zoveach todah y’chabdan’ni – one who brings a Thanksgiving-Offering honors Me. However, the Medrash notes that the word “y’chabdan’ni” – “honors Me” – is peculiarly spelled with a double “nun,” in lieu of the usual one. The Medrash cryptically explains that this anomaly is coming to teach that a person who brings a Korban Todah doubly honors Hashem, kavod achar kavod. What is the additional respect shown by this person who was saved from danger and is now bringing a sacrifice to express his gratitude?

            An insight into resolving this perplexing Medrash may be derived from a fascinating story recounted by the Meam Loez. The Ramban had a student who became deathly ill. Upon visiting his student, the Ramban quickly realized that there was unfortunately no hope for him. Realizing that his time was near, the Ramban asked his student to do him a favor.

            The Ramban explained that there were a number of questions which had been troubling him regarding Hashem’s conduct toward the Jewish people, who were suffering greatly. As he was deeply versed in the secrets of Jewish mysticism, he wrote for his student a kamea (roughly translated as amulet) full of Divine names. After his death, the student would be able, with the kamea, to ascend to a very lofty level in Heaven where he could ask the questions and return in a dream to tell his teacher the answers.

            Shortly after the student’s death, he appeared to the Ramban and explained that everywhere he arrived, he simply showed the kamea and was permitted to continue his ascent. However, when he finally reached his destination and began to ask the questions that he had prepared, everything became so crystal clear to him that there were no longer any difficulties needing resolution. With his newfound insight, it was immediately clear that any apparent suffering was, in the big picture, actually for the person’s good.

            With the lesson of this story, we can now understand an explanation given by the K’sav Sofer for our confusing Medrash. He 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 appreciation at having been placed in the situation to begin with. We would prefer never to have 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 a person 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. Suffering can effect atonement for misdeeds or bring in its wake unexpected good. It is incumbent upon the sufferer to feel and express appropriate gratitude.

Even if we aren’t yet able to see the good in a given situation, the knowledge that it is there and that we will eventually understand should give us the strength to persevere with faith and trust until the goodness is revealed.


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

            Although the Korban Todah is a type 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 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). What is the purpose of these unique laws?

            The Abarbanel and Netziv suggest that because of these laws, a person to whom a miracle occurred will have no choice but to invite friends to a special “seudas hoda’ah” – meal expressing gratitude – 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 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 is brought to thank Hashem for His miracles, we must also recognize that we are constantly surrounded by His miracles on a daily basis. In the daily prayers, we thank Hashem 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 a person brings a Korban Todah, he has become consciously aware of one of His miracles, but there are countless others to which he remains oblivious. The Torah requires the Thanksgiving Offering to be consumed in only one day 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)     The parsha begins with the mitzvah of removing the ashes of the consumed sacrifices from the altar (6:3-4). The Gemora in Yoma (22a) explains that initially, this service was done performed by whichever Kohen wanted to do it. If numerous Kohanim wanted to do so, they raced up the ramp to the Altar, with the service done by the first Kohen to get there. How were they permitted to race up the ramp when Rashi writes (Shemos 20:23) that it is forbidden to take wide steps when ascending the ramp? (Tosefos Yeshanim Yoma 22a, M’rafsin Igri)

2)     A Korban Chatas, which atones for a sin one actually committed, is partially consumed by the Kohen (6:19). A Korban Olah, which atones for sinful thoughts which didn’t come to fruition, is completely burned on the Altar. As doing a sin is worse than only thinking about it, why is the Korban Chatas more lenient in this regard than the Korban Olah? (Mishmeres Ariel)

3)     The Gemora in Berachos (54b) rules that a Thanksgiving offering is brought to express one’s gratitude at being saved from potential danger. Today, in the absence of the Beis HaMikdash, we are unable to bring a Korban Todah but instead publicly recite a blessing known as Birkas HaGomel. As women were required to bring a Korban Todah after being saved from danger, are they also required to recite Birkas HaGomel, and if not, why not? (Shu”t Halachos Ketanos 2:161; Magen Avrohom, Pri Megodim, and K’nesses HaGedolah Orach Chaim 219;Aruch HaShulchan Orach Chaim 219:6; Chai Adam 65:6; Ben Ish Chai Shana Rishona Parshas Eikev 5; Kaf HaChaim Orach Chaim 219:3; Ketzos HaShulchan 85:6; Shu”t Salmas Chaim 1:51 and 136; Chazon Ish quoted in Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 1:195; Bishvilei HaParsha)

4)     The shalsheles is the longest of the musical cantillations used to read the Torah and is incredibly rare, appearing only four times in the entire Torah. It is only used once outside of Sefer Bereishis (19:16, 24:12, 39:8), in 8:23 when the Torah relates that Moshe slaughtered the ram which completed the consecration services of the Mishkan. Why is it used here? (Binyan Shlomo, Taima D’Kra Parshas Vayeira, Imrei Deah)


Pesach Potpourri

Vay’tzav Paroh l’chol amo leimor kol ha’ben ha’yilud hay’orah tashlichuhu (1:22)

Rashi points out that whereas Pharaoh’s first decree was specifically directed against male children born to the Jews, this second order didn’t differentiate and was directed even against the Egyptian children. This was because Pharaoh’s astrologers foresaw that the Jewish savior would be born that day, but because he was born a Jew and brought up among the Egyptians, they were unable to discern whether he was Jewish or Egyptian. As a precaution, Pharaoh declared an across-the-board law ordering all children killed.

The Tosefos Rid and Mahar”i Bruna note that Onkelos, in translating the Torah into Aramaic, understood that the 2nd decree was also made only against the Jews. Where did Onkelos find a hint to his rendition, as Rashi points out that there seems to be no mention of it in the verse, and it also seems to contradict the Gemora in Sotah 12a on which Rashi’s comments are based?

Rav Simcha Sheps and Rav Meir Shapiro answer that there is no disagreement between Rashi and Onkelos. Onkelos was a convert to Judaism and was actually raised as a non-Jew. As such, he knew better than anybody that whatever laws the non-Jews and their governments enact, as much as they may seem to fair and non-discriminatory on the surface, are ultimately directed against the Jews. Onkelos would agree to Rashi that the words of Pharaoh’s actual edict were indeed directed even against the Egyptians. However, he was coming to hint that the translation and underlying motivation behind the ruling was, as even Rashi explains, solely directed against the Jewish people!


Vatishlach es amasa vatikacheha vatiftach vatireihu es hayeled v’hinei naar boche (2:5-6)

Upon descending to the river, Pharaoh’s daughter Bisyah heard a crying infant and immediately went to assist him and remove him from the river. Upon opening the basket, she noticed that the baby was crying. However, Rashi adds that although he was only 3 months old, Moshe’s voice was that of a youth. In what way was the voice of Moshe Rabbeinu, a 3-month-old infant, similar to that of an adolescent?

Rav Meir Shapiro explains that while both babies and teens cry, the difference between them is that an infant is only capable of crying over his own pain, while an older child is also able to shed tears over the suffering of another. Initially, Bisyah noticed Moshe abandoned in a basket near the river and assumed that his crying was a result of his own loneliness. After she picked him up and comforted him and he still continued crying, it became clear that his tears weren’t for his own pain but for the agony of his Jewish brethren, which was indeed the mature crying of a young adult who from a young age was able to share in the suffering of his fellow Jews.


Ki ch’vad peh uch’vad lashon anochi (4:10)

Moshe argued that he was unfit to serve as the redeemer of the Jewish people because he was heavy of mouth and heavy of speech. What is the difference between heavy of mouth and heavy of speech, which seems to be repetitive? Rabbeinu Chananel writes that the seemingly redundant expression indicates that Moshe was unable to pronounce letters which are said with one’s teeth (namely zayin, shin, reish, samech, tzaddi) nor those with are pronounced with one’s tongue (specifically, dalet, tes, lamed, nun, tav).

Based on this explanation, the Kesef Nivchar suggests an original understanding of Moshe’s request, “When the Jews ask what is the name of the G-d who sent me to redeem them, what shall I answer them?” Moshe was expressing his frustration over the fact that every one of Hashem’s names with which he was familiar contained at least one of the aforementioned letters which he was unable to pronounce. In other words, he was asking Hashem for an alternate name which he would be able to say clearly. Hashem therefore taught him the name (3:14) “Eh-keh,” which contains only letters that even the hard-of-speech Moshe could pronounce!

Lachein emor livnei Yisroel ani Hashem vhotzeisi eschem mitachas sivlos Mitzrayim (6:6)

Hashem instructed Moshe to say to the Jewish people that He will take them out from under the burdens of their suffering. Although the verse literally refers to Hashem taking out the Jews from under the burdens placed upon them by Pharaoh and their Egyptian taskmasters, the Chiddushei HaRim and the Kotzker Rebbe suggest an alternate reading which teaches a powerful lesson.

The same words which mean “the suffering caused by the Egyptians” can also mean “the patience to tolerate their life in Egypt.” As difficult as their life was in Egypt, they had grown accustomed to it and learned to cope. It represented the only stability they had ever known, and they didn’t even feel an intense desire to be redeemed and go free into the unknown. Hashem told Moshe to hint to the Jews that the first prerequisite toward their salvation was the creation of a willingness and desire to be saved.

The Medrash emphasizes the magnitude of the miracle required to redeem an entire nation from slavery in Egypt by recording that prior to the Exodus, not a single slave every successfully escaped from Egypt in all of its history. While the simple understanding is that this was due to an effective system of policing the borders, Rav Gedalyah Schorr suggests that it was due less to physical control and more to mind control. He posits that no slave ever escaped because none of them ever tried! Egypt had such an effective system of brainwashing the slaves and convincing them that life beyond the border offered nothing that they were currently lacking that they grew complacent and content with their existence.

After the Beis Halevi refused the initial offer he received to serve as Rav of Brisk, the town sent back messengers to inform him that 25,000 Jews of Brisk were anxiously awaiting his arrival at the train station, a message which caused him to change his mind and accept the position. Upon hearing this story, the Chofetz Chaim burst into tears and explained, “If the Beis Halevi couldn’t refuse 25,000 Jews eagerly anticipating his arrival, surely Moshiach can’t do so. His delay in coming can only be because we’ve grown so accustomed to our comfortable lives in golus (exile) that we don’t feel lacking and aren’t yearning for the final redemption!”


Ki y’dabeir aleichem Paroh leimor t’nu lachem mofes (7:9)

In challenging Moshe and Aharon, Pharaoh insisted that they provide a wonder to back up their threats and prove their abilities. Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein notes that throughout the generations, there has always been a need for Rabbis to know how to “provide signs” in their fights on behalf of Torah-true Judaism. When Rav Shimon Sofer, son of the Chasam Sofer, became Rav of one of the largest Jewish communities in Poland – Krakow – he was a mere 24 years old, and he understood the need to quickly assert his authority.

In his first public speech, he recounted that in the city of Pressburg, where his father served as Rav, one of the non-observant Jews dared to break with established tradition and began publicly opening his store on Shabbos. The Chasam Sofer sent two students from the yeshiva to warn the man to close his store, but he insulted them and refused to comply. When they were sent back a second time, he chased them away and threatened to attack them if they dared show up again.

When the Chasam Sofer instructed them to return a third time, they expressed fear for their well-being. He then taught them one of Hashem’s mystical names, instructing them that if the man threatens them, they should touch the nearest mezuzah while concentrating on this name. When the man saw them coming near, he indeed began to approach them menacingly. They quickly ran to the nearest mezuzah while focusing on the name that they had been taught, at which point the storekeeper dropped dead!

At this point, Rav Shimon Sofer dramatically looked around the room packed with congregants old enough to be his father or grandfather, and concluded that he was one of the two students, and he still remembers the name! Suffice it to say that from this point on his rulings were accepted with the awe normally accorded an older and more experienced Rav.


Zeh keili v’anveihu Elokei avi v’arom’menhu (15:2)

A well known Medrash (Yalkut Shimoni 244) states that the clarity of the revelation at the Red Sea was so great that even the lowest maidservant saw more than Yechezkel and Yeshaya, some of the greatest prophets ever. Why did they specifically refer to the accomplishments of the maidservants, and where is it at all hinted to that the maidservants indeed reached such levels?

The Vilna Gaon notes that the Mishnah in Bikkurim (1:4) rules that a convert must bring bikkurim (first-fruits) but does not read the verses that other Jews do when bringing bikkurim. The reason for this is that those verses refer to the enslavement of avoseinu – our ancestors – something which isn’t true of the convert’s great-grandparents, which should also be the case with regards to a maidservant.

Our verse may be split in two, with the first half referring to “my G-d” and the second half discussing “the G-d of my father.” Why the need to split the praises in two, and what is the significance of the switch from “my G-d” to “the G-d of my father?” It must be that the Jews said the latter praise and were therefore able to refer to the G-d of their ancestors, as per the opinion of the Mishnah in Bikkurim.

If so, we may conclude that the first phrase, which emphasizes the personal G-d of the speaker, was said by the maidservants who were unable to refer to their forefathers, and this phrase uses the expression “zeh” (this), which is always associated with a clear physical presence that one is able to point to. This is exactly the statement of the Medrash, that the maidservants saw Hashem so clearly as to be able to point to Him, a level which even the later prophets didn’t reach!


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

1)     Does a father who lives in America and observes 2 days of Yom Tov have a mitzvah to relate the story of the Exodus on the 2nd day of Pesach to his son who lives in Israel and observes only one (in the event that they spend Pesach together)? Is the law the same regarding a father who lives in Israel and observes only one day but has a son who lives in America and observes two?

2)     The Tur writes (Orach Chaim 417) that each of the three Biblical festivals is associated with one of the Avos, with Pesach corresponding to. What connections can you find between the two?

3)     As the Zohar HaKadosh states (Pinchas 232a) that Moshe merited to have the Shechina (Divine Presence) actually speak through his mouth, what difference did it make that his speech was impaired (4:10), and why did he feel that this rendered him unfit for the task? (Mishmeres Ariel)

4)     Why is the eating of chometz on Pesach punished (12:15) with kares (spiritual excision), a punishment not meted out for eating other prohibited foods?

5)     Why does the Torah relate in Parshas Bo the questions attributed in the Haggada to the wicked son (12:26) and the simple son (13:14) instead of beginning with the question of the wise son, which isn’t mentioned until much later (Devorim 6:20)? (Darash Moshe)

6)     The Mishnah Berurah rules (473:71) that when fulfilling one’s obligation to recount the story of the Exodus from Egypt on the night of Pesach (13:8), one should do so while sitting in an atmosphere of fear and awe and not while casually reclining. How can this be reconciled with the well-known episode recorded in the Haggadah Shel Pesach that 5 Torah scholars were reclining in B’nei B’rak while discussing the Exodus from Egypt? (Matamei Yaakov)

7)     Will the mourning period practiced during Sefiras HaOmer be observed in the Messianic era?

8)     The Gemora in Megillah (10b) relates that when the Heavenly angels saw the punishment being meted out to the Egyptians at the Red Sea, they desired to sing Hashem’s praises, but Hashem answered them, “My creations are drowning and you wish to sing!?” Why weren’t the Jews forbidden to sing the Shiras HaYam for this reason? (Taam V’Daas, Maharsha Berachos 9b)

9)     May one fulfill his twice-daily obligation to recall the Exodus from Egypt (Devorim 16:3) by reciting Shiras HaYam? (Magen Avrohom 67:1, Shu”t Chasam Sofer Orach Chaim 15 and Chiddushei Chasam Sofer to Orach Chaim 67, Chiddushei Rav Akiva Eiger Orach Chaim 67)

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