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Parshas Tzav - Vol. 10, Issue 23
Compiled by Oizer Alport
The Masoretic symbol at the end of Parshas Tzav indicates that there are "tzav" - 96 - verses in the parsha. My esteemed brother-in-law Rabbi Yonah Sklare of Baltimore points out that Parshas Terumah also contains "tzav" - 96 - verses. Both of these Torah portions revolve around the Mishkan and the Divine service performed therein. Parshas Terumah is followed by Parshas Tetzaveh, which continues to focus on this topic, and the name of which contains the root letters "tzav", which means "to command." What is the connection between the Mishkan and the concept of being commanded, which seems to be a recurrent theme in the Torah portions that discuss it?
The Beis HaLevi explains that in Parshas Ki Sisa, when the Jewish people incorrectly concluded that Moshe had died (Rashi Shemos 32:1), they were distraught by the lack of an intermediary to lead them and help them come closer to Hashem. They yearned to build a place for the Divine presence to rest amongst them to fill the void left by Moshe's perceived death. If their intentions were so noble, what was their mistake, and why did their plans go so awry?
The Beis HaLevi explains that each mitzvah contains within it deep, mystical secrets that have tremendous effects in the spiritual worlds when performed properly. The Jewish people erred in thinking that if they discovered the mystical concepts behind a mitzvah, they could perform it based on their understanding, even without being commanded. Although their intentions were commendable, they lacked the Divine assistance which only comes from performing Hashem's will, and the tragic result of their misguided efforts was the sin of the golden calf.
Chazal teach (Shemos Rabbah 51:8) that part of the purpose of the Mishkan was to atone for the sin of the golden calf. In what way did it do so? As the Beis HaLevi explained, the root of the sin of the golden calf was the Jews' attempt to do something that Hashem did not command them to do. As such, the ultimate rectification of this sin is to completely subordinate oneself to fulfilling Hashem's dictates. The construction of the Mishkan and the Divine service performed therein contained countless elements that were far beyond the comprehension of the Jewish people, yet they meticulously adhered to every detail of Hashem's instructions even when they did not understand the rationale behind them, and this itself constituted the atonement for the golden calf. With this introduction, Rabbi Sklare explains that it is now quite clear why so many of the Torah portions that discuss the Mishkan emphasize the theme of being commanded, both in the names of the portions and in the number of verses that they contain. Although every mitzvah is by definition a fulfillment of one of Hashem's commandments, the Mishkan is unique in that the scrupulous adherence to Hashem's instructions was an integral component of the Mishkan's purpose in serving as an atonement for the sin of the golden calf.
My cousin Shaya Gross z"l adds that although we each have mitzvos that we naturally understand and enjoy, there are other mitzvos that don't come as easy and can sometimes feel burdensome. The lesson of the Mishkan is that we must strive to completely subordinate ourselves to Hashem, and to perform all mitzvos, even those that we struggle to understand, with the identical zeal and enthusiasm.
A Korban Olah (Elevation-Offering), which atones for sinful thoughts, is completely burned on the Altar. On the other hand, a Korban Chatas (Sin-Offering), which atones for a sin that a person actually committed, is partially eaten by the Kohanim (6:19). This seems counterintuitive. Since doing a sin is worse than only thinking about it, why is the Korban Chatas more lenient in this regard than the Korban Olah? Shouldn't their treatment be reversed, with the sacrifice brought by somebody requiring atonement for an actual transgression completely offered to Hashem and forbidden in human consumption, while the offering of somebody who merely thought about sinning is split between the Kohanim and the Altar?
Rav Shmaryahu Arieli answers based on the teaching of the Gemora (Yoma 29a) that paradoxical as it may seem, sinful thoughts are considered even worse than actual sins. However, this begs the question: Why in fact is this the case?
Rav Arieli answers this question based on the Gemora's explanation for another seemingly counterintuitive law. The Torah requires a thief who steals an object secretly to repay double the item's value, whereas an armed robber who brazenly confronts his victim is only obligated to pay the value of the item that he stole. Why is the Torah harsher with the cunning thief who doesn't interact with his target than with the robber who traumatizes his victim? The Gemora in Bava Kamma (79b) explains that this is because the undetected thief demonstrates greater fear of other humans, whom he doesn't want to see him stealing, than he does of Hashem, Whose presence during his crime doesn't faze him. On the other hand, the bold and unabashed robber shows that he is equally unafraid of Hashem and of people. Because the thief who steals secretly shows such lack of concern for Hashem, he is punished more harshly.
Similarly, Rav Arieli suggests that a person who sins only in the confines of his mind is comparable to the cunning thief, as he demonstrates that he is afraid for other people to see him sinning, but it doesn't concern him that Hashem is aware of the sins in his mind, while a person who commits a sin is analogous to the robber who openly steals from his victims, as he is equally unafraid of Hashem and of other people who witness his sin. Therefore, just as the cunning thief receives a greater punishment for fearing other people more than Hashem, so too must the offering which atones for sinful thoughts be completely burned, in contrast to the Sin-Offering, which may be partially eaten by the Kohanim.
In the beginning of Parshas Tzav, the Torah commands us to ensure that a permanent fire burns on the Altar, and adjures us to prevent it from being extinguished. The Medrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 4:17) adds that this obligation applied even when the Jewish people were traveling in the wilderness. What was the purpose of requiring a fire to burn on the Altar while the nation was in transit?
Rabbi Chaim Zvi Senter posits that the flame on the Altar represents the fire of spirituality that burns within every Jew. In ruling that the fire must continue burning on the Altar even while traveling, the Medrash is also symbolically teaching us that even when we are in a state of flux, we must take care to ensure that our internal fire for Divine service remains lit and does not become extinguished.
Rabbi Senter adds that Parshas Tzav is traditionally read just before Pesach, at a time when people often go away to family or hotels for Yom Tov, and when yeshiva students are on bein ha'zmanim (intersession). Even those who are not physically travelling still have different schedules and responsibilities than they are accustomed to. At such times, when we are out of the comfort of our familiar routines, we should remain cognizant of our obligation to keep the spiritual fire within us burning bright.
1) The Mishnah in Avos (5:5) teaches that there were ten miracles which occurred in the Temple. One of them was that the rains never extinguished the perpetual fire which was constantly burning on the Altar (6:6). Instead of miraculously sustaining the fire even as rain fell on it, why didn't Hashem simply cause that rain should never fell on that location? (Ruach Chaim)
2) A Kohen was required to bring a Korban Mincha on the day that he was inaugurated and first served in the Temple (6:12-16). The Gemora (Horayos 12b) rules that in addition to bringing this offering on the day of his anointment, the Kohen Gadol was also required to offer this sacrifice every day of his tenure. Why was he required to bring this offering every day? (Abarbanel)
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 2:16; Magen Avrohom, Pri Megadim, and K'nesses HaGedolah Orach Chaim 219; Aruch HaShulchan Orach Chaim 219:6, Chai Adam 65:6, Shu"t Teshuvos V'Hanhagos 1:195, Bishvilei HaParsha)
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