Back to Parsha homepage Peninim on the Torah Previous issues
Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland

Parshas Tzav

Command Aharon and his sons, saying: This is the law of the (Korban) Olah, elevation offering. (6:2)

Chazal attribute the use of the more emphatic form of introduction, um, "command", to the laws of the Korban Olah, to the urgency of the matter. The Torah exhorts the Kohanim to be especially zealous in performing the Olah service, now, as well as in future generations. The reason for this special emphasis is the monetary loss incurred by the Korban Olah. Chazal offer a number of explanations for this monetary loss. The most common explanation is that nothing remains for the Kohanim after the rest of the Olah is burned on the Mizbayach. Although they receive the hide, it hardly constitutes sufficient compensation. While the Kohanim certainly do not serve in the Mikdash specifically for any financial remuneration, they do share in the meat of the other korbanos. The drawback of the Korban Olah is that is provides nothing for the Kohanim. They are, therefore, encouraged not to permit their possible feelings of discontent to affect their performance.

Horav Elyakim Shlesinger, Shlita, offers a practical and timely interpretation for this emphasis. Korabanos is not the only mitzvah that demands our financial contribution. Many mitzvos cost money. What about tefillin, lulav and esrog, etc.? Obviously it is not the actual expenditure that nags at us, but rather the fact that we lay out money and receive nothing material in return. While tefillin and esrog may be on the expensive side, at least we are purchasing something substantive. The cheftza d'mitzvah, actual object of the mitzvah, is something tangible that we feel belongs to us. To the bystander who looks with eyes of flesh, the sight of an animal being placed upon the Mizbayach and completely devoured by flames can be somewhat disheartening. He might feel he is not receiving a return on his money. He spends a small fortune to purchase an animal, only to have it all go up in smoke! This is why it is essential for one to maintain a high standard of emunah, trust in the Al-mighty, that the spiritual return will compensate for the material outlay.

The greatest "return" for a person's money is the knowledge that he has performed the will of Hashem. This is the optimal exchange for one's money. The words of Torah are more valuable and more endearing than thousands in gold and silver.

Indeed, this problem exists until this very day. How often do we find people inclined to contribute heartily towards a building or a plaque emblazoned with their name to be displayed publicly? Yet these same people do not respond as enthusiastically when they are asked to contribute towards the less "exotic" tzedakos, such as helping a poor person, supporting a talmid chacham, or just donating towards an organization that does not accord the contributor public adulation and fanfare. The Torah recognizes the need to encourage tzedakah, especially when the contributor does not necessarily "see" his reward.

This is the law of the (korban) Chatas, Sin-Offering; in the place where the (korban) Olah, Elevation-Offering is slaughtered shall the Sin-Offering be slaughtered. (6:18)

The Torah teaches us that we are to slaughter the Korban Chatas in the same place as the Korban Olah--in the northern part of the courtyard. In the Yerushalmi Yevamos 5:3, Chazal comment that the purpose of slaughtering the Olah in the same location as the Chatas is to minimize the publicity that might follow the sinner who seeks to repent and offer his contrition. The Korban Olah was not necessarily brought for any sin or wrongdoing, but rather as a gift to Hashem, especially if one had inappropriate thoughts that left him feeling guilty. Since one rarely escapes sinful thoughts, offering a Korban Olah is not really a humiliating experience. The Chatas, on the other hand, is a reflection of sin, albeit inadvertent. Consequently, someone who notices his friend offering a korban might conceivably conjecture that he was offering an Olah. Horav Epstein, zl, the author of the Torah Temimah, cites the Talmud Sotah 32, where Chazal say that the "quiet" Shemoneh Esrei was established in order that no one should hear his friend saying Viddui, the confession of his sins.

The Torah's concern for the feelings of all people, even a sinner, is absolutely awesome. Entire halachos are rendered simply to help the sinner to cover up his error. There is one stipulation, however. This law applies only to the one who seeks penance, whose contrition and good sense inspire him to perform teshuvah and offer a sacrifice to Hashem -- or to someone who confesses his sins during Shemoneh Esrei. Obviously, the one who remains resolute in his iniquity, unmoving in his sinful behavior, does not deserve and will not receive any special treatment. The Torah makes its stipulation only for the one who deserves it--the broken-hearted, repentant sinner.

Any (korban) Chatas from which some blood has been brought to the Ohel Moed, to effect atonement within the Holy shall not be eaten; it shall be burned in fire. (6:23)

Horav Raphael Katz, zl, the author of the Marpé Lashon, infers a profound lesson in avodas Hashem, service to the Almighty from this pasuk. There are instances during a man's spiritual growth when, with all good intention, he attempts to "jump the gun" and ascend to a higher spiritual plane for which he is not yet ready. A man must build upon a solid foundation of spiritual development. Otherwise, everything he has done--even his previous accomplishments--will lose its integrity. He proves his thesis from the fact that if a Korban Chatas is offered inside the Heichal, the blood is invalid and will not atone. Furthermore, the laws concerning blood which is sprinkled inside the Azarah are more stringent than those concerning blood which is sprinkled outside the Azarah. If one were to accept the blood in two cups and one was inadvertently sprinkled outside of the Azarah, the remaining cup remains acceptable for use. If, however, one of these cups was sprinkled inside the Heichal, the second cup is rendered invalid. Entering into an area where the sanctity is greater is worse than entering outside to a place of decreased sanctity.

The same idea applies to people. If a person "wanders" outside of the perimeter of kedushah and commits an aveirah, sin, he does not forfeit all of the Torah and mitzvos that he has accumulated. The good that he has done remains his just like the two cups of the blood of a Sin-offering; if one is sprinkled outside the perimeter, the remaining one maintains its holiness. If a person, on the other hand, attempts to go where he does not belong, he risks losing everything.

Who is a greater example than Ben Azzai, who was one of the four tannaim that entered the Pardes and lost his mind? He went to a place not accessible to everyone, and he paid dearly for it. This can be compared to one who stuffs himself with food to the point that he regurgitates everything he had eaten earlier.

How important is this lesson in contemporary times when everyone seeks to outdo his friend in the area of spirituality! One's spiritual growth should be systematic, building upon a strong foundation of commitment and observance. One should not attempt to ask questions in those areas from which he is adjured to stay away. Likewise, one should not philosophize in areas which are beyond his realm of understanding. Then, he will grow me'chayil el chayil, from strength to strength, increasing his spirituality at a pace commensurate with his personal level of achievement.

This is the law of the (korban) Olah, Elevation-offering, the (korban) Minchah, Meal-offering, the (korban) Chatas, Sin-offering. (7:37)

In the Talmud Menachos 110, Chazal comment that one who studies Torah does not need to bring a Korban Olah, Minchah, or Asham. The Torah study in itself serves as a vehicle for atonement. The Kotzker Rebbe, zl, once said, "I thought I would have chassidim who would not listen to the enticements of the yetzer hora, evil inclination, not because they would not want to, but rather, because they would be so involved in Torah study they simply would not have the time to listen!" This may be the underlying message of our pasuk. One who studies Torah will have no need for the korbanos to atone for his actions, since he will not have the opportunity to do anything inappropriate.

How true are the Rebbe's words. If we look around, we would better appreciate the truth of his statement. When people have spare time, they tend to get into trouble. Boredom leads to troublesome situations. Torah study is the panacea which not only prevents the sin, it also atones for it.

Moshe said to Aharon...Cook the meat at the entrance to the Ohel Moed...As I transmitted the command: Aharon and his sons are to eat it. (8:31)

We may note that Moshe Rabbeinu addresses Aharon in the third person, although he is speaking directly to Aharon. Horav S.R. Hirsch, zl, attributes this discrepancy to the fact that during the seven days of Milluim, Moshe did not function in his usual capacity as transmitter of the law. Rather, he acted as the Kohen Gadol. Moshe appears to Aharon and his sons as the Rabbon Shel Yisrael, the quintessential teacher and transmitter of the law, only in regard to this eating of the Ayil Ha'milluim and its bread. This set the tone for the future, when the Kohen Gadol as well as all his colleagues were to subordinate themselves to the Torah and its disseminators. The essential position of the Kohen is the execution of the Torah's dictate, rather than the study of it. The student of Torah stands in a class by himself, unattached to ancestry or tribe. Indeed, Chazal's dictum in the Talmud Horiyos 13a , declaring that "a mamzer talmid chacham, illegitimate child who is a learned scholar, takes precedence over an unlearned Kohen Gadol," characterizes the distinction between the Jewish priest and the student of Torah. The Kehunah is not a hierarchy, but rather a spiritual presence with an important function. No one however, takes precedence over the talmid chacham.

Horav Hirsch distinguishes between the respective functions of the Kehunah Gedolah and the Bais Din. The Kohen Gadol has no authority. Interpretation of Torah law is not a priestly role. In the Bais Hamikdash, he is the people's agent for effecting atonement via the medium of korbanos. In actual life outside the walls of the Bais Hamikdash, the Kohen Gadol stands on the same plane as the simplest Jew in relation to the Torah.

This, claims Horav Hirsch, shatters the myth of a Jewish hierarchy in which the Kohanim are considered the nobility of the Jewish people. During the course of Jewish history we do not find that the authority of the Kohanim exerted that much influence. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the teachers and rabbis who were non-Kohanim shaped and guided our nation. Indeed, those Kohanim who were influential stood out only as a result of their personal qualities and erudition.

Ostensibly, the Torah expects that those who serve in the Bais Hamikdash to be men of virtue, proficient in all aspects of Torah. They represent the nation; they have no land to tend that would distract them from spiritual matters; their inheritance is in Hashem. They are, consequently, expected to develop into scholars with a profound knowledge of Torah, a deep commitment to its observance, and a spirit that reflects their conviction. Their demeanor should be a credit to the first Kohen, Aharon, who was an oheiv shalom v'rodef shalom, as men who truly loved and pursued peace.


1. A) How often was the mitzvah of terumas ha'deshen performed?

B) How often was the mitzvah of hotza'as ha'deshen performed?

2. Was every Korban Minchah mixed with oil?

3. In which portion of the Mizbayach is the Korban Chatas slaughtered?

4. A) What was unique about the flour offering that accompanied the Korban Todah?

B) To which other offering did this apply?

5. What was different about the Korban Chatas that was offered during the seven days of Milluim?

6. What happened to the shok of the Korban Shelamim brought during the seven days of Milluim?


1. A) Terumas ha'deshen was performed daily.

B) Hotza'as ha'deshen was performed only when the accumulated ashes at the center heap of the Mizbayach had grown large enough to warrant their removal.

2. No. Neither the Minchas Choteh offered as atonement for a sin nor the Minchas Sotah brought by a woman suspected of infidelity had oil mixed into it.

3. North side

4. A) For other korbanos, the accompanying flour offering was matzoh, while the Korban Todah included loaves of bread as well.

B) Shtei Ha'lechem

5. It was the only Chatas brought upon the Mizbayach Ha'chitzon whose flesh, skin, etc. was burnt outside the machaneh, rather than being eaten by the Kohanim.

6. It was burnt upon the Mizbayach, rather than being given to the Kohen to eat.

Shema Yisrael Homepage

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.
For information on subscriptions, archives, and other Shema Yisrael
Classes, send mail to

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel