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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland

Parshas Tzav

The Kohen shall don his fitted linen tunic, and he shall don linen breeches on his flesh. (6:3)

The Kohen was to wear vestments made of "bad" - linen. Linen grows from the ground in individual stalks, similar to human hair. Rabbeinu Bachya explains that the individualistic nature of each grain signifies the concept of achdus, unity. They reflect an inner harmony, a unified essence. As the grandson of Aharon, the Kohen serves as the paradigm of unity. Aharon HaKohen was the "oheiv shalom v'rodef shalom," one who loved peace and pursued peace." He reached out to his fellow man to generate inner peace by bringing him closer to Torah.

Horav Mordechai Miller, Shlita, notes that the Torah also refers to these vestments as "Bigdei Lavan," white vestments. Other than the fact that the natural color of flax/linen is white, is there any other significance to the "color" of these vestments? He cites the first pasuk in Sefer Devarim, in which the Torah refers to the geographical location at which Moshe rebuked Klal Yisrael. "These are the words that Moshe spoke to all of Yisrael, on the other side of the Jordan, concerning the wilderness, between Paran and Tofel and Lavan..." Rashi says that there is no place that is named Tofel or Lavan. He contends that both words are references to the complaints about the manna: Tofel is a derivative of tiflus, deprecation or slander; and Lavan, white, is the color of the manna. Moshe reproached them for their complaints about the "white" bread from Heaven. In his commentary on Chumash, the Avnei Nezer offers a profound rationale for the manna's white color. White is the color that contains within it all of the colors of the spectrum. It is missing nothing. One was able to experience every taste within the manna. Thus, the manna was white, reflecting its unified character.

White is the color of unity, representing total harmony. It is the color of peace, worn by the Kohen, the representative of Klal Yisrael, when he performs the service in the Bais Hamikdash. Teshuvah, repentance, is a journey into oneself, into one's inner being. Teshuvah is the search for the chelek Elokai Mimaal, the component which is a part of Hashem Above, the neshamah, soul. One attains the apex of teshuvah when he reaches the point at which he is in total harmony with himself. The Navi Yeshaya says, "If your sins will be like crimson, they will become white as snow." Teshuvah is a process in which one "whitens" himself as he achieves total inner unity and peace.

White symbolizes simplicity because it includes all colors. It needs nothing else, because it has everything. One who has found that inner light, that white light, needs nothing. He is in perfect harmony with himself and with the Almighty. Horav Miller cites the Talmud in Kesubos 17a in which it states that when Rabbi Dimi came from Bavel to Yerushalayim he said, "Thus they sing before the bride in the west, no powder and no paint, and no waving of the hair, and still a graceful gazelle." The greatest beauty is that which does not need outer enhancements. True beauty shines forth from within.

The Kohen Gadol would enter the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, clothed in simple Bigdei Bad - Bigdei Lavan, white linen vestments. This was the zenith of his service, the most sublime moment of his year - and he was dressed in simple white garments. He represented the entire Jewish people - unified together in teshuvah and tefillah, prayer. All focused together on this one day towards one goal, one G-d. This was his avodas Yom Ha'Kippurim, a goal to which we should all aspire all year.

This is the law of the elevation-offering, the meal-offering, the sin-offering, and the guilt-offering; and the inauguration-offering and the feast peace offering. (7:37)

The Midrash notes that the Korban Shelamim, Peace-offering, comes at the end of the sequence of korbanos. This implies that peace is of supreme significance, for it reconnects man with his Maker, with his fellow-man, and with his own conscience. Horav Eliyahu Munk, zl, explains that peace is neither a simple fact of creation nor a part of natural law. It is not a pacifistic doctrine to which one must adhere even at the expense of sacred principles. Peace is not, as some would suggest, a compromise of values and ideals; rather, it is a sense of harmony in which everything fits together. Peace requires constant effort to overcome the challenges and conflicts that would undermine universal harmony. Shalom, peace, therefore, appears at the close of our most significant prayers: Shemoneh Esrai, Kaddish, Bircas Hamazone.

In Meseches Derech Eretz Zuta, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi contends that peace is like leavening in the dough; it gives rise to movement and progress within society when society is in such discord that it cannot function. We have only to study history to see the veracity of this statement evidenced.

Take Aharon and his sons with him...He poured from the oil of anointment upon Aharon's head...Moshe brought the sons of Aharon forward. (8:1,12,13)

Hashem commanded Moshe to sanctify and induct Aharon and his sons into the Kehunah, Priesthood. Hashem chose Aharon and his four sons - Moshe's brother and his four nephews - over everyone to serve in the holy Priesthood. We can understand why some people might question the choice of Moshe's close relatives. Let us understand why Amram and Yocheved merited to have such special children and grandchildren: Moshe, Aharon and Miriam and their offspring who stood at Klal Yisrael's helm. What was their unique zechus, merit? Why was Aharon selected to be Kohen Gadol and progenitor of the Kehunah? We can go one step further: Does a contemporary Kohen possess a quality that he inherited from his great ancestor, Aharon, that is not to be found in his counterpart among the Levi or Yisrael?

Horav Avigdor Halevi Nebentzhal, Shlita, explains that it is based upon chinuch, education. Two elements comprise education: self-education; and educating others, such as children and students. When we refer to education, we traditionally refer to the act of infusing others with knowledge, both scholarly and moral knowledge. The idea of self-education is, for the most part, exclusively for the Torah-oriented milieu. Simply put, for one to be -- or to seek to be -- educated, there has to be either a teacher or someone who will inspire him to change his present pattern of behavior. It just does not happen automatically. Why would anyone undertake a lifestyle that runs counter to everything he had previously believed in, unless he was blessed with the capacity to realize that the Torah is the blueprint for life through which one can attain perfection?

We now ask ourselves what is more important, self-education or educating others? One major difference distinguishes the two; the success factor is not dependent upon the education, but rather on the student, his diligence, determination and desire. On the other hand, one who places his focus on self-education has the teacher for a student. Thus, the success factor is dependent upon himself. One should, therefore, be aware that the role he serves as educator to others is secondary to his own personal education. Students leave after awhile; even children grow up and out. The student who is very close to his teacher is only there for a good part of the day - but never always. One's own education is never-ending. The truly devoted student, who never leaves, who is always being infused with knowledge, is none other than oneself.

It would, therefore, make sense that one should expend all of his efforts on behalf of the perfect student, the one who will study under him twenty-four hours a day, throughout his entire life - himself! Indeed, common sense would demand that one should exhaust his entire efforts on self-education. Regrettably, that is just not the case. We find excuses to divest ourselves of this responsibility. We have time for ourselves - but we must address the problems at hand. How can I spend time on my personal self-growth when my child needs me? Furthermore, we find it easier to educate others than to work on ourselves. Parents from the finest homes seek rebbeim, tutors, for their children; they go to all lengths to provide for the educational development of their children, while ignoring their own spiritual and academic growth.

They are missing the point. They fail to realize the most basic premise in education. One must first be mechanech, educate, himself, before he can inspire others. Why is it that in the secular world the concept of continuing education has received positive response, but as parents who are preparing the next generation, we ignore our responsibility for self-growth? One who seeks to inspire others, to inculcate in his children and students Toras Hashem, must prioritize his time and use it effectively for his own learning. An inextricable bond exists between father and son, generation to generation, that is transmitted. If the color of one's eyes and other physical features are passed down through generations, should not spiritual features be likewise transmitted?

We have no idea of the incredible impact that one generation has on the next. Indeed, an ancestor's character trait, regardless how minute, will span generations and appear as an inherent component in a descendant's personality. Horav Nebentzhal cites a number of instances throughout Tanach which demonstrate this principle. We will cite two instances in Chazal which clearly indicate this reality. In the Talmud Shabbos 23b, Chazal teach us that he who loves the rabbis will have rabbis for sons; he who honors the rabbis will have rabbis for sons-in-law. Chazal are teaching us that the love a father manifests for Torah scholars is an emotion that is not only heartfelt; it is an innate part of one's personality which is translated into action even generations later as his offspring develop this same love for rabbis. One who gives honor to Torah scholars evinces a natural admiration for them, to the point that his daughter feels the same way. By her very nature, she becomes predisposed towards marrying a talmid chacham, because it is part of her psyche. Every heartfelt virtue possessed by the parent is transmitted to their offspring!

There is another instance of this type of "bequest" that is remarkable. In the Midrash Tanchuma, at the end of Parashas Ki'Setze, we are taught the source of Amalek's incredible strength and hold over our people. Indeed, the Zohar Ha'Kodesh writes that the most difficult battle prior to the advent of Moshiach was the battle with Amalek in the wilderness, immediately after Klal Yisrael left Egypt. Moshe Rabbeinu had to call upon his spiritual reservoir to defeat Amalek. Wherein lay Amalek's power? What virtue did he have that nearly overwhelmed Moshe? It was Timnah, his mother, the pilegesh, concubine of Elifaz, Eisav's son, who had a holy spark that was nurtured in the end and stood guard over Amalek. She sought to be accepted by the Patriarchs. They determined that she was not fit for Am Yisrael. While that was certainly true, there was a tiny, minuscule glimmer of sanctity in her request. This spark protected her and grew remarkably until it became a staggering force. Klal Yisrael's battle with Amalek was a battle of spirit against spirit.

Let us now reflect: If a spark of kedushah, embedded in tremendous forces of impurity, can have such an effect on many generations later on, how much more so are we able to imbue our offspring with our positive qualities?

Moshe did as Hashem commanded him; and the assembly was gathered. (8:4)

The Kotzker Rebbe, zl, once interpreted this pasuk satirically. We see from here that Moshe first followed Hashem's command, fulfilling everything that was asked of him. It is only afterwards that the people assembled before him. Regrettably, today we assemble before some of our "spiritual" leaders before they have proven their devotion to Torah and mitzvos. Being a spiritual leader carries with it specific and demanding criteria, the most significant of which is adherence to Torah and mitzvos. Tragically, some of us are not that demanding of our spiritual leaders. Perhaps, we feel that if we limit our expectations of them, they will likewise not be very demanding of us.

Moshe took the oil of anointment... he anointed the Altar, and all its utensils, and the laver and its base in order to sanctify them. (8:10.11)

Moshe anointed Aharon and his sons, as he inducted them into the Kehunah. He also anointed all of the holy utensils that were used in the Mishkan. The process of anointing elevated the utensils to a level of sanctity in accordance with their function in the Mishkan. It makes sense that a ladle, that heretofore had been a piece of metal and now would be used to accept the blood of korbanos, would need to be prepared and sanctified for its new station. There seems to be a demand for all vessels to be anointed - even those that did not serve in such a significant capacity. The Kiyor, Laver, for instance, was used by the Kohanim to wash their hands and feet prior to performing the avodah. In this case, the subject of the anointing was not a vessel that was used for actual service, but rather as a basis for the service. It is a preparation for the actual avodah. Yet, it needed to be anointed. We infer from here that even the foundation of the service must go through the ritual of anointing as a preliminary for the service.

If it would stop with the Kiyor, we would posit that the foundation for the service also must go through a process of hachsharah l'kedushah, preparation for sanctity. What are we to say, however, to the fact that the Laver's base was also anointed? The base served no function other than having the Kiyor rest upon it. Why was it anointed? Horav Avigdor Halevi Nebentzhal, Shlita, derives from here a profound lesson in avodas Hashem, serving the Almighty. Everything - even the yesod ha'yesodos, foundation of foundations - connected with avodas Hashem, must be pure and holy. Even the preparatory vessels must be sanctified - no element may be overlooked. Rabbi Chiya would plant flax to make traps, to capture deer, from which he would prepare the parchment upon which he wrote the Torah that he would teach Jewish children. Is that not an extreme? He sought to teach us that even the hachanah, preparation, must be totally imbued with kedushah from its very beginning. Every step of the way, every aspect of this Torah, must be holy from its most initial stages through its most profound study and observance. The Hebrew word hachanah is a derivative of the word "kan" basis, foundation. The hachanah must go so far that even the substructure is permeated with kedushah. This applies to every aspect of sanctity, be it Torah study, mitzvah performance, or the "mundane" aspects of Torah life, such as organizations and institutions. Everything must be "al taharas ha'kadosh," pure and holy.


1. Is there a problem if the Kesones does not fit the Kohen?

2. a. How often was the Terumas Hadeshen performed?

b. How often was the Hotzoas Hadeshen performed?

3. How much of the Levonah was offered on the Mizbayach?

4. What difference is there between the Korban Minchah of a Kohen and that of a Yisrael or Levi?

5. What difference is there between a Korban Todah and a Korban Shelamim?

6. Is the blood of fish permitted?


1. Yes. It must fit perfectly.

2. a. It was performed daily.

b. When it was necessary, i.e. if there was too much ash. 3. The entire amount was burnt.

4. The minchah of a Kohen does not have Kemitzah, and the entire minchah is burnt on the Mizbayach. The minchas Yisrael has Kemitzah, and part of the korban is eaten by the Kohanim.

5. For the Korban Todah, 40 loaves are brought along with the korban. The korban may be eaten only for a day and a night. For the Korban Shelamim, no loaves are brought. It is eaten for two days and a night.

6. Yes.


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