Weekly Reading Insights: Tzav 5765


Overview of the Weekly Reading: Tzav

To be read on 15 Adar II 5765 (March 26)


Torah: 6:1-8:36; Haftorah: Jeremiah 7:21-83; 9; 22,23

Tzav is the 2nd Reading out of 10 in Leviticus and 25th overall, and 38th out of 54 in overall length.

Tzav focuses on the Tabernacle offerings. The parsha begins by describing the service done with the ashes of the burnt offering. This is followed by the laws of the meal offering, the high priest's offering, the laws of the sin offerings, guilt offerings, and peace offerings. The portion then discusses the priests' portion of the offerings and the installation of the priests into their service.


From the holy Zohar, teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Z:25-65/Tzav)

Now the reason that [the fire of the Altar] should not go out is so that its power and force should not be weakened in order that it should [still be able to] break the power of that other evil force [and drive it out] from the world. Thus the phrase: "...do not extinguish." (ibid.)

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed (A:24-65/VaYikra)

Thus, the individual has the power to determine to which chariot's influence he submits himself, the holy one or the impure one. All this, nonetheless, applies only to the superficial, [i.e. animal soul], for the inner [divine soul] is always entirely holy.

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From the Shelah, Shney Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (S:25-65/Tzav)

This altar represents the celestial Altar, just as the Tabernacle represents the celestial sanctuary, G-d's residence in Heaven. This is the reason why this legislation commences with the term "Command!", impressing the urgency and need for precision when fulfilling the commandments of the priests.

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"This is the Torah (law) of the burnt offering ("ola," lit. "which ascends"), which shall be burning upon the altar." (6:2)
The great Chasidic masters explained: What kind of Torah learning truly ascends on high? That which "burns upon the altar" - Torah that is studied with a burning and fiery enthusiasm. Nonetheless, the mem of the word "mokda" (altar) is smaller than the other letters, to teach us that our ardor must be inwardly contained and not demonstrated outwardly beyond a tiny light.
(Otzar Chaim)


from the Chabad Master series, produced by Rabbi Yosef Marcus for

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org


The Midrash (Mishlei 9:2) teaches: "All the festivals will be annulled in future time, except for Purim." The future revelation of Divinity will be so intense that the revelation currently evinced by the festivals will be as insignificant as a midday candle. Purim, however, will be the exception, because the Purim miracle was called forth by the year-long self-sacrifice of the Jewish people of that time. (They could have averted Haman's decree by apostasy.) Their self-sacrifice evoked a Divine reaction so sublime that even in the future time it will never be annulled.

(Sefer HaMaamarim 5626, p. 34)

[Reprinted with permission from L'Chaim Magazine (www.lchaim.org).]

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:25-65/Tzav)

A few months ago, on January 2nd, 2005, in connection with the tsunami disaster, the Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the Anglican church, shocked his millions of followers when he wrote an article entitled, "Of Course This Makes Us Doubt G-d's Existence". Using expressions like "shaken faith" and "how can a benevolent G-d make people suffer?" he made some suggestions. Still, he caused confusion and created an international debate searching for answers of how to react to tragedy.

The Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks galvanized the entire world and elicited admiration with his immediate response and call for a massive charity campaign. Opening with the words, 'Jews read the Bible differently', and quoting Maimonides, he wrote the following:

"Natural disasters have no explanation other than that G-d, by placing us in a physical world, set life within the parameters of the physical. Planets are formed, earthquakes occur, and sometimes innocents die. To wish it were otherwise is in essence to wish that we were not physical beings at all.

Then we would not know pleasure, desire, achievement, freedom, virtue, creativity, vulnerability and love. We would be angels, G-d's computers, programmed to sing His praises. The religious question is therefore, not 'why did this happen?', but rather 'what should we do?'

The religious person's response is not to seek to understand and thereby accept. We are not G-d. Instead, we are the people He has called on to be His partners in the work of creation. The only adequate response is to say, "G-d, I do not know why this disaster has happened, but I do know what you want of us: to help the afflicted, comfort the bereaved, send healing to the injured and aid those who have lost their livelihood and homes. We can not understand G-d but we can strive to imitate His love and care." Not only did Rabbi Sacks guide millions with his words, he made the Jews of Britain proud to be Jewish.

We find a similar message to act in this week's portion. As human beings, we are faced with innumerable apparently inconsequential actions on a daily basis. What do they mean? What are their purpose? How do they fit into the divine plan?

The priests in the Temple had a myriad of important tasks to perform in their service of G-d. Among these, was the task of to 'raise up the deshen'-ashes from the offerings-'and to place them next to the altar'. With so many important tasks, why was cleaning out the ashes so important that it could not have been done by someone else other than a priest?

Rabbi Tzvi HaKohen of Riminov, explains that deshen is a waste product of the sacrifices. In fact, the three Hebrew letters of the word-dalet, shin, and nun - hint to an expression, 'dvar shelo nechshav'-something inconsequential. The deshen teaches us to elevate everything to G-d, even those things that appear to us as unimportant, and place it by the altar, making it holy.

Where do we have to do this the most? With actions that are considered reshut- something that is not a divine commandment but not a sin either. For example, reading a novel or an extra piece of cream pie or spending a few minutes shmoozing with a friend.

Rabbi Tzvi HaKohen suggests, as does Rabbi Sacks, that nothing is outside the realm of holiness. It is up to us to make everything in our lives either a mitzva or not. With this knowledge we will know how to act.

Tying all this in with Purim, we see that Queen Esther took decisive action in saving the Jewish people. While Mordechai urged the Jewish people to fast, pray, and study Torah, and thereby aroused G-d compassion for His people, Queen Esther took a proactive stance on a personal level. She put her neck on the line, and actually created the forum for Haman's downfall and the Jews' battle over their enemies.

Esther did not ignore the plight of her people (with her identity a secret, she herself would have been spared), nor did she wallow in despair over the tragic decree. She devised a plan of action that subsequently led to the salvation of thousands of people. May we learn from Esther and seek out ways to actively make this world a
G-dly place, even in the places and deeds that seem most devoid of holiness.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

P.S. Please also read my weekly Shabbat Law, below.)

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