FROM THE TORAH
Although the offerings have been classified and described in preceding sedras, this sedra provides a climax in appreciating the service that will be provided through Aaron and his sons. It includes a detailed description of their ordination by Moses on the first of seven days of their consecration.
Instruction of the Priests
PROVISION OF INSTRUCTION
The Eternal tells Moses to charge (Tsav) Aaron and his sons with instruction regarding the placement and handling of offerings.
INSTRUCTION FOR BURNT OFFERING
The burnt offering shall remain at the place of its burning upon the Altar all night until morning, and the fire of the Altar shall remain burning upon it. The priest’s garment shall be of linen, as shall be the breeches next to his body, and he shall take up the ashes of the burnt offering from the Altar and place them next to the Altar. Then he shall change his clothes and bring the ashes to a pure place outside of the camp.
The priest shall burn wood upon the Altar every morning and arrange the burnt offering upon it. He shall turn the fats of the peace offerings to smoke. The fire that is upon the Altar shall be maintained and not be allowed to go out.
INSTRUCTION FOR MEAL OFFERING
The sons of Aaron shall present the meal offering before the Eternal in front of the Altar. A fistful of its fine flour and of its oil shall be taken from it, along with all of the frankincense which is upon the meal offering, and it shall be turned to smoke upon the Altar, a pleasant aroma, its token, for the Eternal. Aaron and his sons shall eat the remainder as unleavened cakes in a sacred place, in the courtyard of the Tent of Meeting. It shall not be baked with leaven.
I have granted it as their portion from my fire offerings. It is most holy, like the sin offering or like the guilt offering. Any male among the children of Aaron may eat it, an everlasting statute throughout your generations. Anything that touches it shall become holy.
INSTRUCTION FOR ANOINTMENT OFFERING
The Eternal instructs Moses on the offering of Aaron and his sons on the occasion of Aaron’s anointment. A tenth of an ephah of fine flour, a regular meal offering, half of it in the morning and half of it in the evening, shall be prepared on a griddle with oil, well mixed; bring it as a meal offering of pieces, with a pleasant aroma for the Eternal. It is a whole offering. Turn it entirely into smoke. It shall not be eaten. This practice shall be continued as an everlasting statute for all successors of the anointed priest.
INSTRUCTION FOR SIN OFFERING
The Eternal tells Moses to impart instruction to Aaron and his sons regarding the sin offering. It should be slaughtered in the place where the burnt offering is slaughtered before the Eternal. It is most holy. The priest who offers it shall eat it, within the courtyard of the Tent of Meeting. Whatever touches its flesh shall become holy. Any part of a garment that receives its blood shall be washed in a sacred place. If the meat was boiled in an earthen vessel, the earthen vessel must be broken; if in a copper vessel, the vessel must be scoured and rinsed with water.
Any male among the priests is qualified to eat of a sin offering; it is most holy. If the blood of a sin offering is brought to the Tent of Meeting to seek atonement in the Sanctuary, the offering may not be eaten, rather it should be burned in fire.
INSTRUCTION FOR GUILT OFFERING
The guilt offering is most holy. It shall be slaughtered where the burnt offering is slaughtered, and its blood shall be dashed around the Altar. All of its fat shall be offered: the tail and the fat that covers the entrails, the fat covering and surrounding the entrails, the two kidneys and the fat upon them at the loins, the appendage on the liver which shall be removed with the kidneys. The priest shall make them smoke on the Altar, an offering of fire to the Eternal, a guilt offering. Any male among the priests may eat it in a sacred place; it is most holy.
As with the sin offering, the guilt offering shall belong to the priest who seeks atonement through it. Similarly, to the priest who offers a man’s burnt offering goes its skin. Further, the meal offering goes to the priest, whether baked in the oven or prepared in a pan or on the griddle. But any other meal offering, whether mixed with oil or dry, belongs equally to all the sons of Aaron.
Offerings of the Children of Israel
INSTRUCTION FOR PEACE OFFERING
If the peace sacrifice is being offered for thanksgiving, then together with it shall be unleavened cakes mixed with oil, unleavened wafers spread with oil, and fine flour well mixed in cakes mixed with oil. His offering shall be made together with cakes of leavened bread. One of each offering shall be presented as a sacred gift to the Eternal, and it shall belong to the priest who dashes the blood of the peace offering. The meat of the sacrifice of thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of its offering and may not be left over until the morning.
If the sacrifice of his offering is the fulfillment of a vow or if it is voluntary, it shall be eaten on the day that it is offered, and that which may remain must be eaten on the morrow. If any still remains on the third day, it shall be burned with fire. If some of the meat of his peace offering should be eaten on the third day, the sacrifice is not accepted, it is an offense, and the one who eats of it shall be held guilty.
Only one who is ritually pure may eat of the meat of the sacrifice of peace offerings, which are the Eternal’s. Disqualified is one in a state of impurity, one who touches anything impure, whether of man or of beast; if he does eat of the sacrificial meat, that person shall be cut off from his people. If the sacrificial meat should touch something impure, it may not be eaten but should be burned in fire.
The Eternal tells Moses to impart to the Children of Israel not to eat the fat of an ox or a sheep or a goat. While fat from an animal that dies or that is torn can be put to use, you may not eat it either. Anyone who eats the fat of an animal that could be made a fire offering to the Eternal shall be cut off from his people.
You shall not eat any blood in all of your settlements, either of bird or of beast. Anyone who violates this law shall be cut off from his people.
The Eternal directs Moses to instruct the Children of Israel that the one who offers his sacrifice of peace offering to the Eternal must bring his offering himself. His own hands shall bring the fire offerings of the Eternal, presenting the fat with the breast, which is to be waved before the Eternal. The priest shall cause the fat to smoke upon the Altar, and the breast shall go to Aaron and his sons. You shall present the right thigh as a gift to the priest; the priest who offers the blood and the fat shall receive the right thigh as his portion. For I do take the breast of waving and the sacred gift of the thigh from the Children of Israel, from their peace sacrifices, and I give them to Aaron the priest and to his sons, for an everlasting statute.
These accrue to Aaron and his sons upon their anointment to minister to the Eternal, as the Eternal requires of the Children of Israel, for an everlasting statute throughout their generations.
SUMMARY OF INSTRUCTION
Such is the instruction for the burnt offering, for the meal offering, for the sin offering, for the guilt offering, for the installation, and for the sacrifice of the peace offerings, which the Eternal commanded Moses on Mount Sinai on the day of His commanding the Children of Israel to bring their offerings to the Eternal, in the wilderness of Sinai.
INSTALLATION OF AARON AND HIS SONS
The Eternal tells Moses to bring Aaron and his sons, together with their vestments and the anointing oil, the bull of sin offering, the two rams, and the basket of unleavened bread, before the congregation gathered at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. Moses declares to the congregation, “This is what the Eternal commanded to be done!” (8:5; cf. Exodus 29:1ff.)
Moses brings near Aaron and his sons and washes them with water. He dresses Aaron with the tunic, the sash and the robe, and he puts the ephod on him, girding him with its decorated band. He then puts the breastplate on him and puts in it the urim and tummim. He places the headdress upon his head and in front of the headdress a golden consecration plate as the Eternal commanded him (cf. Exodus 28:1-43; 29:4-9a).
Moses takes the anointing oil to anoint the Tabernacle and its contents, thereby sanctifying them. He sprinkles some of it on the Altar seven times and anoints the Altar and all of its implements, the Laver and its base, to sanctify them. He pours some of it upon Aaron’s head to sanctify him. Then Moses brings near Aaron’s sons: he clothes them with tunics, girds them with sashes, and winds turbans upon them, as the Eternal commanded him (cf. Exodus 30:17-33).
Then he brings forward the bull of sin offering, upon which Aaron and his sons place their hands. After it is slaughtered, Moses puts its blood around the four corners of the Altar with his finger, thereby purifying it from sin; and he pours the blood at the base of the Altar, thereby sanctifying it for seeking atonement upon it. He makes the Altar smoke with the fat covering the entrails, the lobe over the liver, the two kidneys, and the fat over them. He burns with fire the rest of the bull, its skin, its flesh and its fecal matter, outside of the camp, as the Eternal commanded him (cf. Exodus 29:10-14).
Then he brings forward the ram of burnt offering. Aaron and his sons place their hands upon its head. After it is slaughtered, Moses dashes the blood around the Altar. The ram is cut into pieces, and Moses makes the head, the pieces and the suet, smoke upon the Altar. The entrails and the legs are washed with water, and Moses makes all that remains of the ram smoke upon the Altar, a burnt offering, for a pleasant aroma, a fire offering to the Eternal, as the Eternal commanded him (cf. Exodus 29:15-18).
Then he brings forward the second ram, the ram of ordination, and Aaron and his sons place their hands upon its head. After it is slaughtered, Moses puts some of its blood upon the tip of the right ear of Aaron and upon his right thumb and upon the great toe of his right foot. Moses then brings forward Aaron’s sons and does the same for them, then dashes the blood around the Altar. He takes its fat, fat tail, the fat that covers its entrails, the lobe of its liver, its two kidneys and the fat which is upon them, and its right thigh; and from the basket of unleavened bread which is before the Eternal he takes a single loaf of bread, a single loaf of oiled bread, a single wafer, and puts them upon the fats and the right thigh; and all of them he sets upon the palms of Aaron and his sons, and he lifts them up as a wave offering before the Eternal. Moses then removes all from their palms and makes all of it smoke upon the Altar over the burnt offering. They constitute an ordination offering for a pleasant aroma, a fire offering to the Eternal. From the ram of ordination Moses takes the breast and raises it as a wave offering before the Eternal—it is his portion—as the Eternal commanded Moses (cf. Exodus 29:19-28).
Then Moses takes some of the anointing oil and some of the blood that is upon the Altar and sprinkles them upon Aaron and his vestments as well as upon his sons and his sons’ vestments and thereby sanctifies all of them.
Moses then instructs Aaron and his sons to boil the meat at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting and to eat it there together with the bread that is in the ordination basket, as Moses was commanded (cf. Exodus 29:31-32). Whatever remains of the meat and the bread shall be burned with fire (cf. Exodus 29:34). They shall remain at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting for seven days, day and night, the complete period of their ordination. During those days they shall repeat what was done on this, the first day, to seek atonement for themselves. “You shall keep the charge of the Eternal, that you not die, for thus was I commanded” (8:35; cf. Exodus 29:35), and so do Aaron and his sons.
FROM THE PROPHETS
Haftarah for Shabbat Hagadol
Great Day of Judgment and Healing
The offering of Judah and Jerusalem
shall once again be pleasing to the Eternal
as it was in the past.
When I come near to you,
it shall be in judgment.
I shall be a witness
against false swearers,
of workers and the powerless,
of the widow and the orphan,
against those who turn away the stranger,
against those who fear Me not,
declares the Eternal of hosts!
From the days of your fathers
you have turned aside from My laws.
Turn back to Me,
and I will turn to you,
declares the Eternal of hosts!
What have we done wrong,
that we need to turn back?
You have robbed Me,
neglecting your tithe and terumah,
depleting the store of food
in the store-house.
You have spoken
harsh words against Me:
“It is vain to serve God;
what profit is there
that we should keep
the charge of the Eternal?”
(3:14; cf. Leviticus 8:35)
You boost the arrogant
and build up
the workers of wickedness.
But there is a book of remembrance
before the Eternal
for those who fear Him
and consider Him.
“They will be Mine
on the day that I am preparing,
My own treasure;
I shall spare them
as one spares
a faithful son.”
On that day
you shall again discern
between the righteous and the wicked.
For, behold, the day is coming—
it burns as a furnace—
when all the wicked
shall be set ablaze,
leaving of them
neither root nor branch.
But on that same day,
the sun shall arise for you,
the sun of righteousness,
with healing in its wings:
you shall tread down the wicked,
and they shall be ashes
under the soles of your feet.
In all this remember
the Torah of Moses, My servant,
which I commanded him
laws and ordinances!
In the meantime
I am sending you
Elijah the prophet
before the coming
of this great and awesome
day of the Eternal,
before I strike the Land
with utter destruction.
He shall turn the heart
of parents to children
and the heart of
children to their parents!
FROM THE MIDRASH
Leviticus Rabbah 9:1,3
Offerings that Honor God
“This is the instruction for the burnt offering…” (6:2)
“This is the instruction for the meal offering…” (6:7)
“This is the instruction for the sin offering…” (6:18)
“This is the instruction for the guilt offering…” (7:1)
“This is the instruction for the sacrifice of peace offerings,
which one shall offer to the Eternal;
if one offers it for thanksgiving…”
This is what is meant by the verse:
“He who sacrifices an offering of thanksgiving
and to one who plans his way
I shall show the salvation of God.”
Why not “He who sacrifices a sin offering honors Me?” Why not “He who sacrifices a guilt offering honors Me?” A sin offering comes because of sin, and a guilt offering comes because of sin, but an offering of thanksgiving does not come because of sin: “He who sacrifices an offering of thanksgiving honors Me…” (Psalms 50:23)
“…and to one who plans his way I shall show the salvation of God” (ibid.): Rabbi Yannai was out walking and saw a man who appeared to be very distinguished, so he invited the man to be his guest. Rabbi Yannai showed his guest the hospitality of food and drink. He probed to determine what the guest knew of Scripture—nothing, what the guest knew of Mishnah—nothing, what the guest knew of Aggadah—nothing, and what the guest knew of Talmud—nothing. He invited him to lead the Blessings After the Meal, to which the guest responded: Let Yannai lead the blessings in his own home! Said Yannai: Can you say the words after me? The guest said: Yes. Yannai said: Say, a dog has eaten Yannai’s bread! The guest stood up and, grabbing Yannai, said to him: You are refusing me my inheritance that is in your custody! Yannai responded: What is your inheritance that is in my custody? The guest explained: Once I was passing in front of the school, and I heard the children’s voices reciting, “The Torah commanded us by Moses is an inheritance of the congregation of Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 33:4) But, retorted Yannai, “the congregation of Yannai” is not written, but “the congregation of Jacob” is! And how have you come to eat at my table? The guest explained: For all of my days I have never repeated gossip or refrained from making peace between two who are quarreling. Rabbi Yannai expressed his embarrassment: All of your kind behavior, and I managed to call you a dog! He applied to him the verse: “…and to one who plans his way I shall show the salvation of God” (Psalms 50:23) “One who plans his way…” refers to one who plans his actions and words in consideration of the needs and feelings of others. “I shall show the salvation of God” is one of those verses that imply that the salvation of God Himself depends upon the prior salvation of Israel: when Israel behaves in such a way that considers the needs and feelings of others, in that saving behavior shall be reflected God’s own salvation.
Tanchuma Tsav 14
“This is the instruction for the burnt offering…” (6:2)—
literally, “This is the Torah of the burnt offering—
in choosing the words “Torah of” here,
God intends to teach a lesson about the study of Torah:
See how beloved is the study of Torah before the Holy One, blessed be He, in the requirement for every person to commit all of his wealth to the teaching of Torah both for himself and for his children, as was said, “Charge Aaron and his sons with the Torah of the burnt offering…” (6:2), that is, that they should say to the Children of Israel that they should engage in the Torah study of the burnt offering! For while they should sacrifice the burnt offering, they should also engage in the study of it, in order to merit both its offering and its study.
Moreover, Rabbi Samuel bar Abba taught that the Holy One, blessed be He, was saying to Israel: Although the Temple would be destroyed and the sacrifices suspended, do not forget the Seder (Order) of Offerings, rather be careful to review their Torah, both Written (Biblical) and Oral (Rabbinic), and if you do, I shall ascribe it to you as if you had engaged in the actual offering.
Said Rabbi Asya: Why do elementary school children begin their study of Torah with the book of Leviticus? Because it contains all of the offerings, which are purification from sin, and young children have not yet known the taste of sin. So the Holy One, blessed be He, says: Let them begin their studies, while still in a state of purity, on the subject of purity. Then I shall ascribe it to them as if they were presenting the offerings before Me. He also teaches us thereby that even though the Temple has been destroyed and the sacrifices suspended, even without the burnt offering, were it not for the children who study the Seder of Offerings, the world could not stand.
Leviticus Rabbah 10:1,3
Champions of the People
“The Eternal speaks to Moses, saying:
Take Aaron and his sons…”
Out of all the tribe of Levi,
why Aaron for the High Priesthood?
When Israel sought to build the Golden Calf, they went first to Hur (cf. Exodus 24:14) and demanded, “Get up, make for us a god!” (Exodus 32:1) When he refused, they killed him. Then they turned to Aaron with the same demand. Aaron did not refuse: he took their gold and made it into a molten calf. “When Aaron saw, he built an altar before it…” (Exodus 32:5). But what exactly did he see?
He realized that if they built it, they would work together to complete it quickly. But if he built it, he could delay its completion until Moses came down from the mountain and rejected the work in progress as idolatry.
Also he thought: If I build the altar, I can build it in the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, as was said: “Aaron built the altar and announced, ‘Tomorrow is a festival to the Eternal!’” (Ibid.)
He also realized that if they built it, then the offense would be attributed to them: better that the offense be attributed to me and not to Israel!
Rabbi Berechia in the name of Rabbi Abba bar Kahana associated this verse with Aaron:
“You love righteousness and you hate wickedness;
rightly has God, your God, chosen to anoint you
with oil of gladness over all your peers!”
“You love righteousness” in that you love to defend and justify My children, “and you hate wickedness” in that you hate to see them condemned. “Rightly has God, your God, chosen to anoint you with oil of gladness over all your peers”: therefore has God chosen to anoint you as High Priest over all of Israel out of all the tribe of Levi!
Rabbi Yudan in the name of Rabbi Azariah associated the same verse (Psalms ibid.) with Abraham our father when he sought mercy for the Sodomites:
Abraham said before Him: Master of the universe, You promised that you would not bring a flood ever again, but are You saying that while you would not bring a flood of water, you would bring a flood of fire? Would you thus evade your oath? “Far be it from You to do such a thing, to wipe away the righteous with the wicked…shall not the Judge of all the earth do justice?” (Genesis 18:25) But the last words can also be read: “The Judge of all the earth shall not do justice!” Abraham was pressing God to suspend justice and spare the entire city—an act of mercy (not justice!)—for the sake of a minority of righteous (cf. Genesis 18:26), as if he were arguing before God: If it is only justice that You want, You will not have a world; and if You do want a world, then you cannot in this case have justice. You are trying to pull the rope from both ends: You want a world and You want only justice. If You don’t give a little, Your world will not be able to endure.
Therefore said the Holy One, blessed be He, to Abraham: “You love righteousness” in that you love to defend and justify My children, “and you hate wickedness” in that you hate to see them condemned! “Rightly has God, your God, chosen to anoint you with oil of gladness over all your peers!” (Psalms ibid.) What did He mean by “over all your peers?” God said to Abraham: By your life, for ten generations from Noah until you I spoke not with any of them, but now with you “over all your peers” do I speak!
Pesikta Rabbati 44
God Awaits our Return
“Return, O Israel,
the Eternal your God…”
This may be compared to a prince who was distant from his father the king by a journey of a hundred days. His supporters encouraged him: “Return, to be close to your father!” “How can I?” he objected. His father sent word to him: Come back to me as close as is within your power; then I will meet you the rest of the way! Thus said the Holy One, blessed be He, to Israel:
“Turn back to Me,
and I will turn to you,
declares the Eternal of hosts!”
Pesikta Rabbati 41
The Day is Near
“Those who are distant from You
whoever is untrue to You.
But as for me
nearness to God is my good;
I have made the Lord God
to tell of all Your works.”
What does he mean by “as for me?”
Both Balaam and the prophets of Israel were asked the question: When will salvation come?
Balaam said it is far off: “I see it but not now; I behold it, but it is not close.” (Numbers 24:17) He put off the end of days.
But when they asked the prophets of Israel, they said: It is close! “Their day of disaster is close!” (Deuteronomy 32:35)
When Jeremiah came, he said: “Cry aloud, for the day of the Eternal is near!” (Isaiah 13:6)
When Malachi came, he said: It is near, “for, behold, the day is coming—it burns as a furnace—when all the wicked shall be set ablaze, leaving of them neither root nor branch.” (Malachi 3:19)
When Joel came, he spoke like them: “Blow a shofar in Zion, sound the alarm on My holy mountain, that all earth’s dwellers may be shaken, for the day of the Eternal is coming, it is close!” (Joel 2:1)
When David said, “Those who are distant from You will perish,” he was referring to Balaam and his company, who, delaying the end of days, perished from the world. But You were good to the prophets of Israel in that they drew near the end of days. So also are You good to me, as I have brought near the end of days like them: “But as for me, having brought close the nearness of God is my good….”
“I have made the Lord God
to tell of all Your works.”
Said Rabbi Pinchas in the name of Rabbi Acha: Although the Holy One, blessed be He, completed the creation of the world and rested from all of his work, as is written, “God completed on the seventh day…and He rested…” (Genesis 2:2), nonetheless He was not finished with two tasks: determining the punishment of the wicked and determining the reward of the righteous.