FROM THE TORAH
Although the offerings have been classified and described in preceding sedras, Sedra Tsav 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 during the seven days of their consecration.
Instruction of the Kohanim
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 Kohen shall burn wood upon the Altar every morning and arrange the burnt offering (olah) upon it. He shall turn the fats of the well-being offerings (shelamim) to smoke. The fire that is upon the Altar shall be maintained and not be allowed to go out.
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 garment of the Kohen (Priest) 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.
INSTRUCTION FOR MEAL OFFERING
The sons of Aaron shall present the meal offering (mincha) 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 (kodesh kodashim), like the sin offering (chatat) or like the guilt offering (asham). 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 Kohen.
INSTRUCTION FOR SIN OFFERING
The Eternal tells Moses to impart instruction to Aaron and his sons regarding the sin offering (chatat). It should be slaughtered in the place where the burnt offering is slaughtered before the Eternal. It is most holy. The Kohen 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 Kohanim (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 (asham) 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 Kohen shall make them smoke on the Altar, an offering of fire to the Eternal, a guilt offering. Any male among the Kohanim may eat it in a sacred place; it is most holy.
As with the sin offering, the guilt offering shall belong to the Kohen who seeks atonement through it. Similarly, to the Kohen who offers a man’s burnt offering goes its skin. Further, the meal offering goes to the Kohen, 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 WELL-BEING OFFERING
If the well-being sacrifice (zevach shelamim) is being offered for thanksgiving (todah), 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 Kohen who dashes the blood of the well-being 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 (neder) or if it is voluntary (nedava), 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 well-being offering is 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 well-being 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 well-being 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 Kohen 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 Kohen; the Kohen 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 well-being sacrifices, and I give them to Aaron the Kohen 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 ordination (milluim), and for the sacrifice of the well-being 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 (Shemen Mishcha), 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” (Leviticus 8:5; cf. Exodus 29:1ff.)!
Moses brings near Aaron and his sons and washes them with water. He dresses Aaron with the Tunic (Kuttonet), the Sash (Avnet) and the Robe (Me’eel), and he puts the Ephod on him, girding him with its decorated band. He then puts the Breastplate (Choshen) on him and puts in it the Urim and Tummim. He places the Headdress (Mitznefet) upon his head and in front of the Headdress the Golden Plate (Tzeetz Zahav) for Sacred Consecration (Nezer Hakodesh) 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 (Kiyyur) 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 (Migba’ot) 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 Moses’s 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” (Leviticus 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?”
(Malachi 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 (Hagadol) 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 TALMUD AND MIDRASH
Leviticus Rabbah 9:1,3
Offerings that Honor God
“This is the instruction for the burnt offering…” (Leviticus 6:2)
“This is the instruction for the meal offering…” (Leviticus 6:7)
“This is the instruction for the sin offering…” (Leviticus 6:18)
“This is the instruction for the guilt offering…” (Leviticus 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 responded that he would. Whereupon 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). Yannai acknowledged: “The Congregation of Yannai” is not written, but “the Congregation of Jacob” is!
But now, asked Yannai, tell me how 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 [ar’ehnu b-] the salvation of God” is one of those verses that imply that the salvation of God Himself depends upon the prior salvation by Israel. “I see through him [ar’ehnu b-] My Own salvation” (ibid.): 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…” (Leviticus 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…” (Leviticus 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 (Procedure) 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? (That seems out of order, because they are beginning with the third book of the Torah rather than with Genesis, the first!) 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 32:5a). But what exactly did he see?
He “saw” alternative outcomes. 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. 5b)!
He also realized that if they built it, then the offense would be attributed to them: Better that the offense be attributed to me, he thought, and not to Israel!
“I address my verses to the king…
You love righteousness and you hate wickedness;
rightly has God, your God, chosen to anoint you
with oil of gladness over all of your peers!”
Rabbi Berechia in the name of Rabbi Abba bar Kahana
interpreted these verses as associated with Aaron:
“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 of your peers”: therefore has God chosen to anoint you as Kohen Gadol over all of Israel out of all of the tribe of Levi!
Rabbi Yudan in the name of Rabbi Azariah associated the same verse (Psalms 45:8) with Abraham our Father when he sought mercy for the Sodomites (Genesis 18:16-33):
Abraham said before Him: Master of the Universe, You promised that you would not bring a flood ever again (cf. Genesis 9:11), 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? Suppose some of the people of Sodom are righteous: Would You still destroy and not save the place for the sake of the few righteous who are in it? “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)! This is as if he were arguing before God: If it is only justice that You want, You will not have a world; but 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 of your peers” (Psalms 45:8)! What did He mean by “over all of 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 of your peers” do I speak!
Yerushalmi Moed Katan 3:5
“You shall sit at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting
day and night for seven days,
and you shall keep the charge of the Eternal.”
Whence do we derive from the Torah that the mourner observes (shiva) for seven days? (Korban Ha-Eydah, David ben Naphtali Frankel, 18th cent.: Even though the seven days of mourning are a Rabbinical law, the Rabbis would not have ordained them if they had not found some support for them in the Torah.) From: “He (Joseph) observed mourning for his father (Jacob) for seven days” (Genesis 50:10).
But this practice occurred before the Torah was given. Do we learn the law from before the Torah (which is the law!) was given?
Rather, Rabbi Jacob bar Acha in the name of Rabbi Zeira derived from the verse, “You shall sit at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting day and night for seven days, and you shall keep the Eternal’s watch” (Leviticus 8:35): Just as the Holy One, blessed be He, kept watch over His world for seven days, so shall you keep watch for seven days over your brothers (Nadab and Abihu, who would lose their lives on “the eighth day,” the day after the seven days of ordination, cf. Leviticus 10:1-2)!
But whence do we derive that the Holy One, blessed be He, kept watch over His world for seven days?
“Then there was a period of seven days before the waters of the Flood came upon the earth” (Genesis 7:10)!
But doesn’t that imply that we mourn before the person dies?!
No, the Holy One, blessed be He, knowing what the future would bring, kept watch over His world for seven days before, but human beings, not knowing what the future will bring, mourn only after a person dies.
There are those who prefer to explain the period of seven days before the waters of the Flood (cf. Genesis 7:10) as seven days of mourning for Methusaleh the Righteous (cf. Genesis 5:25-29). According to Rav, we learn from this that mourning for the righteous prevents punishment that would otherwise come in the future (Talmud Sanhedrin 108b). (Korban Ha-Eydah clarifies that, according to this explanation, the seven days of mourning for Methusaleh, grandfather of Noah, were established to encourage repentance in order to avert the Flood.)
In that case Rabbi Hoshaya derived from the verse, “From the entrance of the Tent of Meeting you shall not go out…as the anointing oil of the Eternal is upon you…” (Leviticus 10:7): Just as you have been saturated with the anointing oil of the Eternal for all seven days, so shall you keep watch over your brothers for seven days! (Korban Ha-Eydah: He interprets the instruction not to go out from the Tent of Meeting as acknowledging that the application of the anointing oil was repeated throughout the seven days. Cf. Leviticus 8:34)
Rabbi Yona and Rabbi Chiya and Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish in the name of Rabbi Yudan Nasi derived from the verse, “I will turn your festivals into mourning” (Amos 8:10): Just as the days of the “Festival” (the term by which the Rabbis referred to Sukkot) number seven (cf. Leviticus 23:34), so are the days of mourning seven!
“Remembered for Good”
“May the Compassionate One send us
Elijah the Prophet
remembered for good
and may he deliver to us
(Blessing After the Meal)
Whom else did the Rabbis remember for good?
Joshua ben Gamla
Talmud Bava Bathra 21a
“Place these, My words, upon your heart…
and teach them [otam] to your children…”
Rav Judah said Rav said: Remember this man for good, and Joshua ben Gamla is his name, for if it were not for him, Torah would have been forgotten from Israel, for at first, whoever had a father, he would teach him Torah, and whoever did not have a father would not learn Torah. What is the Scriptural interpretation for this? “And teach you yourselves [atem] your children…” (Deuteronomy 11:19). They then made a takkanah that teachers of children should be appointed in Jerusalem. What is the Scriptural interpretation for that? “For out of Zion shall go forth Torah, and the word of the Eternal from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3)! Yet, whoever had a father, he would bring him up and have him taught; whoever did not have a father would not go up and learn. So they made another takkanah that they should be appointed in each and every province; they admitted them at the age of 16 or 17, and if the master got angry at one of them, he would rebel and leave. Whereupon Joshua ben Gamla came and made a further takkanah that teachers of children should be appointed in each and every district and in each and every city and they admitted children at the age of 6 or 7. Rav said to Rav Samuel bar Shilat: Below the age of 6 do not admit them, above that admit them and feed them like an ox. And Rav said to Rav Samuel bar Shilat: When you strike a child, strike him only with the strap of a shoe. The one who learns will learn; the one who does not learn—pair him with a partner.
Rabbi Judah ben Bava
Talmud Sanhedrin 13b-14a
Rav Acha son of Rava asked Rav Ashi: Is a Rabbi ordained by the act of laying on of hands? He answered him: A Rabbi is ordained by the conferral of authority; he receives the title of Rabbi; and he is granted license to judge cases of punitive fines (kenas).
Are three required for the ordination? Is one not sufficient? Did not Rav Judah report that Rav said: But a certain man shall be remembered for good, and Rabbi Judah ben Bava is his name! For were it not for him, the adjudication of fines would have been lost for Israel.
How so? There was a time when the Roman authority sought to outlaw Rabbinic ordination: whoever ordained a Rabbi would be killed, whoever was ordained a Rabbi would be killed, any city in which ordination was performed would be destroyed, including the extended Sabbath limit outside of the city. What did Rabbi Judah ben Bava do? He sat down between the cities of Usha and Shefaram, outside of the Sabbath limit of either one, and ordained five with the title and authority of Rabbi: Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Judah, Rabbi Shimon, Rabbi Yosi, and Rabbi Elazar ben Shamua—Rabbi Aviya adds: Rabbi Nechemia.
When they were informed on, Rabbi Judah ben Bava said: My children, run! They turned to him: But, Rabbi, what about you? He averred: I shall lie before them like a stone which no one can move. But the Romans were unmoved and pierced him with three hundred iron spears.
It turns out that Rabbi Judah ben Bava did not act alone, but the identities of the others were not mentioned in order to honor him.
Chananiah ben Hezekiah
Talmud Shabbat 13b
Various of the Sabbath laws were promulgated by the Rabbis in the upper chamber of Chananiah ben Hezekiah ben Gurion when they went up to visit him. On one day their count reflected a majority of the School of Shammai over the School of Hillel, and they promulgated eighteen laws, regarding purity and regarding the Sabbath.
The Rabbis asked: Who wrote the Scroll of Fasting (a compendium of calendar dates on which fasting is prohibited)? They answered: Chananiah ben Hezekiah and his associates, who cherished the redemption from persecutions and other dangerous events, desired to preserve memory of the miracles in praise of the Holy One, blessed be He. So they recorded the miraculous days to serve as festivals and in order not to fast thereon. — Said Rabbi Shimon ben Gamaliel: We also cherish the redemption from persecutions and other dangers. But what can we do? If we try to record those days, there are too many for us to observe them all! — Alternatively, a fool does not feel assailed!
“The deceased’s children honor him, but he is unaware;
they are pained, but he has no idea.
Only [ach] his kin [besaro] suffer over him
and his estate [nafsho] mourn his demise.”
Alternatively, the flesh of the dead does not feel the scalpel! — But is that really true? For Rav Isaac said: Worms are as painful for the dead as a needle in the flesh of the living, as he interpreted: “But [ach] his flesh [besaro] feels pain upon him, and his own spirit [nafsho] mourns over his demise” (ibid. 22)! — Then say instead: Dead flesh in a living person does not feel the scalpel!
Rav Judah reported that Rav said: In any case, remember that man for good, and Chananiah ben Hezekiah is his name, for were it not for him, the Book of Ezekiel would have been excluded from the Prophets because some of its words are at variance with words of the Torah. What did he do? Three hundred measures of oil (for illumination and for meals) were brought up to him while he sat in the upper chamber and reconciled the inconsistencies.
Rashi: For example: “The Kohanim shall not eat of any bird or beast that which dies of itself (neveylah) or that which is wounded (tereyfah)” (Ezekiel 44:31), but specifying Kohanim for the prohibition would imply that the larger class of which they are a part, Israelites, are permitted, in contradiction of the Torah’s prohibition (cf. Exodus 22:30 and Deuteronomy 14:21). Another example: “On the first day of the first month take a bull of the herd to purify the Sanctuary, and the Kohen shall apply blood of the sin offering…and so shall you do on the seventh day of the month…” (Ezekiel 45:18-20), but where is such an offering on the seventh day of the first month even implied in the Torah?
For some examples of how the Rabbis of the Talmud reconcile certain apparent contradictions between Ezekiel and the Torah, see “Exceptional Specifications” From Talmud and Midrash in Sedra Summary for Vayakhel / Pekudey & Hachodesh 5783.
Scholar of Scholars
Talmud Chullin 54a, 137b
When Rav Chiya bar Yosef went up from Babylonia to the Land of Israel, he found Rabbi Yochanan and Resh Lakish at the yeshiva discussing the kashrut of a wounded animal and arguing that the animal needed to be examined in the area of the intestines. He exclaimed to them: My God, Rav’s teaching (back in Babylonia) includes that area! Said Resh Lakish: Who in the world is this “Rav?” I have not heard of him! Rabbi Yochanan turned to him: But don’t you remember that student who was trained by Rabbi (Judah Hanasi, compiler of the Mishnah) and Rabbi Chiya Rabbah (Rav’s uncle), and, by God, during all of those years in Rabbi’s Yeshiva, I stood seventeen rows behind Rav while Rav sat directly in front of Rabbi as sparks of fire jumped out of the mouth of Rav into the mouth of Rabbi and from the mouth of Rabbi into the mouth of Rav. Rashi: They were arguing back and forth over the law. And I did not understand what they were saying! Resh Lakish: In what was he proficient? Rabbi Yochanan: In what was he proficient? He was proficient in everything!* In that case, said Resh Lakish, now recalling his memory of Rav, remember that man for good, as the following teaching may be attibuted to him: If, after slaughtering, the animal’s wind-pipe is discovered to be dislocated, it is kosher, because it is impossible for a dislocated wind-pipe to have been properly severed; therefore it must have been intact and thereby not disqualified at the time of slaughtering.
Rabbi Yochanan argued, however, that the precaution should be taken of bringing the slaughtered animal and making a comparative second cut. If both the first cut and the second, comparative cut, appear similar, then the first cut is shown to have been made, like the second cut, in a dislocated wind-pipe, proving the slaughter to have been not kosher.
Rav Nachman argued, additionally, that the teaching applies only if the slaughterer did not grasp the indicative organs (in this case the wind-pipe) as he performed the slaughtering; for if he had grasped the indicative organs, then even if the wind-pipe had been dislocated before the slaughtering, it could have been severed as if it had not been dislocated (because of the support of his grasp), and therefore would have to be assumed as not kosher.
* An example of Rav’s multidisciplinary proficiency might have been his practical training in judging blemishes in animals: “I spent eighteen months living with cattle shepherds in order to learn how to distinguish between permanent and transient blemishes.” (Talmud Sanhedrin 5b) Rav sought Rabbinic authorization from the Nasi in the Land of Israel, before he moved to Babylonia in order to recognize there disqualifying blemishes in firstborn animals (after the Destruction of the Temple) and thereby allow them to be slaughtered for food.
Talmud Bava Metziah 60a-60b
Rabbi Judah says: The shopkeeper should not give out parched ears and nuts to the children because he is influencing them thereby to come to his shop over another. The Sages permit it.
Why do the Sages permit the shopkeeper to give out treats to the children? Because that shopkeeper could say to another: I am giving out nuts, you can give out plums! In other words, there is nothing unfair in the practice: other shopkeepers are not precluded from engaging in the same practice.
Rabbi Judah says: The shopkeeper should not discount his prices. Bartinoro: Because he is taking customers away from other shopkeepers, thereby impairing their livelihood. The Sages say: May he be remembered for good!
Why do the Sages bless the shopkeeper who discounts his prices, with the words, “May he be remembered for good?” Because his selling goods for less than their full market value makes them more affordable and influences the suppliers to lower their prices as well.
Preferring Virtue over Blood
Talmud Bava Bathra 133b
If one writes a will leaving his estate to strangers rather than to his children, what he does is done (it is valid), but the Sages are not comfortable with him. Rabbi Shimon ben Gamaliel says: If his children did not conduct themselves in a proper manner, may he be remembered for good!
Do the Sages agree with Rabbi Shimon ben Gamaliel, or would they be uncomfortable with the testator even if his children did not conduct themselves in a proper manner?
Consider the case of Joseph ben Yoezer. He had an attic full of money. He also had a son who did not conduct himself in a proper way. So he consecrated his money for the Temple.
The son went away and married the daughter of King Yannai’s wreath-dresser. When she gave birth, he purchased for her a fish, which he cut open and found therein a pearl. She said to him: Do not bring it to the king, because they will take it from you for a small amount of money. Instead, bring it to the Temple treasurer (as if you intended to consecrate it to the Temple). But don’t you suggest its value to the Temple treasurer, because you would be appraising it thereby to the Most High, and what you appraise to the Most High is tantamount to a final sale in any other transaction. Instead let them appraise it, because if they appraise it, you would not yet be committed to consecrate that amount!
So he brought it to the Temple, and they appraised it for thirteen attics full of money. Then they told him: Of the total appraisal amount—thirteen attics full of money—seven are available and six are not. He said to them: Give me the seven, and the six are hereby consecrated to Heaven. So did the record reflect: Joseph ben Yoezer brought in one attic full of money (as told above), and his son brought in six attics full of money (the portion of the found pearl’s value that he actually consecrated). Since the son, who was disinherited because he did not conduct himself in a proper way, ultimately changed his behavior to consecrate many times more to the Temple than he could have from his father’s bequest, the Sages would have to agree with Rabbi Shimon ben Gamaliel in blessing the father, “May he be remembered for good!”
Alternatively, there are those who argue that the record could just as well have read: Joseph ben Yoezer brought in one attic full of money, and his son took away seven. His son’s “taking away” seven is not a reflection of merit, especially when compared with what his father’s disinheriting consecration “brought in.” From this perspective, then, the Sages would not have been comfortable with the father’s disinheriting his son, even this one who did not conduct himself in a proper manner, and would certainly not agree with Rabbi Shimon ben Gamaliel in blessing him.
Talmud Bava Batra 121b
Talmud Berachot 3a
Pesikta Rabbati 35
Pirkey d’Rabbi Eliezer 43
“A fiery chariot and fiery horses
came between Elijah and Elisha,
whereupon Elijah ascended
in a storm-wind to heaven.”
(II Kings 2:11)
Our Rabbis taught: Elijah is still alive!
It is taught that Rabbi Yosi recounted: One time, as I was walking, I entered one of the ruins of Jerusalem to pray. Elijah, remembered for good, came and waited for me at the entrance until I finished my prayer. “Peace be unto you, Rabbi,” he said to me, and I responded, “Peace be unto you, my Rabbi and Teacher!” He asked me, “My son, why did you enter this ruin?” I answered him, “To pray,” and he said to me, “It would have been better for you to pray on the road.” I responded, “But I was afraid that passersby would interrupt my prayer.” “It would have been better in that case,” he said, “to offer an abbreviated prayer.” In that encounter I learned three things from him: I learned not to enter a ruin, I learned rather to pray on the road, and I learned that one who prays on the road should offer an abbreviated prayer.
Then he asked me, “My son, what kind of sound did you hear in the ruin?” I said to him, “I heard a divine dove-like voice, lamenting, ‘Woe to My children for whose sins I destroyed My House and burned My Temple and whom I sent into exile among the nations!’” And he said to me, “Be assured, by your life, that not only at this hour does the voice so lament, but every day three times a day does it so lament! But that is not all: When Israel enter their houses of prayer and study and answer, ‘May His great Name be blessed!’ the Holy One, blessed be He, shakes His head and says, ‘Happy is the King whom they praise in His House! What more can be expected for a father who has exiled his children? And woe to those children who have been banished from the Table of their Father!’”
“Behold upon the mountains
the feet of one bringing happy tidings,
of one declaring peace…”
“How beautiful upon the mountains
the feet of one bringing happy tidings,
of one declaring peace,
bringing tidings of good,
saying to Zion, ‘Your God shall reign!’”
When the Holy One, blessed be He, redeems Israel, three days before the Messiah comes, Elijah will come and stand upon the mountains of Israel weeping and mourning over them, “O mountains of the Land of Israel, how long will you stand in ruin and desolation?” and his voice will be heard from one end of the world to the other. After that, he will say to them, “Peace has come to the world,” as the Prophet declared, “Behold upon the mountains the feet of one bringing happy tidings, of one declaring peace” (Nahum 2:1)! When the wicked hear his announcement, they are cheered and tell each other: Peace has come to us! Then, on the second day Elijah will stand once again upon the mountains of Israel, and he will announce, “Good has come to the world,” as the Prophet declared, “How beautiful upon the mountains the feet of one bringing happy tidings, of one declaring peace, bringing tidings of good…” (Isaiah 52:7)! And on the third day he will say, “Salvation has come to the world,” as the Prophet continued, “…declaring salvation…” (ibid.)! But, seeing that the wicked are still congratulating each other over their false expectations of peace for themselves, Elijah completes the Prophet’s words, “…saying to Zion, ‘Your God shall reign’” (ibid.), thereby teaching us that salvation comes to Zion and to her children but not to the wicked!
“I am sending you
Elijah the Prophet
before the coming
of this great (Hagadol) and awesome
day of the Eternal…
He shall turn [heshiv] the heart
of parents to [al] children
and the heart of
children [al] to their parents!”
Rabbi Judah taught: Israel will be redeemed only if they repent of their sins, and that will happen only as a result of their suffering, yet their repentance [teshuvah] will not be complete until the coming of Elijah, as the Prophet said:
“I am sending you
Elijah the Prophet
before the coming
of this great (Hagadol) and awesome
day of the Eternal…
He shall cause repentance [heshiv] in the heart
of parents concerning [al] children
and in the heart of
children concerning [al] their parents!”
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 (malachotecha).”
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 Isaiah 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…” (Psalms 73:27a), he was referring to Balaam and his company, who, delaying the end of days, perished from the world: “…You annihilate whoever is untrue to You” (Psalms 73:27b)! But, in contrast, You were good to the Prophets of Israel, as they held near the end of days. So also will You be good to me, hopes David, as I have held near the end of days like them: “But as for me, the nearness of God shall be my good: I have indeed established my Lord God to be my Refuge—to tell (thereby through me) of all of Your prophets/messengers (malachecha)” (Psalms 73:28b)!
But if we read the verse as it is written:
“…to tell of all Your works.”
Said Rabbi Pinchas in the name of Rabbi Acha: Although the Holy One, blessed be He, finished Creation and rested from all of His work, what is written can be read, “God completed on the seventh day (only) His work which He had done, and He refrained on the seventh day from the rest of His work, which He will surely do” (Genesis 2:2)! That is to say, He has at least two unfinished tasks, “…to tell of the rest of Your works” (Psalms 73:28b): To “tell” (determine) the punishment of the wicked and to “tell” (determine) the reward of the righteous!