Parshat Tzav

Parshat Tzav

In this cycle, through the Torah, we will be taking a mystical journey. Our guide will be Rabbi Larry Tabick’s book, The Aura of Torah, published in 2014 by the Jewish Publication Society and the University of Nebraska. Translations of kabbalistic texts are by Rabbi Larry Tabick. Translations of the Torah and other commentaries are from Sefaria, except where otherwise noted. Translations of the Talmud are the Steinsaltz, William Davidson Talmud, on Sefaria.


This second parshah of Vayikra continues describing the menu of sacrifices. In the latter part of the parshah Moses consecrates Aaron and his sons as priests.


Vayikra 7:37

Such are the rituals of the burnt offering, the meal offering, the sin offering, the guilt offering, the offering of ordination, and the sacrifice of well-being.

זֹ֣את הַתּוֹרָ֗ה לָֽעֹלָה֙ לַמִּנְחָ֔ה וְלַֽחַטָּ֖את וְלָאָשָׁ֑ם וְלַ֨מִּלּוּאִ֔ים וּלְזֶ֖בַח הַשְּׁלָמִֽים׃

How is the translation Hebrew scholars? “Such are the rituals” versus “This is the torah for”? The talmud and hasidic interpretations will hinge on the word “torah.”

For Thursday

The Talmud section we’ll go over is important for establishing Jewish continuity after the destruction of the Temple. It establishes the principle that Torah study replaces the Temple sacrificial ritual.

Other Talmud discussions about this verse explain the interpretative guideline that since the six offerings are mentioned together any rule that pertains to one applies to all of them.

The Tractate Menachot is concerned with meal offerings or מנחה. Meal offerings are a gift offering. While there are different variations of a meal offerings the prototype is matzah coated or mixed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and frankincense.

Menachot 110a

  • The Gemara cites another verse that is interpreted in a similar vein. King Solomon said to Hiram of Tyre: “Behold, I am about to build a house for the name of the Lord my God, to dedicate it to Him, and to burn before Him incense of sweet spices, and for the continual shewbread, and for the burnt offerings morning and evening, on theShabbatot, and on the New Moons, and on the Festivals of the Lord our God.This is an ordinance forever for Israel” (II Chronicles 2:3). Since the Temple was eventually destroyed, what did Solomon mean when he said that it is “an ordinance forever”? Rav Giddel says that Rav says: This is referring to the altar that remains built in Heaven even after the earthly Temple was destroyed, and the angel Michael, the great minister, stands and sacrifices an offering upon it.

And Rabbi Yoḥanan says that there is an alternative explanation of the verse: These are Torah scholars, who engage in studying the halakhot of the Temple service. The verse ascribes them credit as though the Temple was built in their days and they are serving in it.

  • The Gemara cites similar interpretations of verses:Reish Lakish said: Whatis the meaning of that which is written: “This is the law [torah] of the burnt offering, of the meal offering, and of the sin offering, and of the guilt offering, and of the consecration offering, and of the sacrifice of peace offerings” (Leviticus 7:37)? This teaches that anyone who engages in Torah study is considered as though he sacrificed a burnt offering, a meal offering, a sin offering, and a guilt offering.

Rava said an objection to this interpretation: This verse states: “Of the burnt offering, of the meal offering.” If the interpretation of Reish Lakish is correct, the verse should have written: “Burnt offering and meal offering.” Rather, Rava says that the correct interpretation of this verse is: Anyone who engages in Torah study need not bring a burnt offering, nor a sin offering, nor a meal offering, nor a guilt offering.

Rabbi Yitzḥak said: What is the meaning of that which is written: “This is the law of the sin offering” (Leviticus 6:18), and: “This is the law of the guilt offering” (Leviticus 7:1)? These verses teach that anyone who engages in studying the law of the sin offering is ascribed credit as though he sacrificed a sin offering, and anyone who engages in studying the law of a guilt offering is ascribed credit as though he sacrificed a guilt offering.

MISHNA: It is stated with regard to an animal burnt offering: “A fire offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord” (Leviticus 1:9), and with regard to a bird burnt offering: “A fire offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord” (Leviticus 1:17), and with regard to a meal offering: “A fire offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord” (Leviticus 2:2). The repetitive language employed concerning all of these different offerings is to say to you that one who brings a substantial offering and one who brings a meager offering have equal merit, provided that he directs his heart toward Heaven.


For Saturday


Rebbe Yisrael Friedman of Ruzhyn, 19th century, Poland (Rabbi Larry Tabick)

For the truth is that concerning a person who studies the Torah for its own sake and in order to perform its commandments it is said, “[For the ways of the Eternal are upright;] the righteous walk on them” (Hosea 14:10], while if the opposite [is the case], it is said, “But [the verse] “this is the Torah” – sometimes [it is] “for ascent [olah]” and “for a gift [minchah]” and sometimes [it is] “for sin and for guilt.” Consider this well!


The thought here is the Torah can be used for spiritual growth, as a gift to God, or as something that causes sin. How could the Torah be used for sin? As a source of guilt?


Rabbi Yeshayahu ben Avraham Horowitz, 17th century, Eretz Israel

Shenei Luchot HaBerit (Sefaria)

On the day the terrestrial Mishkan was erected a parallel Mishkan was established in the Celestial Regions. … God displayed as much desire for that which is in hidden regions as for what is revealed in our world. … The Mishkan is perceived as a microcosm and the process of building it was comparable to the steps involved in creating the universe. … We know that when God created the universe, He created everything both male and female. The commentators explain that this means that God created both active forces as well as their passive counterparts. This can alternatively be described in terms of the visible forces containing invisible forces. Or, to put it differently: There is constant interaction between cause and effect.

Humans are composed of body and soul, a visible as well as an invisible part … We are taught a lesson in reciprocal attachment and unity, i.e. that nothing exists outside of God, that the Eternal is inextricably involved with all Creation.

the purpose of these offerings is to achieve closeness with God. … The Torah constantly … stress[es] the profound value of this spiritual rapprochement and unification with the Celestial Regions by means of these offerings.

The objective of these prayers is to ask God that one may be influenced by the “Heavenly Table.” Chagigah 27a teaches us that as long as the Temple was standing the altar, i.e. the sacrifices offered on the altar, were the instruments of atonement for the Jewish people. Nowadays, when we do not have a Temple and an altar, it is our [dinner] table which has to serve as the instrument for our atonement. … a heavenly sanctity rests on foods which are pure and permitted. [the rules of kashrut are analogous to sacrifices]