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From where may the following be learnt?
1. One should change to one's best clothes in honor of Shabbat - after having worn more ordinary clothes in preparing for Shabbat.
2. Vessels can absorb particles which forbid their use.
3. The importance of expressing thanks to G-d - especially on surviving a life-threatening crisis.
4. The importance of having suitable thoughts when performing Mitzvot.
5. The Torah's forbidding certain foods to be eaten does not necessarily mean that they may not be used for other purposes.
6. Studying the laws of the offerings today is regarded as meritorious as being directly involved in them during Temple times.
7. A public servant must take pains to demonstrate to his community that he is serving them for their benefit, and not for his own gain.
8. The High Priest must be separated from the people and involved in suitable preparatory activities, seven days before performing the sacred service on Yom Kippur (as in Yoma 1:1).
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ON THE CONTENT AND COMMENTARIES TO PARASHAT TZAV
1. The Torah states that when the Priest performs the very dusty task of removing the ashes of the offerings from holy precincts, he must change into 'other garments' (6:4). As the Rabbis put it: a servant should not wear the same clothing in the kitchen as for pouring wine for his master. This principle may be applied to wearing plainer clothes when preparing the Shabbat food, changing into superior ones for welcoming the Shabbat.
2. The text (6:21) states that if the sin offering is cooked in an earthenware vessel (which absorbs elements of the offering), it must be burnt, but if that vessel is made of copper, it may be purged in water - as metal does not absorb (Pesachim 30b). Thus vessels can absorb particles which forbid their use. The forbidden factor in this case are actual particles of the sin offering which turn into 'notar' - Torah-forbidden left-overs from the offering (Avodah Zarah 76a).
3. This may be deduced from the Torah's specifying a type of 'shelamim' - peace offering called a 'todah' - thanksgiving offering (7:11-20). The actual circumstances warranting that offering are recounted in a tradition recorded in Berachot 54b - based on Psalm 107. They are: after successfully crossing a desert, emerging from imprisonment, recovering from a serious illness, and safe arrival after a voyage.
4. Based on 7:18, if the offering is brought in such a way that 'it is not thought correctly on his behalf', it has the status of 'pigul' - loosely translated as 'rejected offering'. The Talmud (Zevachim 29a) brings the tradition that 'it is not thought correctly on his behalf' means it is offered with the intention of consuming it outside the time allotted to it by the Torah - a very serious offence. From there may be learnt the wider principle of the importance of carrying out the Mitzvot with appropriate intentions.
5. This principle may be illustrated by the following. The Torah explicitly forbids the eating of 'cheilev' - forbidden fats (7:23). However it also states explicitly that it may be used for 'any type of work' (7:24) - thus it is permitted to have benefit from it.
6. Studying the laws of the offerings today is regarded as meritorious as being directly involved in them during Temple times may be derived from the following. The words 'zot Hatorah' - 'this is the Torah' (7:37) - applied to the various offerings detailed by the Torah - hints at the tradition in the Talmud (Menachot 110a), that a person who makes the offerings 'his Torah' - his topic of Torah learning, is accredited as though he was personally involved in them.
7. The grandiose and elaborate inaugurations ceremonies for the consecration of the Tabernacle had to make the right impression on the Israelites. That is why Moses stressed the words 'this is what G-d commanded' (8:5) - as Rashi explains, this was to impress on the congregation that all was being done at G-d's behest and not for Moses' own glory. From this may be learnt that a public servant must take pains to demonstrate to his community that he is serving them for their benefit, and not for his own gain.
8. The Torah records that Moses instructed Aaron and his sons to remain within the sanctuary for seven days (8:33) - before the spirit of G-d would descend on the Tabernacle. However, the seemingly superfluous words 'to atone for you' (8:34) are understood by both the Sifra and the Talmud to allude to a practice then in the future - namely that the High Priest must be separated from the people and involved in suitable prepartory activities, seven days before performing the sacred service on Yom Kippur (as in Yoma 1:1).
ADDITIONAL ISSUES TO LOOK AT ON PARASHAT TZAV
Regarding the prohibitions of cheilev and blood (7:22 ff.) 1. What special qualities do cheilev and blood have, for which the Torah gives them the status of forbidden foods?
2. Cheilev and blood were both burnt on the Altar during Tabernacle and later Temple times. Yet the Torah explicitly states that the prohibition of eating cheilev applies to oxen, sheep, and goats only. It does not include species of animal that are ineligible for Temple offerings - such as the deer. In contrast, the Torah expressly forbids the consumption of blood from all animals and birds. Why does the Torah make that distinction?
Other Parashiot from previous years may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/solomon/index.htm
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
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