Parsha Tzav


TZAV’ (COMMAND) AARON. In the [preceding] section of Vayikra, Scripture stated, Speak unto the children of Israel,1 for there He gave the command about the bringing of the offerings, and it is upon the Israelites to bring them. But here He states, Command Aaron and his sons,2 for He now speaks of the rites of the offerings and these are performed by the priests.

Now Rashi wrote: “Command Aaron. The expression ‘command …’ always implies urging [to fulfill the command] at once, and also for future generations. Rabbi Shimon said: Scripture found it especially necessary to urge, in cases where fulfillment of a command involves monetary loss.”3 But the explanation of Rabbi Shimon was not [said] with reference to this command, for here there is no monetary loss involved to the priests to whom this command was given. Indeed, they gain profit and reward from all the offerings,4 even the burnt-offering.5 Rather, the intention of the First Sage [whom Rashi quoted] in saying, “the expression ‘command …’ always implies urging [to fulfill the command] at once and also for future generations,” was to say that in those sections of the Torah where Scripture wanted to urge fulfillment, saying that they should be fulfilled immediately and that they apply throughout the generations, it uses this expression of “command …” But in other sections it will say, “speak” to the children of Israel, or “say” unto them. With this [generalization] Rabbi Shimon differed, saying that sometimes6 this expression [“command … “] occurs in a matter which is not to be fulfilled immediately and throughout the generations, but it is used because the command involves a monetary loss. Such [a use of the word] “command” is that found in the case of the oil of the lighting7 [where, according to Rabbi Shimon, the expression “command …” is used because it applies immediately and for all generations, as well as for the reason that it involves a monetary loss], and that which Scripture states, Command the children of Israel, that they give unto the Levites of the inheritance of their possession cities to dwell in,8 [which is a case where the use of the expression “command” can only be because monetary loss is involved, since it did not apply at once, but only after they had taken possession of the Land].
It is possible that we say that our command does involve a monetary loss to the priests, as a result of that which it says further on [in this section], This is the offering of Aaron and his sons,9 which is a continuation of this command. However, at the beginning of the Sifre,10 the opinions [of the First Sage and that of Rabbi Shimon] are taught in a manner indicating that they hold opposing views.11

THIS IS ‘TORATH’ (THE LAW OF) THE BURNT-OFFERING. “This text is intended to teach us that the burning of the fats and limbs of offerings is valid [if performed anytime] during the whole night [following the day on which they were slaughtered]. It is also intended to teach us which of the disqualified offerings, although already brought up on to the altar, must be taken down, and which of them if already brought up need not be taken down. For all expressions of torath12 [introducing a group of laws] denote inclusion — one law for all offerings that are brought up on to the altar, including some disqualified ones, namely that if they are already brought up on to the altar, they need not be taken down.” This is Rashi’s language.
But this law does not [in fact] apply to everything that has already been brought up on to the altar, but only to all offerings proper, for if drink-offerings 13 are brought on to the altar [when they are not supposed to be] they must be taken down; and even if the libations are correctly offered up and the offering is disqualified, or the offering is correctly offered up and the libations disqualified, and definitely where both are disqualified — in all these cases, the offering itself is not to be taken down again, and the libations are to be taken down! For such is the sense of the inclusive term torath ha’olah (the law of the burnt-offering), teaching, “one law for all that goeth up [as the due of the altar-fires]” but not for the drink-offerings [since they are not poured on the fires, but into a silver bowl placed at the south-west corner of the altar],14 nor for the blood [which was sprinkled on the sides of the altar], in accordance with the words of Rabbi Yehoshua. 15
Now this verse [also] teaches that we should not offer the burnt-offering at night, but if it was slaughtered and its blood sprinkled [on the altar] during the daytime, we may burn its limbs all night, the same law applying to the fats of the peace-offering. And the explanation of the expression ‘hi ha’olah’ is as if it said: ‘tiheyeh’ ha’olah (the burnt-offering “shall be”) on the firewood upon the altar all night. He uses the word hi [literally: “she”] in order to exclude16 those things which the Rabbis have specified in the interpretation thereof. Now according to the [Rabbinical] interpretation this verse does not teach us that we are to bring up the limbs [of the offerings] from the ground to the altar at night, for this [principle] they have already derived from another verse, Neither shall the fat of My feast remain all night until the morning,17 [which the Sages interpreted 18 to mean, “Neither shall the fat of My feast remain on the stone pavement of the Court below, all night until the morning, but you should bring it up to the altar”]. For it is from that verse that the Rabbis have derived the law that [fats and limbs of the offerings] become disqualified [for the altar] if they remained upon the pavement [until the morning], but they may be brought up to the altar at any time during the night. Here Scripture speaks of those limbs which had already been brought up during daytime, [to teach] that the priest turns them over on the altar during the whole night until the morning. It is for this reason that He says hi ha’olah [using the definite article], meaning: “the one which has already come up” on the altar. It also teaches us that even those that are invalid, are not to be brought down again, [once they were taken up onto the altar], provided they became invalid in the Court of the Sanctuary [such as where they had remained overnight or had been unclean, etc.; but if they became invalid before reaching the Sanctuary Court, such as an animal that had been set apart for idolatry, or had been worshipped etc., these must be brought down].19 It also teaches that [invalid] drink-offerings 13 must come down [since they do not go upon the fires on the altar],14 and so also the blood [which had become invalidated], as I have written.

AND THE FIRE OF THE ALTAR SHALL BE BLAZING IN IT. Scripture is stating that it should burn on the altar during the whole night, it being a positive commandment that the priests should put on at daytime a lot of wood in order that it should not be burnt up completely and the fire [should not] become extinguished from it [during the night]. In my opinion, that which He said, Fire shall be kept burning upon the altar continually; it shall not go out,20 is a commandment directed to the priests to keep fire burning continually upon the altar, just as He said, and the priest shall kindle wood upon it,21 commanding them that they should be careful about this — to set fire in order and put enough wood on it to keep the fire burning continually, all day and all night. He gave an additional caution by means of a negative commandment, [it shall not go out],20 meaning that it should never be allowed to become extinguished. Thus if the priests were careless and the fire became extinguished they would transgress this negative commandment.22 It is for this reason that our Rabbis have said 23 that [in addition to the large wood-stack burning on the altar] there was a second wood-stack solely for the purpose of keeping up the fire. And that which Scripture states, And the fire upon the altar shall be blazing in it; it shall not go out,21 is a redundant verse, and is therefore interpreted by our Rabbis 24 as having reference to all people, teaching that whoever extinguishes the fire, transgresses a negative commandment. Even if he extinguishes only one of the live coals of the wood-stack, he is liable to whipping, whether he put it out on top of the altar, or whether he extinguished it below [on the pavement of the Court] after he had taken it down. It appears to me that he violates only one negative commandment.

AND EVERY SIN-OFFERING, WHEREOF ANY OF THE BLOOD IS BROUGHT INTO THE TENT OF MEETING etc. “This means that if the priest brought any of the blood of ‘an outer sin-offering’52 into the interior of the Sanctuary it becomes invalidated, [and the offering may not be eaten, and must be burnt].” Thus the language of Rashi. According to this opinion, the phrase to atone in the holy place which Scripture says [in continuation], is not to be understood in its simple sense, since this blood does not [in fact] bring atonement, for it became invalidated as soon as it was brought into the Sanctuary, and it is on account of that very invalidation that it is to be burnt. Rather, the expression to atone means [according to Rashi] that if he brought it into the interior “with the intent to atone,” [namely] to sprinkle there of its blood as is done with the blood of “the inner sin-offerings,”52 even though he has not [in fact] atoned with it, meaning that he has not sprinkled any of its blood, it is nonetheless invalidated from the moment of entry, and [the offering] is to be burnt. It is possible according to this that if he brought it in with the intent of not sprinkling thereof at all [in the Sanctuary], that the offering remains valid. According to the words of Rabbi Shimon,63 it only becomes invalidated if he “atoned” with the blood, meaning that he actually sprinkled thereof in the same manner as is done in the case of “the inner sin-offerings” [i.e., in front of the Veil and on the comers of the golden altar].64 It is for this reason that Scripture states to atone — not [meaning] that he actually effected atonement, but that he brought of its blood to atone with it, and, according to his thinking, effected atonement. The meaning of the term “into the interior” [which Rashi mentioned above] is “into the Sanctuary.” The same [is also the meaning of the phrase] “if he brought into the ‘interior of the interior’ [i.e., the Holy of Holies]” of the bullock of the anointed priest,65 or that of “forgetting a matter of law,”66 or of the goats brought for worshipping the idols,67 namely that if he brought their blood into a more interior place than that designated for them, [since in these cases of sin-offering the blood is to be brought into the Sanctuary proper to effect atonement], then the offerings become invalidated. Scripture states ‘of’ the blood in order to indicate that even bringing in part of the blood invalidates the offering. Thus if the priest received the blood in two cups, and brought only one of them into the interior, the offering is invalidated.
By way of the plain meaning of Scripture,68 the verse speaks only with reference to “the inner sin-offerings,” concerning the burning of which He had already commanded,69 and here Scripture came to add a negative commandment against eating them,70 for this section is intended to complete the laws of sin-offerings.71 This is the interpretation of Rabbi Yosei the Galilean in the Torath Kohanim 72 and in Tractate Zebachim. 73