Jewish Survival Under Adverse Conditions

Jewish Survival Under Adverse Conditions 4 3 20

In R. Jonathan Sacks’ 2001 essay for Parashat Tzav, “Why Civilizations Die”, he poses the following fundamental question:

…The great question raised by (Parashat) Tzav, which is all about different kinds of sacrifice, is not “Why were sacrifices commanded in the first place?” but rather, given how central they were to the religious life of Israel in Temple times, how did Judaism survive without them?…

Addressing this question by a comparison of civilizations:

R. Sacks endeavors to compare Jewish long-term survival with other great civilizations that have notably disappeared over the course of human history, e.g., the Mayans, the Romans, and the Khmers, and suggests, channeling Rebecca Costa’s The Watchman’s Rattle, that:

… problems became too many and complicated for the people of (those) time(s) and place(s) to solve. There was cognitive overload, and systems broke down…

…The first sign of breakdown is gridlock. Instead of dealing with what everyone can see are major problems, people continue as usual and simply pass their problems on to the next generation.

The second sign is a retreat into irrationality. Since people can no longer cope with the facts, they take refuge in religious consolations, such as sacrifices…

R. Sacks writes that despite suffering greatly under Roman rule, the Jews refused to give in to their desperate situation by “passing the buck” (gridlock) and retreating deep into religious practice (focusing upon sacrifice,) but rather sought means by which to prepare for a better future, and in the absence of the Temple and the sacrificial cult, they established meaningful substitutes for sacrifice.

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A Matter of Action or Thought

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Pitting Tora SheB’Ktav against Tora SheB’Al Peh.

In R. Amnon Bazak’s third essay for Parashat Tzav, “Pigul—BeMa’aseh Oh BeMachshava?” (Nekudat Peticha: Iyunim Ketzarim BePeshuta Shel Parashat HaShavua, [revised and expanded], Yediot Acharonot, Rishon LeTziyon, 2018, pp. 230-1) he resolutely states that according to the two places in the bible where Pigul is discussed with respect to optional offerings, it would appear that this is a status conferred only when one eats a sacrifice at the improper time:

VaYikra 7:16-8

16 But if the sacrifice of his offering be a vow, or a freewill-offering, it shall be eaten on the day that he offereth his sacrifice; and on the morrow that which remaineth of it may be eaten. 17 But that which remaineth of the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day shall be burnt with fire. 18 And if any of the fleshof the sacrifice of his peace-offerings be at all eaten on the third day, it shall not be accepted, “HaMakriv Oto Lo Yeichasheiv Lo”; it shall be an abhorred thing, and the soul that eateth of it shall bear his iniquity.

Ibid. 19:5-8

5 And when ye offer a sacrifice of peace-offerings unto the LORD, ye shall offer it that ye may be accepted. 6 It shall be eaten the same day ye offer it, and on the morrow; and if aught remain until the third day, it shall be burnt with fire. 7 And if it be eaten at all on the third day, it is a vile thing; it shall not be accepted. 8 But everyone that eateth it shall bear his iniquity, because he hath profaned the Holy Thing of the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from his people.

Yet the Oral Tradition appears to change the parameters of the law of Piggul:

Zevachim 26b-27a

If one slaughtered an offering and had intent to place the blood that is to be placed above the red line below the red line, or to place the blood that is to be placed below the red line above the red line, and he had intent to do so immediately, i.e., on the same day, the offering remains fit. Therefore, if he subsequently had intent when performing the other rites to burn or eat the offering or sprinkle its blood outside its designated area, the offering is disqualified, and there is no liability for Karet for burning or partaking of it. But if he had intent to perform one of those actions beyond its designated time, then it is rendered Piggul, and one is liable to receive Karet for burning or partaking of it.

RaShI on VaYikra 7:18 s.v. VeIm Heiochol Yeiocheil VeGomer

Regarding one (a Kohen) who is intending during the slaughter that it (the sacrifice) be consumed on the third day is what the verse is discussing.

One might think that should it be eaten on the third day, the sacrifice is disqualified retroactively (and needs to be replaced by another offering)? The Tora states: “…HaMakriv Oto Lo Yeichasheiv Lo”—at the time of the offering the sacrifice can become disqualified, but it will not first be disqualified on the third day (afterwards.) Similarly, its (the phrase’s) explanation is “at the time of its (the sacrifice) being offered, this thought should not occur, and if it does, then it is considered Piggul.

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“Igniting” Oneself for God

“Igniting” Oneself for God 4 1 20

Understanding an aspect of the Mishkan as a parable for our personal attitudes.

In Sivan Rahav-Meir’s second essay for Parashat Tzav, “The Eternal Flame” (#Parasha: Weekly Insights for a Leading Israeli Journalist, trans. Chava Wilschanski, Menorah Books, Jerusalem, 2017, p. 152), she views a Commandment in the Parashat HaShavua regarding the outer Altar in the Tabernacle, as also an allegory for the inner workings of a Jew’s soul and how s/he should approach life in general:

VaYikra 6:6

Fire shall be kept burning upon the Altar continually; it shall not go out.

…An eternal flame burns continuously in every person’s heart, an inner spark of enthusiasm, joy, and desire to be a good person, and to be close to goodness…

(While “enthusiasm” is certainly one dimension of the human psyche, its converse as part of man’s dual nature, and spelled out in the Tora text, can’t be ignored. E.g., :

Beraishit 4:7

If thou (Kayin/mankind) doest well, shall it (your countenance) not be lifted up? And if thou doest not well, sin coucheth at the door; and unto thee is its desire, but thou mayest rule over it. 

Ibid. 6:5

And the LORD Saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evilcontinually.  

A “Bren” [burning desire] or “Hitlahavut” [being personally aflame] are good things, until one displays these kinds of enthusiasms in association with negative attitudes and activities.

Furthermore, it might be due to an abundance of joy and frivolousness that one’s “darker side” gets the upper hand. For this reason, while joy and desire to be good may well be present in every person, such attitudes can turn into their opposites if one is not careful. This becomes another instance where the importance of balance, e.g., between Ahava [love] and Yira [fear/awe] are of great import.)

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Malachi’s and Eliyahu’s Critique

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Malachi/Ezra’s restoring the Tora to the Jewish people.

In the first half of his 2015 Devar Tora for Parashat Tzav—Shabbat HaGadol, R. Lau comments on the Haftora, making certain assumptions about the prophet Malachi’s identity, which in turn determines the context of the period of Jewish history during which he delivered the remarks from which this Shabbat’s Haftora are derived.

R. Lau appears to assume R. Yehoshua b. Korcha’s and R. Nachman’s views in the Talmud’s debate regarding who “Malachi” truly was:

Megilla 15a

It is taught in a Baraita:

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korcḥa said: Malachi is in fact Ezra.

And the Rabbis say otherwise: Malachi was his real name, and it was not merely another name for Ezra or another prophet.

Rav Nacḥman said: It stands to reason that indeed, they are one and the same person, like the opinion of the one who said that Malachi is Ezra, since there is a similarity between them, as it is stated in Malachi’s prophecy: (Malachi 2:11) “Yehuda has dealt treacherously, and a disgusting thing has been done in Yisrael and in Yerushalaim; for Yehuda has profaned the Sanctity of the Lord which he loved, and has married the daughter of a strange god”.

(Since in Ibid. 1:1, no name is mentioned for Malachi’s father, it could be contended that “Malachi” is in fact a secondary, descriptive name, meaning “my angel.” A well-known individual with numerous secondary names was Moshe’s father-in-law, Yitro. See RaShI on Shemot 4:18 s.v. VaYashav El Yeter Chotno.)

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Interpreting the Implications of the Word “Zeh”

Interpreting the Implications of the word “Zeh” 3 30 20

Linking two ostensibly disparate biblical accounts by means of a single common word.

In R. David Silverberg’s 2017 Devar Tora for Monday of the week of Parashat Tzav,  he is intrigued by a Midrash’s linking a verse from the Parashat HaShavua with a verse from the account of the sin of the Golden Calf via an Aggadic “Gezeira Shava” (the homiletical approach that links diverse topics via common phrases or even single wordssee e.g., The Complete  ArtScroll Siddur, p. 50, fn. “(2) Gezeira Shava”):

VaYikra 6:13

Zeh” (this) is the offering of Aharon and of his sons, which they shall offer unto the LORD in the day when he is anointed: the tenth part of an Ephah of fine flour for a meal-offering perpetually, half of it in the morning, and half thereof in the evening.

 Shemot 32:24

And I (Aharon) said unto them: Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off; so they gave it me; and I cast it into the fire, and there came out “HaEigel HaZeh” (this calf.)

VaYikra Rabba 8:1

…The Holy One, Blessed Be He, Makes “ladders”—He Causes this one to rise, and He Causes this one to fall, as it is said: (Tehillim 75:8) “For God is Judge; He Putteth down one, and Lifteth up another.”

R. Yona applies the verse to the Jewish people, for with the expression of “Zeh” they were brought down: (Shemot 32:1) “And when the people saw that Moshe delayed to come down from the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aharon, and said unto him: Up, make us a god who shall go before us; for as ‘Ki Zeh Moshe’ (for this Moshe,) the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him.” And with the language of “Zeh” they were raised: (Ibid. 30:13) “’Zeh’ (this) they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a Shekel after the Shekel of the Sanctuary–the Shekel is twenty Geiras–half a Shekel for an offering to the LORD.”

And the Rabbis apply the verse to Aharon, for with the expression “Zeh” they were lowered: (Ibid. 32:24) “And I said unto them: Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off; so they gave it me; and I cast it into the fire, and there came out ‘HaEigel HaZeh’ (this calf.)” And with this expression they were raised: “’Zeh’ (this) is the offering of Aharon and of his sons…” 

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Parashat Tzav (VaYikra 6:1-8:36): Questions for discussion and consideration


Rishon: (VaYikra 6:4) Why does the Tora mention that the Kohen who takes care of the ashes on the Altar, has to change his clothes before proceeding with the service in the Tabernacle/Temple?

See RaShI s.v. U’Fashat Et Begadav for a possible answer. What can be extrapolated from this answer regarding behavior not associated with the Tabernacle/Temple?

Sheini: (Ibid. 18) Why does the Tora go out of its way to mention that the Korban Chatat (Sin Offering) is offered in the same place in the Tabernacle/Temple as the Korban Ola (Whole Burnt Offering)?

See Rabbeinu Bachaya s.v. BeMekom Asher Tishachet HaOla Tishachet HaChatat for a possible answer.

Shelishi: (Ibid. 7:18) The Tora states that an individual who eats from his Korban Shelamim (Peace Offering) on the third day following its being offered up, “Avona Tisa” (its sin [the soul] shall bear.”) What is meant by such a description of the punishment that is in store for this transgressor?

See HaEmek Davar for a possible answer. How might this be another manifestation of the sentiment in Hoshea 1:8?

Revi’i: (Ibid. 8:2) While “taking” an inanimate object is obvious, it is less so when the Tora instructs to “take” a human being, as is the case here. What could be implied by such a statement?

See RaShI s.v. Kach Et Aharon as well as Siftei Chachamim on this comment, who refers to a verse in Beraishit 2:15, along with RaShI and Siftei Chachamim on that verse, for a possible explanation.

Chamishi: (Ibid. 15) When the Tora describes the remainder of the blood from the Par HaChatat being “poured” at the base of the altar, how literally is that to be taken?

See HaKetav VeHaKabbala for an overarching consideration that will per force suggest how this “pouring” is to be done.

Shishi: (Ibid. 23-4) The Tora requires as part of the process of the dedication of the Kohanim for the Tabernacle/Temple service, that sacrificial blood be placed on their right ear-lobes, right thumbs, and right big-toes. What might such a practice symbolize?

See Rabbeinu Bachaya for an elaborate interpretation of these procedures.

Shevi’i: (Ibid. 33) Why does the Tora require that the Kohanim being sanctified for Divine Service remain in the Sanctuary area for the entire seven day period of the Dedication of the Tabernacle?

See HaEmek Davar s.v. “Ki Shivat Yamim Yemaleh Et Yedchem” for a possible explanation .

Haftora Tzav–HaGadol (Malachi 3:4-24)

It is not immediately obvious why this Haftora was chosen for Shabbat HaGadol, just as it is unclear why the Shabbat before Pesach should be called “Shabbat HaGadol.”

The explanation that appeals most to me is that the final verse in the Haftora, a repetition of the penultimate verse of chapter 3, and which therefore becomes the final verse of the entire “Nevi’im” section of TaNaCh, contains a phrase upon which the “name” of this special Shabbat might be based:

Malachi 3:23

Lo, I will Send the prophet Eliyahu to you, before the coming of the “Gadol” (great), fearful day of the LORD.

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Terumat HaDeshen as Another Test of Humility

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The Tora’s association of the Korban Olah with the Mitzva of HaRamat HaDeshen.

In a Sicha for Parashat Tzav, “Avodat Adam VeAvodat HaMizbeiach”, R. Aharon Lichtenstein notes that it is ostensibly strange that after introducing the topic of the “whole burnt offering” sacrifice,

VaYikra 6:2

Command Aharon and his sons, saying: This is the law of the burnt-offering: it is that which goeth up on its firewood upon the altar all night unto the morning; and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning thereby.

the Tora launches into a discussion of how the ashes upon the outer Altar (on which animals are offered, in contrast to the inner Mizbeiach HaZahav, on which incense is burned) are removed:

Ibid. 3-4

3 And the priest shall put on his linen garment, and his linen breeches shall he put upon his flesh; and he shall take up the ashes whereto the fire hath consumed the burnt-offering on the Altar, and he shall put them beside the Altar. 4 And he shall put off his garments, and put on other garments, and carry forth the ashes without the camp unto a clean place.

R. Lichtenstein contends that this juxtaposition of the service of the “whole burnt-offering” with the requirement to remove the ashes from previous sacrifices burnt on the Altar led the “Talmud

(I have looked through as many Rabbinic sources as I could, including Talmud, Midrash, and biblical commentators, and was unable to find a source that stated what R. Lichtenstein says at this point. The fact that the transcribers of his Sicha did not offer any source for his comment, something that is regularly done for his other Sichot, similarly suggests that they could not locate anything that states something similar to the claim that he here makes. Therefore, it is altogether possible that this is his own observation,  as opposed to something that can be found in traditional sources.)

to make the following statement:

…A Kohen who is not prepared to engage in the removal of the ash (a particularly “messy” job, precipitating the need for a change of holy clothing) also will not be able to carry out aspects of the sacrificial service (intended to take place once the Altar has been properly prepared.) (!) …

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What Sacrifices Might Connote in an Age of No Sacrifices

What Sacrifices Might Connote in an Age of No Sacrifices 3 27 20

Sacrifices as a source of learning, including about ourselves, rather than a practical code of conduct.

In R. Joanathan Sacks’ 2012 Devar Tora for Parashat VaYikra, “Self and Sacrifice”, he categorizes the Tora’s concern with the offerings that were presented in the Mishkan as something akin to what the Talmud states is the “takeaway” regarding the “the Israeli Jewish city to be destroyed due to at least 51% of its inhabitants engaging in idolatry” (Ibid. 13:13-9), and the “stubborn and rebellious son” (Devarim 21:18-21):

Sanhedrin 71a

There has never been a stubborn and rebellious son and there will never be one in the future, as it is impossible to fulfill all the requirements that must be met in order to apply this Halacha. And why, then, was the passage relating to a stubborn and rebellious son written in the Tora? So that you may expound upon new understandings of the Tora and receive reward for your learning, this being an aspect of the Tora that has only theoretical value…

There has never been an idolatrous city and there will never be one in the future, as it is virtually impossible to fulfill all the requirements that must be met in order to apply this Halacha. And why, then, was the passage relating to an idolatrous city written in the Tora? So that you may expound upon new understandings of the Tora and receive reward for your learning.

While the Baraitot being cited by the Talmud state that the topics of “Ben Sorer U’Moreh” and “Ihr HaNidachat” are completely theoretical, whereas we know that Korbanot were once offered and believe that they will be offered again when the Third Temple is constructed, at this point in time, they are practically the same, since none of them are currently “LeMa’aseh.”

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Is This Where the Question is Better than the Answer?

Is This Where the Question is Better than the Answer? 3 26 20

 A fundamental question re utilizing birds as voluntary sacrifices.

In R. Amnon Bazak’s third essay for Parashat VaYikra, “Korban Min HaOhf” (Nekudat Peticha: Iyunim Ketzarim BePeshuta Shel Parashat HaShavua, Machon Tzomet, Alon Shevut, 5766, pp. 221-2), he begins by posing a fundamental question regarding the Parashat HaShavua’s opening verses, discussing how a Korban Nedava (a voluntary offering) is to be brought:

VaYikra 1:1-2

1 And the LORD Called unto Moshe, and Spoke unto him out of the Tent of Meeting, Saying: 2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them: When any man of you bringeth an offering (understood to be a voluntary whole-burnt offering) unto the LORD, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd or of the flock.

Although it appears that these sacrifices must involve a four-legged domesticated animal, a little further in the Parasha, we read:

Ibid. 14

And if his offering to the LORD be a burnt-offering of fowls, then he shall bring his offering of turtle-doves, or of young pigeons.

R. Bazak contends that the ostensible contradiction is obvious—if birds can acceptably serve in the capacity of such a sacrifice, why weren’t they mentioned in v. 2?

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