Tzav (Command)

Leviticus 6:1 to 8:36

The practices of the sacrificial system discussed in both this text, and the reading last week, have been gone for over two thousand years. But, the reasoning behind this system is still practiced in the form of prayer.

TzavFor a second week the focus of the text is on the sacrifices that were offered by the Israelites until the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. That means that the sacrificial system lasted for over a thousand years …. That’s really a long time; especially when you consider the entire U.S. History is only a little less than 250 years…. Yes, this is the same subject that blog covered last week. If Torah can cover the same material over two weeks, this writer feels he can do the same.

Every year when we read this material we hear the question: “What does all this mean for us today?”’

Back in the 17th century Rabbi Yitzhak Magriso (He lived in Turkey and wrote commentaries on Tanakh in Ladino) wrote that these “laws of Karbanot (Sacrifice) function under the conceptual umbrella of hukkim (laws for which there is not adequate rational understanding), rather then Mispatim (law for which this is such a rational understanding.)”

Rabbi Magriso continued by suggesting that there were four different functions that these laws of sacrifice provided:

  1. They provided gainful employment for the priestly class. What we have here is a ancient public works program…. yes, there were public works programstthat pre-dated the liberal programs of our country.
  2. The very act of studying these laws is the equivalent of “drawing near to God” … the major function of the sacrifices themselves.
  3. People, by their very nature, will commit sin … or stray from the commandments and laws of Torah. The system of forgiveness offered by the sacrifices provides the important function of helping to lessen guilt feelings while directing action toward better ways.
  4. The vividness of the “death” of the animals (sheep, cattle, etc.) with its accompanying gore remind us of our own mortality; hence the need to vigilantly monitor our own values and behavior. (Information from Me’am Loez  (an encyclopedic commentary on the Torah, written in Ladino in the 17th century in an easy style for the common person) as covered in Reconstructing Judaism,

It has often been stated that our tradition of prayer has replaced the sacrifices described in the text of both this week and last week.

Regular prayer as practiced in both weekly Shabbat services and daily prayer (where done) are similar to the Burnt Offering (Olah) and the Meal/Cereal Offering (Minchah) because they are offered on a regular basis.. Prayer, like the ancient offerings, when done with sincerity, brings the worshiper closer to God.

The feelings reflected in the Sacrifices for Well-being and Peace Offerings (Zevach Sh’lamin) are the focus of many prayers in our services. Then, in our Temple’s Lay-Led service – after the Mi Shebeirach (prayer for healing) each worshiper has an opportunity to tell the group what events during the past week were cause for thanksgiving, “well-being, and “peace.” This voluntary prayer (vocal offering) truly reflects the spirit of the Zevach Sh’lamin.

The spirit of the Sin Offering (Chatat) is evident in the High Holiday liturgy… These prayers should have meaning to all because no one is perfect and obeys all the commandments and mitzvot. This writer believes that if prayers of this type …. or a silent time to think about “missing the mark” and self-improvement … were added to the every day or Shabbat worship, it might help worshipers strive toward a better life.

Offenses dealing with money or objects of value (M’ilah) are included in the last type of ancient sacrifice/offerings. This writer doesn’t see any form of regular prayer that duplicates this offering. However, acts of kindness toward others… accompanied by repayment to the injured parties … might help ease any feelings of guilt on the part of the offender.

The rituals of the sacrificial system may be gone …. But, the concepts behind this system are still alive through prayer.

Earl Sabes

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

World Of Judaica
Learn Hebrew online with Israel's best teachers