Tzav: Now and Forever

· Judaism, kabballah, Torah

The Parsha Tzav has an interesting name. It means “command.” G-d is telling Moses to give instructions to Aaron on how he and his sons are to handle sacrifices as the new priests (Cohanim). But unlike the other words for a Divine directive, this one has a sense of urgency attached to it meaning that G-d is intending for His Pronouncements regarding the animal sacrifices to be carried out immediately and that those instructions would be in force forever. The first sacrifice given over is the sin offering. This was the means by which the repentant Jew could complete the process of earning G-d’s forgiveness for transgressing His law. The procedure was to burn three parts of the animal on the alter; the large fat padding in the abdomen (the greater omentum), the liver and the kidneys. The key to understanding why G-d selected these particular parts for burning lies in the function of these vital organs. The fat represents excess; overindulging in food purely for the sake of pleasure. The liver represents detoxification of harmful poisons that are incompatible with life. The kidneys represent cleansing; removing impurities from the blood. Therefore, the sin offering as required teaches that the processes of full repentance starts with turning away from secular influences in favor of Torah study, to prevent further overindulgence, performing Mitzvahs to detoxify the Neshama and crying out to HaShem with a broken heart over the sins committed for cleansing. Additionally, G-d gave the priests permission to eat the meat of this sacrifice, but called it the “Holy of Holies” and restricted the consumption to the Temple courtyard.

Moreover, the Lubavitcher Rebbe tells us that since the word “Tzav” denotes a Divine order to carry out G-d’s will immediately, it begs the question, “Do we have free will?” The answer is “Yes and no.” The Rebbe writes in his commentary that at the deepest levels of thought, which come from the Neshama, there is no free will because since this is the level which is a part of G-d’s infinite light, it is impossible for this thought to want to do anything but obey G-d’s word because evil cannot exist in this inner core of the quintessential Jew. However, on a more superficial level, there is room for evil and the thought process is more like making choices between instant gratification or longer term benefit or between obedience and rebellion; ergo free will. This begs another question; “Why is so much harder to turn away from the seemingly innocuous secular influences that it is to transform to eating Kosher and going to Shul every day to daven while wearing Tifillin and Tallis?” The answer is because our evil inclination lies to us saying, “don’t peel that final layer that covers the Neshama. Otherwise your inner being will be exposed and you will become vulnerable to attack.” The truth is that the Neshama is part of G-d’s essence so it’s indestructible. But that final layer is the circumcision of the heart that the Alter Rebbe refers to in the Tanya. That last layer of shmutz has to be scraped off, but what’s underneath it is a diamond, so we can scrape and scour and although it is a painful process we can’t hurt the diamond; we can’t even scratch it.

Therefore, we can understand that when we face difficult times, it’s not a punishment; it’s G-d helping us to achieve that cleansing that removes the impurities from our souls. Why does G-d consider the sin offering as being the “Holy of Holies?” Because when Jews repent with a broken heart and ask HaShem to help them to live a life of righteousness, they fulfill the purpose of creation.

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