Tzav – Torah for Today

Original Broadcast Date: March 27, 2015

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Torah for Today Transcript – Tzav

Beerman:

I believe we will be very interested in what we are going to discuss today in this Parshat, contained in Leviticus 6:1 through Leviticus 8:36. A lot of interesting things about trespass offerings, burnt offerings, some details here that I am looking for answers to. Questions on for sure. So the name of the Parsha is what?

Bolotnikov:

“Tzav.” It’s kind of difficult to pronounce for English speakers but it means “command.”

Beerman:

Simply command?

Bolotnikov:

Yes, that is an imperative command.

Beerman:

So, commands about sacrifices again.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, this is a continuation. In the Book of Leviticus, the first section actually goes all the way until Leviticus chapter 9. It’s all about the personal sacrifices for individual Israelites. Basically, this section can be subdivided, that is why it is subdivided into two Parshat, covering chapters 1 through 5 and this Parshat. They cover what the individual who brings the sacrifice needs to do, and then you have how the priest is supposed to officiate the sacrifice.

Beerman:

It’s interesting to me. We can go into this in more detail later, but the priest also has to have sacrifices for himself.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, that is the next Parsha which we will discuss.

Beerman:

They are almost like the normal church member in that respect, really, aren’t they?

Bolotnikov:

Oh yes, that is exactly right. The priest is not sinless, guiltless or whatever.

Beerman:

Not above needing sacrifices, needs substitution on his behalf. That is an interesting aspect. As we go into the first part here in Leviticus 6, verse 1 and 2, “The Lord spoke to Moses, ‘If a person sins and commits a trespass against the Lord by lying to his neighbor (in this particular case) what was delivered him for safekeeping, or a pledge or robbery, or if he has extorted a neighbor”—then it goes on to talk about how he needs to be forgiven and have this trespass offering. What is the difference between this trespass offering and some of the things we are talking about with burnt offerings and so forth in the first four chapters.

Bolotnikov:

We did talk about the person who wants to make a covenant with the Lord, and he comes in with a burnt offering. All that he needs to do is to lay his hand upon the head of the animal, and he receives atonement, which means no matter what he had done in a past, by the grace… the power of the… that is grace Stan!

Beerman:

This is grace. That is exciting. That is grace in Old Testament…

Bolotnikov:

That is grace. No matter what he done, he doesn’t need to pay, and he doesn’t do any penitence, nothing. He receives atonement right away. It’s removed. It’s never remembered. But we talked about this. This forgiveness is like a clean bill of health, or it may be a new start, a new chance with a clean sheet. However this does not take care of our internal problems. We do continue to sin.

Beerman:

That is right.

Bolotnikov:

And that is why when you go to Leviticus 4 it says, “If an individual has committed a trespass or sin against the commandment of God, and he didn’t know…”

Beerman:

So unintentionally.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, unintentional.

Beerman:

This is the default sin. It wasn’t premeditated.

Bolotnikov:

No, it wasn’t premeditated. Then He brings a sin offering.

The trespass or a guilt offering—there are some premeditated sins.

Beerman:

Okay. So in this case, there is some premeditation.

Bolotnikov:

Hear what you just read in chapter 5. The fellow has lied.

Beerman:

He knew it was wrong, and he did it anyway.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, he knew it was wrong, but then he repents and so now he has to do restoration. It reminds me of the statement made by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, where he says, “Before you bring offerings to the altar, go and reconcile with your neighbor.” So he needs to bring some restitution. Chapter 5 and 6 actually outline different things that are considered a guilt and trespass, e.g. If somebody sins against something consecrated to God, he needs to restore it. If somebody made a damage he needs to restore. It’s not just, “Oh please God forgive me.” It is, “Hey, I have done something wrong. I need to restore. ” If I took your car and made a fender bender, I need to pay for it.

Beerman:

There is some social justice going on here, humanitarian.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, it is just elemental social justice. That is very normal, but the idea is the same. Things happen between us and God, even though we in relationship with God, but it can be rectified if we have a commitment.

Beerman:

It is kind of consistent with what happens with Zacchaeus, who we read about in the Gospel of Luke. He essentially feels forgiven, and he says I will restore. So he understood this principle didn’t he?

Bolotnikov:

Oh yes, absolutely. That is the difference.

Beerman:

In verse 8, it says the Lord spoke to Moses. This is chapter 6 verse 8, “Command Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the law for the burnt offering: the burnt offering itself shall remain on the hearth on the altar all night until the morning, and the fire on the altar is to be kept burning on it.’” I want to come back to that, but this burnt offering now—this is not specifically connected to the trespass offering or is it in fact something…

Bolotnikov:

Well this is a new section.

Beerman:

This is a new section, so this is something different.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, what you have in chapter 1 through this section of chapter 6 just lists the different sacrifices: 1) the burnt offering, 2) the grain offering, and 3) the peace offering, which is an offering of thanksgiving.

Actually, the peace offering is very unique. You come to the temple with an animal, and you lay the hand. After it’s been slaughtered, it is not burnt on an altar. You give a part of the meat to the priest and then you take the rest of the meat, and you invite all the people around, and you participated in a festive meal. It is kind of a barbecue offering. But this is to thank God for the blessings and again it’s done through the altar to indicate that it’s the substitutionary death that allowed the giver to get the blessings.

Beerman:

Okay, essentially, it is a thank offering. The burnt offering is a thank offering.

Bolotnikov:

Not the burnt offering, but the peace offering.

Beerman:

The peace offering later on.

Bolotnikov:

That is chapter 3. Then you have in chapter 4, the sin offering, and it is kind of subdivided into different cases basically by the social status. So in other words, the priest or a chief has to bring a bull if he falls into sin. The other, the ordinary individual, the female goat or the female sheep, and if he cannot do it, than the turtle dove. Then the trespass offerings, different cases are listed here and again the different classes of people , and the kinds of things they do. So that is what kind of sets them apart. The voluntary and the compulsory offerings.

But then this section ends, and a new section begins, kind of repeating again like. Here is additional law about the burnt offering, and then there will be an additional law about the cereal offering , then there will be an additional law about the peace offering and the sin offering.

Beerman:

These are expansions.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, these are expansions. It is kind of seesaw. It talked one about these five offerings once, and then it repeats giving additional information. So our listeners when they read the Book of Leviticus, you got to have this structure in mind that it will go back. So it is kind of like you take this section of chapter 6 and literally attach it into chapter 1 to have continuous information about the burnt offering.

Beerman:

Oh that is very helpful. So its recap, we would say this is recapitulation, coming back to repeat.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, exactly.

Beerman:

Interesting things going on here. Verse 10, “The priest shall put on his linen garment, and his linen trousers.” We assume these were white. Were these white, or not necessarily?

Bolotnikov:

They presumably are white, but it differs from the luxury wool clothing with stones and gold, which the high priest usually wears.

Beerman:

So they were not necessarily really dressed up. They just have the linen thing.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, it is a totally different garment.

Beerman:

“He shall put on his body and take up the ashes,” these black ashes off the burnt offering which the fire consumed on the altar, “and shall put them beside the altar and he shall take off his garments and put on other garments and carry the ashes outside to a clean place.” This is messy stuff isn’t it?

Bolotnikov:

Oh yes, it is very important to see here that it is not some kind of non-Hebrew slave who comes with a shovel and a hook to clean up the altar. It is the priest who is elevated status. He is doing the dirty work.

Beerman:

He is. I mean it is kind of a new insight to me, truly Sasha, because we do tend to think of the priest in elevated status, and in almost just because of I suppose modern art work they are just always clean and pure as they go about. There is blood involved in sacrifices; there are ashes in sacrifices, and it is pretty dirty.

Bolotnikov:

Well, you know what I always think of. It may be in western societies that it’s not significant, but in an Eastern Orthodox culture, people talk about the temple, the dirt and ashes, and it seems to be, “Oh, no, no, no.” This is because if you’ve seen the onion domes and golden domes of the Eastern Orthodox Church, everything there is kind of squeaky clean, uplifted. That seems to horrify the Christians with an Eastern Orthodox mentality.

But I am giving the example here of a doctor, a surgeon. In American society if a person is a train board certified Mayo trained surgeon, that is a big status. If he is aspecialist in intestinal operations, that is pretty dirty.

Beerman:

That is pretty dirty.

Bolotnikov:

He usually has lots of scrubs on him, and he works. When he comes out of this operating room, he is full of blood, but he had done the job. The patient’s life is saved.

Beerman:

So in reality on the social hierarchy, how would their contemporaries in these days have esteemed a priest? Was he more of a commoner actually, or did he actually have some elevated status due to this kind of duty?

Bolotnikov:

Well exactly when I see their knowledge, the priest viewed as teachers and doctors. It is an elevated status, but it is not an elevated status of some kind of noble man. It is a status. You have a problem you go to the priest, because priest are teaching you the Bible—the Torah. Priests are taking care of your sins, and they are not shy of dirty work. They have obligations.

Beerman:

So there isn’t all glory and honor, is it?

Bolotnikov:

No.

Beerman:

There is some servanthood going on here, and in Jesus example, there seems to be some parody here.

Bolotnikov:

Yes absolutely, when we look at the picture of Jesus in the Book of Revelations chapter 1, Jesus is described as walking among the candelabra/Menorah which points to the heavenly temple. We do see Jesus, first at the candelabra, and then in Revelation chapter 8, he is by the golden altar of incense. Then the Ark of the Covenant is seen. So we have definitely a setting of the temple here in the Book of Revelation, but the only time John sees Jesus as a son of man, he is dressed as a priest in a linen garment, which is kind of, hey, doing a dirty job.

Beerman:

He’s actually not even pictured there as a high priest then.

Bolotnikov:

Actually, he is a priest and a high priest, because high priest is by definition as a priest so high priest is the priest so high priest does what all other priest do.

Beerman:

He gets in the ashes too.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, the only difference is what the high priest does on the Day of Atonement, which we will talk about in the next Parashat. But he is doing what he is doing. There is no other priest in heaven except Jesus who is both.

Beerman:

He is doing the dirty work and certainly that correlates with the cross. He become sin for us.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, he becomes—he takes the punishment for sin—yes, that’s it definitely. It is interesting the other sin offerings and the dirty work which the priests do there, it says here that the meat of sin offerings the priest must eat.

Beerman:

That is interesting. Why must he eat it?

Bolotnikov:

Well, talking about the dirty work, we have this description back in the Book of 1st Samuel where two priests, the sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas did not want to eat the boiled meat of the sin offerings. The dirty work here—all priests eat meat. There is no barbecue here. The meat was boiled in water with no spices. Try to taste goat or lamb boiled in water with no spices. It’s not delicious.

Beerman:

So this isn’t a feast.

Bolotnikov:

Oh, no. It tastes ugly. It is a heavy on the stomach, but to answer the question why. Leviticus 10:17 makes an interesting explanation here. It says here that Moses talks to the priests, “Why have not you eaten the sin offering in a holy place” (by the way the meat of the sin offering is called the most holy). “Since it’s the most holy, and God has given it to you (now look at these two sentences) first, to bear the guilt of the congregation.

Beerman:

So the eating is connected with actually internalizing, bearing the sins of the congregation.

Bolotnikov:

And then a second, to make an atonement for them before the Lord. So making atonement (we talked this last time) is actually someone bearing your sin. That is what the atonement is, so the priests are actually acting out this by eating the meat of the sin offering.

Beerman:

Becomes a part of them in essence. That is part of it.

Bolotnikov:

Unlike the burnt offering, which is wholly burnt, the sin offering and the guilt offering is a little different. When you look at when the word atonement is used with the burnt offering, the person lays his hands upon the head of the animal and gets the atonement. That is when we talked the justification—all sins, all past is gone under the water. But with the sin offering, if you look at Leviticus 4, the whole description from verse 27 to 31 for example, it says, he lays the hand on the head of the offering and then it doesn’t say atonement. Just the offering is slain. The fat is burnt. You have to go to chapter 6 to realize that the priest eats the meat. But what’s in chapter 4? It says, “And the priest shall make atonement, and he will be forgiven.”

So when a person is in a committed relationship to God, he or she needs the priest to take care of the problem, and the priest does it by symbolically eating that meat of the sin offering. That is a dirty work because it tastes horrible, but that’s the job the priest is supposed to do. That is how back in that culture they show that it is a difficult work when somebody unloads stuff on you.

Beerman:

And really a close affinity/association with humanity in general and the sin problem, and getting right in there and doing the dirty stuff. I want to back up again, coming back here into chapter 6. It says in 6:12, “The fire on the altar (this is about the fire now) shall be kept burning on it; it shall not go out. The priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and he shall arrange the burnt offering on it and shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out.” What is the significance of this perpetuation of this sacred fire?

Bolotnikov:

Well first of all we have to understand that this fire was not kindled by humans. It was God. In the Book of Exodus, we see that God’s glory does it. So the goal of the priest is to support this fire. It cannot go out. It needs to always have the priest put in wood and stuff like this. This is not an easy task. Remember we are in a desert.

Beerman:

Yes.

Bolotnikov:

So the wood has to be found, provided. So basically, that is important. This is the fire on which evening and morning burnt offerings are burnt. In other words, the priest here does intermediary work to perpetuate, to support, to sustain (better word) the perpetuity of the covenant so this smoke from the burnt offerings, whether it’s somebody individual coming and doing it or not. Because in the morning there will be lambs. In the evening there will be lambs. That smoke goes up to heaven the same way as Noah. In the time of Noah God smelled this…

Beerman:

Sweet aroma.

Bolotnikov:

For God, this is a sweet aroma reminding him about Israel, making this permanent bridge of the covenant, and then this fire is suitable for the fat of the sin offerings.

Beerman:

It is very foundational isn’t it, to the whole process, this fire.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, this is the foundation. We talked a little bit about this. This is what’s called “the daily.” It’s the daily duty of the priest to continue the light of the fire on the altar, the light of the Menorah. These are things that make the sanctuary go.

It is important. We talked about the different details and the danger of allegorizing—going into mystical explanations. I was so categorical about this, because in biblical Hebrew thinking, it’s not about the subject, it is about the action that this subject is doing.

So the pen is not about having ink in there. The pen is about my ability to write on the piece of paper. So what the Book of Leviticus shows is how each of the elements of the temple actually work.

Beerman:

Thank you Sasha for these clarifications today, a lot of detail again, but it is very, very helpful information in understanding complex scriptural passages. Thank you.


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