Aliya-by-Aliya Parshat Tzav - Shabbat Hagadol- Pesach - Parshat Shmini 5759

Numbers in [brackets] are the mitzva-count according to the Sefer HaChinuch. Other counts vary.

Kohen First Aliya - 11 p’sukim (6:1-11)

After the preliminary descriptions of the different korbanot from last week's sedra, we now find the description of the daily service in the Mikdash.

After burning all night, the fires of the Altar are tended first thing in the morning (actually a bit before dawn). This first task of the day is relatively menial, although it was enthusiastically sought after by younger kohanim who vied for the honor of "T'rumat HaDeshen" [131]. The kohen performing this task would removethe ashes from the Altar fires and place them beside the Altar. He would then change into other garments (of a slightly lesser quality than those worn for "regular" Temple service) and take the ashes to a specific "clean" place outside the camp.

The fire of the Altar was to burn always [132] and was not allowed to be extinguished ever [133].

[SDT] The mitzva that the flame of the Altar shall always burn is one of the origins of the Ner Tamid (eternal flame) in shul. Another possible origin of the Ner Tamid is the one lamp of the Menora - known as the "Western Light" - which miraculously burned continuously during the time of the first Beit HaMikdash; althoughif was filled with oil sufficient for the night, it remained lit throughout the day as well. These two ideas are related - if the lights of the Menora ever went out, one lamp was rekindled from the flame on the Mizbei'ach.

[SDT] The portion from the beginning of Tzav until this point is one of the daily readings of the Korbanot section of the Shacharit service. It is very important to recite the portions of Korbanot, based on the concept of "And our lips are substitutes for the bulls". The Gemara relates the following: Avraham Avinu askedG-d "what method will my descendants have to pursue atonement for their sins?". G-d told him that sacrifices will help bring atonement. Avraham then asked what will be during the time that the Beit HaMikdash will not stand and sacrifices will not be practiced. G-d's answer: "I have already prepared for that eventuality.As long as they read the Torah portions about sacrifices, I will consider it as if they actually offered the sacrifices, and I will forgive them their iniquities."

This idea is hinted at by the words in the opening pasuk of the sedra: ZOT TORAT HA'OLAH - This Torah (portion) of the Olah - HEE HA'OLAH... - It (the passage) is (equal to) the Olah (itself).

[SDT] The Mishna in Yoma describes the enthusiasm with which the kohanim would vie for the honor of tending the fires on the Mizbei'ach. When given the "go ahead" by the senior kohen in charge, the young kohanim would race up the ramp - first one to the top of the Mizbei'ach would perform the task. When it happened thatone kohen fell (got bumped) from the ramp and was injured, the Sages changed the method of choosing from among many kohanim, to the less dangerous counting fingers around the circle of kohanim to a randomly selected large number.

The Torah next returns to the topic of the "meal-offerings". A small amount of the flour-oil mixture and all of the frankincense was scooped up and placed on the Altar to burn. The "mincha" was not to be made Chametz [135] (there are exceptions to this rule, notably some of the "cakes" that accompanied the "Toda" offering,which therefore was not brought on Pesach - this is why we do not say "Mizmor L'Toda", Psalm 100, on Pesach). The remainder of the "mincha" is eaten by male kohanim (on duty in the Beit HaMikdash at the time of the offering] [134].

Levi LEVI - Second Aliya - 22 p’sukim (6:12-7:10)

Each day, the Kohen Gadol is to bring a meal-offering of a tenth of an eipha of flour (plus oil & spice) - half in the morning and half before evening [136]. This mincha was not to be eaten [137], but rather was completely consumed on the Mizbei'ach.

The "chatat" [138] was slaughtered in the same place as the "Olah" (viz. the north side of the Mizbei'ach). An integral part of a sin-offering is the eating of its meat by the kohen (kohanim) who brought it on behalf of the sinners.

[SDT] The Meshech Chochma points out that the kohen who dealt with the sacrifice is the one who should eat from it, because only he would know if his kavanot (thoughts and intentions) were correct or not.

His eating of the sacrifice makes the statement that he indeed did and thought all that was required. (The punishment for a kohen intentionally eating of an invalid sacrifice - in this case, he being the only person who could know of its invalidity - is punishable by "death from heaven".) We see in this issue, a high levelof accountability a person carries for his own actions.

Certain chata'ot, the blood of which was brought into the Temple itself, were not to be eaten [139], but rather completely consumed on the Altar.

[SDT] The Kli Yakar points out that the Torah commands the bringing of the Chatat and Asham (the Sin and Guilt offerings) in the same place in the courtyard of the Beit HaMikdash as the Olah in order to protect the feelings and privacy of the sinner. People who see him at that place can now assume that he is bringing anOlah and will not automatically jump to the conclusion that he has sinned. This is similar to one of the reasons given for the Amida being a silent prayer - this protects a davener from the embarrassment of something he might include in his prayer.

Train of thought

This is one of many, many moral lessons that can be derived from the Korbanot. Why should we "waste our time" learning about Korbanot? That's what someone with very limited vision might ask. Maybe this is part of the reason.

Sh'lishi Third Aliya - 28 p’sukim (7:11-38)

The Torah next discusses the "Sh'lamim", [141] beginning specifically with the "Toda". The animal sacrifice is accompanied by various types of wafers and cakes. Parts of the animal are burned on the Altar, parts are given to the kohen and the remainder is to be eaten by the owner. The korban must be eaten by midnight (actualdeadline: dawn; midnight is required as a precaution). It is forbidden to leave over any of the korban until morning [142]; that which is left over must be burned [143]. If the Sh'lamim is in fulfillment of a vow, its meat may be eaten for 2 days, becoming "Notar" on the 3rd.

It is forbidden to eat "Pigul" [144]. (Pigul is a type of invalid korban, where that which made the korban unfit was not something physical nor a mistake in the kohen's action, but rather an incorrect "kavana", of certain types. It is significant that improper thoughts alone can effect the sanctity of the korban.)

It is forbidden to eat of a korban that has become tamei (ritually unclean) [145]. This is punishable by makot. It is required to burn tamei korbanot [146]. A person who is tamei who intentionally eats meat of a korban is liable to "koreit" ("cut off" by G-d).

Certain fats of kosher animals are forbidden to eat [147]. This is the prohibition of "cheilev". There are differences between the cheilev of a korban and that of a regular CHULIN (non-sacred) animal.

Eating blood of a bird or mammal is a capital offense (from Heaven) [148].

Eating meat with blood still in it is a lesser offense, but nonetheless forbidden. This is the reason for "kashering" meat.

What follows are more details of the "Sh'lamim": what parts go on the Altar, what parts go to the kohen, etc. These are the rules of the various types of korbanot that G-d commanded us at Sinai.

[SDT] The most severe lapse in a kohen's kavana is one concerning time. A lapse regarding place of the eating of the korban, for example, is less severe (punishment-wise, for one). This fits with our previous notions concerning Shabbat and the Mishkan, that the sanctity of time is "above" that of place. - Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld

R'vi'i Fourth Aliya - 13 p’sukim (8:1-13)

Having set down the rules, G-d now commands Moshe to take Aharon and his sons, the special garments of the kohanim, the sacrificial animals, and the anointing oil, and perform the inaugural ceremonies in the presence of the People. Moshe dresses Aharon in the garb of the Kohen Gadol, anoints him, the Altar, and the vesselsof the Mishkan. He also dresses Aharon's sons.

According to Rashi, the seven day inauguration period for the Mishkan preceded its erection. In other words, the portion here in Tzav occurred before the end of Parshat P'kudei. This, says Rashi, is another example of EIN SEDER MUKDAM U'M'UCHAR BATORAH, that the Torah is not always in chronological order. But Rashi doesnot explain what we learn from the out-of-order presentation.

Many times, we do get a reason. On the other hand, there are commentaries who claim that the Torah never alters the sequence of time. On the other hand (you count them), there must be a reason for switching order, otherwise, why do it? It's just that we don't always no the reason. And, on the other hand, even when we thinkwe know a reason, it doesn't matter.

Chamishi Fifth Aliya -8 p’sukim (8:14-21)

A bull as a sin-offering is brought and Aharon and his sons "lean" on it. (This is a vital element of most personal korbanot. It facilitates a psychological identification with the animal and adds meaning to the act of sacrifice.) Leaning (smicha) is accompanied by confession (vidui) or words of praise to G-d, dependingupon the korban. The bull was slaughtered and part of its blood was put on the corners of the Altar and on its base. Parts of the bull were placed on the Altar; the remainder was burned outside the camp.

The first of two rams was next offered.

It is very important for us to understand that Korbanot were not "hocus-pocus - we're forgiven" offerings. It doesn't work like that. A Sin Offering, whipping by the Sanhedrin, even a death penalty, had to be accompanied by real T'shuva and Vidui. Without the heart in the korban-equation, the people were continually castigatedby G-d for hollow meaningless acts and lip service. A person can bring 10 korbanot, but if they are not accompanied by T'shuva, they are meaningless. Probably less that meaningless. Because they are wasteful, and maybe worse, they mock G-d.

The ceremonies have deep significance and meaning, but the heart and soul of a person must truly be involved.

Shishi Sixth Aliya - 8 p’sukim (8:22-29)

The second ram was then offered and several procedures, as specified in the Torah, were followed. Note that Moshe Rabeinu was an active participant in the 7-day inauguration period for the Mishkan. Thereafter, Aharon and his sons (and all kohanim) are the ones who perform the sacred service of the Mikdash.

Commentators speculate that had Moshe accepted his first mission at the Bush without continually claiming his inabilities, he would have been Kohen Gadol. Instead Aharon was "given to him" then, to share the burdens of leadership. Moshe was very aware that he was to pass the baton to Aharon in this vital area of communaland spiritual function. It must have been difficult for Moshe to step back at this point. Similarly, we see later that certain aspectsof Aharon's life gave Moshe pangs of envy.

Also note that this portion contains one of the few (4 or 5) SHALSHELLET (the most elaborate and drawn out of Torah notes) in the Torah.

[SDT] From the description of the procedures of the bringing of various sacrifices, it is clear that the kohen is not merely a technician who is authorized to perform the service, but rather he is an integral part of the bringing of the korban. This is seen by the various dabbings on the earlobe, thumb, and toe of the kohen,etc. as described in this parsha. So too, the fact that the kohanim must eat of various offerings, indicates their integral involvement in the whole process.

Sh'vi'i Seventh Aliya - 7 p’sukim (8:30-36)

Further anointing of Aharon, his sons, and their garments. Then Moshe told them to prepare part of the meat for eating with the accompanying cakes and wafers. That which was left over was to be burned. During the seven inaugural days, the kohanim were not to leave the Mishkan; they remained there as an honor-guard. Aharonand his sons did all that G-d had commanded through Moshe.

The final 4 p'sukim are reread for the Maftir.

Haftara Haftara - 21+1 p'sukim - Mal'achi 3:4-24

Unlike recent special Shabbatot, when we read a special Maftir in a second Torah and a special Haftara, for Shabbat HaGadol that is not the case. We use only one Torah and we read from it Parshat HaShavua. We do, however, read a special Haftara.

Some opinions say to read this haftara only when Shabbat HaGadol is Erev Pesach (a rare-ish occurrence). Other opinions say to use this haftara only when Shabbat HaGadol is NOT Erev Pesach (as is the case this year... and most years). Common practice is to read it on Shabbat HaGadol in all cases, preempting the regularlyscheduled Haftara.

The haftara speaks of faithfulness to Torah and the promise of the coming of Eliyahu HaNavi as the harbinger of the Final Redemption.

As such, this haftara helps us view Pesach in its proper perspective. Note: The penultimate (next to the last) pasuk is repeated as the concluding verse of the haftara. This is done to end the book of Trei-Asar on a positive note (Mal'achi being the last section of the Book). The end of the portion speaks of widespreadT'shuva, including parents infuencing their children and vice versa. The very end warns of dire consequences if that does not happen, G-d forbid. We end with G-d's promise to send Eliyahu. This is paralleled at the Seder table.

Parshat Shmini

Kohen First Aliya - 16 p'sukim - 9:1-16

On the eighth day (either the 8th day of Nissan or Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the 8th day referring to the days of inauguration of the Mishkan), Aharon was commanded to offer the first set of sacrifices, including Sin Offerings on his own behalf and that of the People of Israel, Burnt Offerings (Olot), and Peace Offerings (Sh'lamim).Detailsof the procedures are included.

Levi LEVI - Second Aliya - 7 p'sukim - 9:17-23

The Torah continues the description of the sacrifices, the accompanying Meal Offering, and the placing of parts of the animals on the Altar.

Aharon then (and afterwards both Aharon and Moshe) bless the People, with raised hands. This style of blessing is perpetuated in Birkat Kohanim, even to this very day. Then the Glory of HaShem appeared to the People.

Sh'lishi Third Aliya - 12p'sukim (9:24-10:11)

A Divine Fire descended and consumed all that was on the Altar. The People reacted with prayers of praise to G-d and reverence for Him.

Then Nadav and Avihu, two of Aharon's sons who had been assisting Aharon, took censers with fire and offered incense before G-d. The fire was their own; not of the Altar. A Divine Fire struck them dead, consuming them from within, leaving them unmarked on the outside. Moshe's words of consolation to Aharon are met withAharon'ssilence.

Moshe calls upon two nephews of his to remove the bodies (neither Aharon nor his remaining sons, Elazar and Itamar, were permitted to handle the bodies, since all had the status of Kohen Gadol because of the Anointing Oil, and a K.G. cannot become Tamei even to a close relative.)

Moshe next sets down several mitzvot for kohanim to save them from endangering their lives. Kohanim may not enter the Temple with long hair (monthly haircuts are required) [149] nor with torn garments [150]. They may not leave the Mishkan while performing their holy work [151]. Kohanim may not enter the Mishkan while undertheinfluence of wine [152]. Violation of any of the above rules would be a show of disrespect to the Sacred. Some commentators infer from the last mitzva, that Nadav & Avihu had drunk wine before entering the Mishkan. Others offer other reasons for their deaths.

R'vi'i Fourth Aliya - 4 p'sukim (10:12-15)

Moshe next commands Aharon, Elazar & Itamar to eat from the various offerings of the day.

Chamishi Fifth Aliya -5 p’sukim (10:16-20)

The opening pasuk of this portion contains the midpoint of the Torah in words - Darosh on one side and Darash on the other. One commentator sees a hint to the idea that without DRASH (Talmudic analysis of the Torah, i.e. the Oral Law), we are dealing with only "half of the Torah".

Moshe gets angry with Elazar and Itamar for not eating of the korbanot. Aharon defends them to Moshe, by explaining that the loss of their brothers would make "business as usual" unacceptable in the eyes of G-d. Moshe accepts Aharon's words.

Shishi Sixth Aliya - 32 p'sukim (11:1-32)

And these are the animals we may eat...

It is significant that the Torah spends two and a half sedras teaching us about korbanot of all types and only then introduces us to the laws concerning the animals we may and may not eat. Our use of animals is first and foremost at the command of G-d for sacred purposes. Secondarily, we have His permission to use (some)animalsas food for our own mundane purposes. This same sequence is reflected in the first three tractates of mishna in Seder Kodoshim - Z'vachim and M'nachot, dealing with sacrifices and offerings in the Beit HaMikdash from the animal and plant kingdoms, and then Chullin, with the laws of ritual slaughter and other mattersrelatingto everyday "use" of animals.

There is a positive mitzva to check for the signs of kashrut of a mammal, viz. split hoof and cud chewing [153]. It is forbidden to eat of animals that do not possess these two signs [154]. Examples are given of animals with only one of the two signs - camel, shafan, and arnevet, and the pig. We may not eat their meat,andhandling their carcasses render one "ritually unclean".

Likewise, one is required to examine a fish for scales and fins [155], and it is forbidden to eat "non-kosher" fish [156].

Note that the positive mitzvot to check for signs of kashrut, are technically "unnecessary". In order to avoid the prohibitions, one would have to check anyway. And yet, "G-d wants to benefit Israel, therefore He heaps upon us Torah and mitzvot..." (Mishna in Makot, used to end each chapter of Pirkei Avot; attributed toRabbiChananya ben Akashya.)

With birds, the Torah lists 19 types of birds that we are forbidden to eat [157]. This would include hundreds of species. Today, we rely on tradition to know what birds are considered kosher. The Talmud provides guidelines for distinguishing between kosher & non-kosher birds.

Next the Torah specifies four types (8 families) of locust & grasshopper that we are permitted to eat. Checking their identities is a mitzva [158]. Note: We have lost the methods of identifying the kosher insects; only some Yemenites still claim to have an unbroken tradition. The rest of us will have to await clarification.

The Torah next details the laws of "ritual impurity" re "creeping things" [159].

Sh'vi'i Seventh Aliya - 15 psu (11:33-47)

Minding the laws of "purity" of food and drink is a mitzva [160]. (It is one of the details of these laws which "required" us to wash before karpas at the Seder, and in general, before a wet food, all year round.) Once again, the Torah presents the rules of the carcasses of animals and the resulting "ritual impurity" fromcontact[161]. The Torah reiterates the prohibition of eating "creeping things" [162], as well as worms and insects that infest fruits and vegetables [163], seafood and other life-forms that inhabit the water [164], and maggots that grow in rotting food material [165].

All of the above is meant to elevate the Jew's soul to the sanctity that G-d wants us to attain. For us, there is a direct link between body and soul, the spiritual and the mundane.

The end of Shmini seems to serve as the end of the first three sedras of Vayikra. One of the messages that we get from these sedras is that our challenge to be holy can be accomplished with sacred service in the Beit HaMikdash, and can also be attained in the kitchen and dining room of our — be it ever so humble — homes.

The final three p'sukim are reread for the Maftir. The first of the three has a nice tie-in to the recently ended Pesach. G-d says it many times in the Torah. Here He clearly states that He took us out of Egypt to be our G-d and we must become holy because He is holy. Rashi on the pasuk puts it like this: On the conditionthatyou accept my mitzvot, I took you out of Egypt. That's the deal. Let's keep our side.

Haftara Haftara - Shmuel Bet 6:1-7:17

Contains the story of Uza who touched the Aron to prevent it from slipping (as he perceived it) and was struck dead as a result. Basically, explain the commentaries, Uza's "sin" was excessive familiarity with the sacred Aron. This same behavioral flaw was responsible for the demise of Nadav and Avihu in the parsha, hencethechoice of this portion for the Haftara.

King David, on the other hand, dances with joy before the Aron on its return to Yerushalayim. His wife Michal criticizes him for his "inappropriate" behavior, but she is wrong in this case. It is not easy to find the right way of expressing one's religious fervor without overstepping one's bounds and also without underdoingthings.

The Haftara also tells of the original plan for David to build the Mikdash, and then the prophetic message of Natan, that David will not, but his son Shlomo will. The House of David has a different meaning, the Davidic line.A