Category Archives: Tzav


The Haftarah of Tzav is only read on leap years, and only if it is not also Shabbat Zachor. Otherwise, Tzav usually falls out on Shabbat HaGadol

It is from Yirmeyahu, and it is not good news.

Linear annotated translation of the Haftarah of Tzav

For an explanation of the ironically straight-forward connection, and an additional connection to Purim, see Forms of Worship

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Tzav – Forms of Worship

Parshat Tzav contains many commandments that describe how, precisely, the Cohanim should go about bringing various kinds of sacrifices. For that reason, it is puzzling to see the following statement in the Haftarah:

כִּי לֹא דִבַּרְתִּי אֶת אֲבוֹתֵיכֶם וְלֹא צִוִּיתִים בְּיוֹם הוֹצִיאִי אוֹתָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם עַל דִּבְרֵי עוֹלָה וָזָבַח
For I did not speak to your ancestors and did not command them, on the day that I took them out of the land of Egypt, regarding sacrifices and offerings. (Yirmeyahu 7:22)

How can G-d say, “I did not command them about sacrifices and offerings, ” when the Parsha, which is even called “Tzav,” does exactly that?

The commentaries offer several explanations. First of all, they focus on the phrase, “on the day that I took them out of the land of Egypt,” and point out that, indeed, the commandments that the Jewish People received immediately after leaving Egypt did not include any mention of sacrifices. Nor are sacrifices mentioned in the Ten Commandments. It is only months later, after the Mishkan is built, that these laws were given, in VaYikra and Tzav.

Other commentaries point out that personal sacrifices are not mandatory. A person can choose to bring an offering, and if so, the Torah tells him how to do it. But the Torah does not command him to do it in the first place.

This is very different from the pagan mentality that was prevalent in the ancient world. They believed that a god is worshipped only and exclusively through sacrifices and offerings. If you have a god, you build him or her a temple, and if you want something from them, you go and bring them a nice jar of olives, or a fat little lamb.

This is not how our relationship with G-d works, and this is not how He expects to be worshipped. The Haftarah explains what He does want from us:

כִּי אִם אֶת הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה צִוִּיתִי אוֹתָם לֵאמֹר שִׁמְעוּ בְקוֹלִי וְהָיִיתִי לָכֶם לֵא-לֹהִים וְאַתֶּם תִּהְיוּ לִי לְעָם וַהֲלַכְתֶּם בְּכָל הַדֶּרֶךְ אֲשֶׁר אֲצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם לְמַעַן יִיטַב לָכֶם:
Rather, it was this that I commanded them, saying: Listen to My voice! Then I will be your G-d, and you will be My nation, and you shall walk in every path that I command you, so that it would be to your benefit. (Yirmeyahu 7:23)

From the very beginning, G-d has said that the way for us to be His nation is to do what He tells us to, in all the different aspects of our lives. “On the day that we left Egypt,” at the first stop of the journey, even before Matan Torah at Sinai, G-d had already started telling us about the commandments of Shabbat and the laws of business dealings. That is how we serve G-d.

This does not mean that the Torah rejects sacrifices altogether. They are not the exclusive way to worship G-d, the way they are for the pagans, but they do serve a purpose. For instance, there are sacrifices that atone for national sins, when the entire nation fails to live up to G-d’s expectations. There are feast offerings, where family and friends get together for a celebration, but do so at the Altar, in the context of serving G-d. There are also meal offerings, which even a very poor person can afford, if he wishes to give something of himself; and those were shared with the Cohanim, who had no other income.

Unfortunately, even though the Torah restricted sacrificial worship to very specific forms, as delineated in the Parsha, we see in the Haftarah that by Yirmeyahu’s time, it had degenerated into the main form of worship, replacing the commandments and the rest of the Torah.

This is why G-d found it necessary to destroy the Beit HaMikdash, and make it impossible for the Jewish People to bring any sacrifices at all. Not for national sins, not for feasts, and not for giving gifts to G-d. If it kept them from “walking in every path that I command you,” then it is not worth having.

The Haftarah of Tzav is read around Purim time. The story of Purim takes place in one of the first generations who found themselves without this form of worship. Haman’s decree against the Jewish People is a sign that the nation has done something that requires atonement. Without sacrifices, how can that be achieved?

Fortunately, the prophets of the transitional generations had already put in place an alternative.

כאשר קימו על נפשם ועל זרעם דברי הצמות וזעקתם
…as they had already accepted upon themselves the subject of the fasts and crying out. (Esther 9:31)

Fasting and crying out to G-d in prayer on a national level had already been designated as a substitute for communal sacrifice, effecting forgiveness and atonement.

This is how Esther knew to tell Mordechai to gather the Jews to a communal fast. Esther understood this to be a way of worshipping G-d, and of doing public atonement for whatever sins the Jewish People had committed in order to deserve Haman’s decree.

But then Mordechai and Esther took it one step further. If the worship of the atonement sacrifice can be replaced by the worship of fasting and prayer, then the other forms of worship can be replaced, too. The Altar is gone, and the feast offerings with them. Friends and family cannot share portions of food of the offering, but they can still send each other portions of food and celebrate at a feast. They cannot make a meal offering to be eaten by Cohanim, but they can send gifts to others who have limited sources of income.

In this way, the observance of Purim substitutes for the worship of G-d at the Altar, which is no more. And we can be sure that these forms of worship that the Jewish People had accepted upon themselves are never going to get in the way of “walking in every path that I command you.”

Copyright © Kira Sirote
In memory of my father, Peter Rozenberg, z”l
לעילוי נשמת אבי מורי פנחס בן נתן נטע ז”ל

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Filed under Connections, Sefer Vayikra, Tzav