Monthly Archives: March 2016


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

Leave a Comment

Filed under Sefer Vayikra, Tzav

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under Connections, Sefer Vayikra, Tzav


Pekudei is read only during leap years, and then only when it’s not one of the special Parshiyot. It describes the completion of the building of the Beit HaMikdash, the Temple, by Shlomo.

Linear annotated translation of the Haftarah of Pekudei

There are several connections, most prominently the use of words from the story of Creation: Partners with G-d

Leave a Comment

Filed under Pekudei, Sefer Shemot

Pekudei – Partners with G-d

The Haftarah of Pekudei describes the completion of the building of the Beit HaMikdash (Temple), just as the Parsha of Pekudei describes the completion of the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). It is not surprising to find that there are parallels in the descriptions.

Parshat Pekudei says the following:

וַתֵּכֶל כָּל עֲבֹדַת מִשְׁכַּן אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד וַיַּעֲשׂוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה ה’ אֶת מֹשֶׁה כֵּן עָשׂוּ. וַיַּרְא מֹשֶׁה אֶת כָּל הַמְּלָאכָה וְהִנֵּה עָשׂוּ אֹתָהּ כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה ה’ כֵּן עָשׂוּ וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתָם מֹשֶׁה
All the work of the Mishkan was concluded; Bnei-Yisrael had made exactly what Hashem commanded Moshe, so they made. Moshe saw all the construction; and behold, it had been made as Hashem had commanded, so it was made. Moshe blessed them. (Shemot 39:32,43)

and in the Haftarah:

וַתִּשְׁלַם כָּל הַמְּלָאכָה אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה הַמֶּלֶךְ שְׁלֹמֹה בֵּית ה’… וַיַּסֵּב הַמֶּלֶךְ אֶת פָּנָיו וַיְבָרֶךְ אֵת כָּל קְהַל יִשְׂרָאֵל
All the construction was completed that King Shlomo had made for Beit-Hashem…The king turned his face and blessed all the assembly of Yisrael. (Melachim I 7:51, 8:14)

The description focuses on the completion of the work and the blessing that was given by the maker. If that sounds familiar, it is because these are the same words that are used in the Creation of the World itself:

וַיְכַל אֱ-לֹהִים בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה וַיִּשְׁבֹּת בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מִכָּל מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה. וַיְבָרֶךְ אֱ-לֹהִים אֶת יוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי וַיְקַדֵּשׁ אֹתוֹ כִּי בוֹ שָׁבַת מִכָּל מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר בָּרָא אֱ-לֹהִים לַעֲשׂוֹת
G-d concluded on the seventh day the construction that He had made. He rested on the seventh day from all the construction that He had made. G-d blessed the seventh day and made it holy, for on it He stopped all the construction that G-d had created to make. (Bereishit 2:2-3)

The wording used to describe the completion of Creation is the same as the wording used to describe the completion of the Mishkan and, later, of the Beit HaMikdash. That means that building the Mishkan is analogous to creating the world. Indeed, that is how the Midrash describes it, going through the Creation of the world day by day and showing the parallels to the Mishkan:

את המשכן שהוא שקול כנגד העולם שקרוי אוהל כשם שמשכן קרוי אוהל כיצד כתיב בראשית ברא אלהים וגו’ וכתיב נוטה שמים כיריעה ובמשכן כתיב ועשית יריעות עזים לאוהל על המשכן וגו’ כתיב בשני יהי רקיע ויהי מבדיל וגו’ ובמשכן כתיב והבדילה הפרוכת לכם … בששי נברא אדם ובמשכן ואתה הקרב אליך את אהרן אחיך בשביעי כתיב ויכולו השמים וגו’ ובמשכן ותכל כל עבודת משכן וגו’ בבריאת עולם כתיב ויברך אלהים ובמשכן ויברך אותם
The Mishkan is analogous to the world, which is called a tent, just as the Mishkan is called a tent. How so? It says: “He spreads out the sky like a curtain,” and by the Mishkan it says, “Make goatskin curtains for the tent of the Mishkan.” On the second day it says: “Let the sky be a separation,” and by the Mishkan it says, “the curtain will be a separation,” etc … On the sixth day: mankind was created, and by the Mishkan it says, “Bring close to you Aharon, your brother.” On the seventh day: “The heavens were concluded,” and by the Mishkan, “All the work was concluded.” At Creation it says, “G-d blessed,” and by the Mishkan, “He blessed them.”
(Midrash Bamidbar Rabba 12:13)

If the Mishkan is the world in miniature and its building is Creation in miniature, then the Jewish People are, in a manner of speaking, G-d in miniature. G-d concludes the Creation of the World as its Maker and blesses it; Moshe concludes the building of the Mishkan as its maker and blesses the Jewish People; Shlomo concludes the building of the Beit HaMikdash as its maker and blesses the Jewish People.

How is such a thing possible? What is it that turns a man-made construction into a microcosm of the world and its makers into Makers, capable of bestowing blessing?

In the case of the Mishkan, we can answer that it was made according to G-d’s specific, explicit instructions: “and behold, it had been made as Hashem had commanded, so it was made.” Thus, the Jewish People were simply G-d’s construction crew; because they represent Him in carrying out His commands, they represent Him in their ability to bestow blessing.

But what about the Beit HaMikdash? As the Haftarah points out, the idea to build it did not come from G-d, but rather from David HaMelech. G-d approved it, but that is not the same as commanding it. Nor does it say in the Haftarah that it was made according to G-d’s command. The parallels to the Mishkan include the words “completion,” “construction,” “made,” and “blessed,” but is missing the phrase, “as Hashem commanded.”

How, then, was it possible for the Beit HaMikdash to reach the level of the Mishkan, emulating the Creation of the World, and for Shlomo to reach the level of Moshe, emulating the Maker with the ability to bless?

Shlomo provides the answer himself when he talks about what has been accomplished in the building of the Beit HaMikdash:

וָאֶבְנֶה הַבַּיִת לְשֵׁם ה’ אֱ-לֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל . וָאָשִׂם שָׁם מָקוֹם לָאָרוֹן אֲשֶׁר שָׁם בְּרִית ה’ אֲשֶׁר כָּרַת עִם אֲבֹתֵינוּ בְּהוֹצִיאוֹ אֹתָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.
I have built the House to the Name of Hashem, the G-d of Yisrael. And I made there a place for the Ark in which lies the Covenant of Hashem that He had made with our fathers when He took them out of Egypt. (Melachim I 8:20-21)

What makes this particular set of wood and stone into a House for Hashem is the Ark, in which lie the Tablets that represent the Covenant between G-d and the Jewish People at Sinai. It is when the Ark is placed inside the Beit HaMikdash that G-d’s Presence makes itself felt in the House. Only after that is Shlomo able to turn to the Jewish People and say, “I did it. I made this into a House for Hashem.” Only then is he able to bless them.

However, it was not the Ark that breathed life and meaning into wood and stone; it is also only wood and stone itself. Rather, it was the Covenant that it contained, that G-d had made with the Jewish People when He took us out of Egypt, the Covenant of “we will do and we will listen.” It was for the sake of our keeping this Covenant that G-d allowed Shlomo to build a House in His Name and to show His Presence within it. It is this Covenant that makes us G-d’s messengers in this world and His partners in Creation.

The building of the Mishkan, with its multitude of detailed commandments that were carried out “as He has commanded, so it was done,” was the first grand-scale exercise of our role as G-d’s partners. The faithful fulfilment of these commandments made it possible to create a microcosm of the world and made it possible for Moshe to bless the Jewish People in the way that G-d blessed His Creation. However, building the Mishkan was a one-time event; we do not make a Mishkan every day or every year.

In contrast, G-d’s Presence in the Beit HaMikdash was not due to the fulfilment of a set of specific commandments, but rather on the sum total of the commandments in the Covenant. Commandments such as “Honor your father and mother,” “Do not covet,” and the six hundred and eleven others, make us G-d’s representatives and His partners on a daily basis. By leading our entire lives in the form of “as He has commanded, so it was done,” we cause His Presence to dwell in this world, and become capable of bestowing blessing upon His Creation.

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

1 Comment

Filed under Pekudei, Sefer Shemot