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Parshas Tzav - Bias, Derech Eretz and Impact

By Rabbi Yosef Tropper

Posted on 03/22/18

1) What’s the Zeruz?


The Torah starts off with a command, “Tzav es Aharon v’es banav.”  You should command and tell Aharon and his sons.  Rashi brings down that the word “tzav”, why is it giving them a command.  It’s a very strange expression.  Rashi says that tzav means ziruz.  To get them to be steadfast.  “Miyad u’l’doros,” for now and for future generations.  What does that mean?  Why do they need this? The Midrash explains: Rav Shimon says that you need ziruz here, “b’makom she’yeish bo chisarone kis.”  Because there is a loss of money. What’s going on?


Rashi: Totally Burnt


Ramban says: I don’t know what’s going on because you’re giving a ziruz, you’re hastening them to follow the halacha, but where is the loss of money here?  Rashi seems to be explaining that normally when a cohen brings a korban, he gets hanaah, benefit, because he gets his portion, and so, there, of course the cohen is going to be very careful to not be lazy and do the avodah and take care of it.  He doesn’t want any other cohen to precede him, and he wants to make sure that he gets his gift whether it’s the skin or the meat or other things, but an olah is burned for Hashem.  An olah is burnt totally for Hashem, so maybe the Kohen would allow himself to be lazy, and that’s the chisaron kis that the cohen is really not getting anything, so why should I waste my time with this olah, and that is how Rashi would explain it.


Bias Awareness


That’s a lesson in it of itself just in that Rashi that you’re talking about the cohen, you’re talking about tzaddikim, you’re talking about Aharon and his children, and yet there’s a personal bias that they’re saying: Well, what am I getting from this, so why should I help this guy out.  I want to go help the Shelamim or the mincha because then I’ll get more meat or more skin or bread, and yet there is this idea of being mezareiz them.


Ramban: Tzav For Future


However, Ramban says that this is not the correct p’shat because there is a profit that you get from bringing an olah as well.  It’s true that the meat is all burnt for Hashem.  However, cohanim get the skin, so that’s enough that it’s going to encourage them as well.  So, says the Ramban that that’s not what’s going on.  What’s going on is that the first Medrash is saying that the word tzav is mezreiz.  It encourages one to be careful with something because the words “tzav” usually means “miyag u’l’doros” – it applies now and it applies for future generations as long as the Beis Hamikdash is going to be around they’re going to bringing the korban olah for hundreds of years in Klal Yisrael’s history. Rav Shimon is arguing and saying that there are other times that the word tzav is used to mean ziruz because there is a loss of money.  But, here this is not the case


Ramban: Minchas Chavitim and Minchas Chinuch


Ramban says that it also might be referring to, the word “tzav” here, if it’s referring to loss of money, it’s because later on we find a few pesukim later the minchas chavitim and minchas chinuch that they bring. This is paid for by the kohen himself and must come from their own wallet, and so, perhaps, that is the chisaron kis that’s being discussed here.


Constant Awareness


The point that we need to think about is just you need to know how strong bias is. We always need to be aware of our own biases. If we’re losing money we might be biased.  But, more than that it’s important for the cohen to be in touch with this and to be mezareiz himself because cohanim zerim by nature, cohanim are very careful and very enthusiastic and careful about doing the mitzvah, and, still, in this case, they’re being reminded to be steadfast and we know that things always need chizuk, and our avodas Hashem always needs more and more chizuk, and that’s the purpose of the mishkan and the Beis Hamikdash and our tefillah, which replaces the korbanos. We are always mischaziek ourselves and not take things for granted.  To push ourselves to serve Hashem more and more.


2) Rashi: Taking Out The Trash


“U’pashat es begadav. (Vayikrah 6:4)”  The Kohen should change his clothing before taking out the Terumas Hadeshen, basically the trash, from the top of the mizbayach. Ramban says that Rashi says that this is not a chova; it is derech eretz.  It’s just saying that it’s not appropriate for him to do the avodah in his begadim, and so it’s better for him to change into his other begadim, so that he doesn’t get his cohen service clothing dirty. This is what Chazal say.


Ramban: Obligation


However, Ramban says that’s not true; it’s a mitzvah. The Kohen should have some clothing that he’ll bring korbanos in, and also, haramas hadeshen, bringing out the trash, the burnt pile in the middle of the mizbeiach, should be done with clean clothing because even when you’re taking out the trash in the Beis Hamikdash you should look respectful. However, he should not use the same ones for his avodah, because when you serve your Master you should make sure that you use more respectable clothing when you’re standing in front of G-d, so to speak, and when you’re taking out the trash, you should make sure to keep your clothing clean as well, but make sure that you do not use the same clothing for both.


More Honor, More Humility


When it comes to avodas Hashem, it’s very important that we know all forms, even taking out the trash, the Terumas HaDeshen is also avodas Hashem.  In fact, some of the mefarshim say that the reason that Aharon is given this job is because, “kol hagadol m’chaveiro, yitzro gadol heimenu,” and like the Gemara in Berachos says also that when the cohen gadol davens Shemoneh Esrei he bows at every beracha, and the king that davens he should just bow at the first beracha and just stay on the floor.  Rashi explains that the more honor you have the more you need to humble yourself and make sure that you’re not letting it get to your head, and so the cohen needs to be aware that he has his job that he represents the Jewsih nation, but he still takes out the trash.  That’s why Aharon Hacohen is someone who is singled out as someone who could take out the trash because that is also avodas Hashem, and he needs to subjugate himself to Hashem, and never let his position get to his head because that would defeat the whole purpose.


3) Suggested Derech Eretz


We’ve talked about the mincha about which Chazal tell us the owner gets some of it, and he also gives some of it to the Kohen, but the pasuk (Vayikrah 7:9) seems to say that he should give a portion of his mincha to the cohen who helped him take a kemitza and wave it, etc.  However, Chazal say, explicitly that “lacohen hamakriv lo tihiyeh” refers to the kehuna.  The kehuna, any cohen gets it.  You can give it to anyone.  However, Ramban says that it’s derech eretz that the person who helped you, this person, you came to the Beis Hamikdash, he asked you: How could I help you?  You told him you’re bringing a mincha.  It’s appropriate that you should choose to give it to him.  You don’t have to, but it’s just appropriate. 


The Torah is teaching us derech eretz, and this is the p’shat that the Ramban says, “Ein mikra yoitzeih midei p’shuto.”  That’s why the Torah expressed the law this way.  You’re right it goes to the kehuna; the gemara says this in Zevachim explicitly, and you can’t argue with the gemara.  Chazal have a mesorah that you can give it to any cohen when you bring a mincha.  However, it’s derech eretz to give it to someone that helped you.  We should always look at the people that helped us and be maker tov to them.


Ein Mikra Yotzei Midei P’shuto


Rav Chaim Freidlander in his sefer, Sifsie Chaim (Emunah v’Hishtadlus Volume 2) has an entire maymar just on how do you understand Chazal, and this Ramban about how the rishonim learned, “ein mikra yotzei midei p’shuto.”  Every pasuk has a simple understanding as well, and it’s very fascinating what he writes over there, and we’ve developed this a number of times that that’s the shitah of the Ramban as well that, of course, Chazal are the ultimate understanding of what the pasuk means, but we could always look at the pasuk and learn a lesson from it as well.


4) Rashi and Ibn Ezra: Sometimes Torah uses Extra Vavs


Ramban (Vayikrah 7:16) gives us a little lesson in how to read the pasuk.  So, it says, “U’mimacharas.”  The next day, after you’ve brought your korban.  “v’hanoseir mimenu yochal”.  You could eat the leftovers because you have two days and one night to eat it. Ramban and Rashi are both bothered.  It should say, “u’mimachras,” the next day, “hanoseir mimenu yochal”, you could eat the rest.  Why does it say “v’hanosar”?  Rashi says that sometimes the Torah uses extra vavs.  Like, for example, it says, “Eilu bnei tzivon v’ayit v’ana”, so it gives the list of their names and it says extra vavs. Even though in English, we put a comma; we don’t write ‘and’ until the end, but, sometimes, in Hebrew there’s a few extra vavs. That’s what Rashi and Ibn Ezra say


Ramban: Lesson Here


However, Ramban says: There’s something much deeper going on here.  What’s the p’shat?  Says the Ramban like this: You have two days to eat the korban; so you might think, and Chazal tell us not to think this way, that the p’shat is that you have two days, but you should be mezareiz and you should eat it all in one day because that’s just better to eat it in one day and get it over with, make sure that you are not going to have any leftovers, etc.  So, says the pasuk, “No.”  That, “u’m’macharas”, you have the next day to eat it as well, “v’hanoseir mimenu yochal.”  Not only that, but you are allowed to leave over some for the next day and eat it then.


Extended Time and Influence


The way I understand the Ramban, something deeper here, which is based on the Rambam, peirush hamishnayos on avos says that if you have a choice of giving away a hundred dollars to one poor person, or one dollar bills to a hundred people for tzeddakah, he says that to an extent it is better to break it up because it makes you into a better person  that you are constantly giving and giving.  Yeah, it’s true, it might be better for one person, and there are chiyuvim of tzedakah and how much we give a person, but for you, it’s going to be metzareif you; it’s going to teach you to be a better person, and so it’s better if you break it up.


I believe it’s the same thing with a korban.  The purpose of the korbanos is so that you eat them and think about how Hashem spared you and spared you life, even though you did an aveirah, he gives you another chance to do teshuva and, if you bring a korban todah, for example, it’s an opportunity to say thank you to everyone, and so while you’re eating, we know that the todah actually, you only have one day to eat because you’re supposed to make a big party and invite everyone and share it with everybody.  You have forty loaves that you make sure you eat in one day like the Netziv explains.  But, in all the other korbanos, it is better if you break it up, perhaps, over a number of days because you get more out of it that way.


More Impact


We find the idea of Pesach Sheini and Yom Tov Sheini, when a Yom Tov lasts a number of days it gives us more opportunity to take it in.  It doesn’t mean to say that in Eretz Yisrael things are one day and you can get a tremendous spiritual boost and awakening from that.  However, when we have two days, sometimes, that gives us more time to digest.  And, so when a person is bringing a korban, perhaps, it’s worthwhile for him to split it up and eat it over the allotted time so that it could make more of an impact on him because repetition is what teaches us things.  


We find by Megilas Esther that we lein it once at day and once at night.  There aren’t too many mitzvos like it where we lein it twice.  Now, there’s many p’shatim.  One of them is that the Jews cried out at day and cried out at night, and that’s very important, but the main p’shat is that it’s repetition.  That when a person repeats something, that’s how it goes in.  We hear the story again and again.  It becomes more and more established inside our hearts and minds, and when we repeat things like Krias Sh’ma, and things that we repeat daily, like berachos, it goes in deeper.


5) Machlokes Rashi and Ramban Regarding Mishkan and Eigel


Ramban (Vayikrah 8:1) and Rashi have a behemoth argument about whether or not the mishkan was commanded before or after the sin of the Golden Calf.  There are those that I know that have tried to tie it together, and there is more overlap than there is argument.  But, al pi p’shat, we know that Rashi holds that the command to build the mishkan came after the Eigel.  Meaning, the Jews served the Eigel, and therefore, Hashem gave them the mishkan, and it seems to be, according to Rashi, that the mishkan would have had a different purpose or wouldn’t have been the same thing that it was until the Jews served the Eigel and then they needed the mishkan.  


Whereas, the Ramban holds throughout Chumash that it’s the opposite. The tzivui of the meleches hamishkan came before the Eigel. Hashem wanted the mishkan no matter what, and it’s just once they served the Eigel, then the mishkan became something that would create a kapparra for it as well.


No Matter What


There’s a lesson in both of these points.  There are those that have tried to reconcile, but the Ramban here does say very strongly his opinion, and, of course, we always know that in life there are many challenges that people have, many eigels that we all serve, things that we get distracted by, and our purpose is to turn back to Hashem by bringing the mishkan, by opening up our hearts and opening up our hearts and inviting Him inside.


We should be zocheh to open our hearts and bring Hashem in as we learn the pashious of the korbanos to build our own personal mishkna for Hashem.




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Rabbi Yosef Tropper is a rav and psychotherapist. Learn more and subscribe at ParshaThemes.com