Tzav and Vayikra – Some Additional Thoughts

In two recent posts we discussed the differences between Tzav and Vayikra.  In one, we looked at the difference in the order of the korbanot, and in the other we looked at how the portion of the sacrifices that the Kohanim receive is framed.   As a wrap-up of that discussion, here are some additional differences worth noting:

  • Tzav’s discussion of the olah is very brief (6:1-6), without an enumeration of all the possible different animals.  What type of animals can (as opposed to must) be brought is of interest to and the choice of the owner, and not a significant concern of the Kohen.
  • Tzav discusses (6:1-6) all the work that the Kohanim have to do at night and in the early morning to finish the work of the olah, to keep the fire burning, and to prepare the altar for the next morning.  All of this – the cleanup and the preparation, as it were – is invisible to the owners and not mentioned in Vayikra.
  • There is no discussion of the different types of mincha in Tzav (6:7-11) in contrast to Vayikra because, again, this choice is not of interest to the Kohanim.
  • There is, however, a discussion of the minchas of Kohanim in Tzav (6:12-16), which is not present in Vayikra, because this is the exclusive interest of the Kohanim.
  • There is no discussion of the circumstances that obligate a chatat (6:17-23), in contrast to the long exposition in Vayikra.  There is, however, detailed discussion of ritual issues that can arise in the cooking of the chatat and the dealing with its blood – again, issues which are of concern almost exclusively to the Kohanim.
  • As discussed in the earlier post, in  Tzav there is significant focus on who gets which parts of the korban to eat or to take home – again, a major concern for the Kohanim.

The one section which seems not to fit this pattern is that of the shelamim (7:11-15; 16-21).  This korban is primarily of interest to the owners, as its meat is eaten by the owners, and yet the primary exposition occurs in Tzav and not in Vayikra.

The explanation for this seems to be the following.  The Torah in Tzav discusses the todah (7:11-15), which comes with loaves of unleavened and leavened bread, and is only eaten for a day.  In then discusses the classic shelamim (7:16-21) which has no loaves and is eaten for two days.   Yet, when the Torah wraps up this section it does not mention the todah, but rather the miluim (initiation sacrifice):

This is the law for the olah and the mincha and for the chatat and for the asham and for the miluim and for the shelamim sacrifice.  (Vayikra 8:37).

This list follows the exact order that the koranot are presented in Tzav, except instead of the todah we find the miluim. Now, these two sacrifices are very similar.  They are both forms of shelamim, they both come with loaves, and they are both eaten for just one day.  The difference is that the miluim is a communal sacrifice and is kodshei kodshim. As such, it does not leave the Temple precincts and it can only be eaten by the Kohanim.  [Also, it only had 3 sets of loaves and not 4.]

Because of these striking similarities, the differences notwithstanding, and because miluim takes the place of todah in the summation list, I would suggest that when the Torah lays out the laws for the todah it is also communication – between the lines, or as part of the Oral Tradition – the laws of the miluim as well.  Or, since the details of the miluim were already given in Shemot (29:19-28), the Torah is here mentioning the todah as the lay counterpart of the miluim.   The second section on the shelamim (7:16-21) is the section that is the fully lay shelamim, and can be understood as an outgrowth of the prior section.

[It is also worth noting that Chazal understand that the verse regarding pigul (7:18) is referring to what the Kohen is thinking, but this is not a sufficient explanation as to why this section appears in Tzav, as it still leaves the question as to why the law of pigul is given in the context of shelamim and not another sacrifice.]

Thus, although the Torah gives many details of the shelamim in Tzav, it is possible that this ultimately originates in the Kohanim’s concern around the miluim, which certainly is their focus in the remainder of parashat Tzav.   Thus, when the Torah turns to issues that are fully focused on the owners – the issue of eating the forbidden fat and the blood – it introduces that section with “Speak to the Children of Israel saying” (7:23).  We are no longer just speaking to the Kohanim.  And, this framing continues when the Torah gives even more details of the shelamim (7:28-34).   Once more, it is not the Kohanim who are addressed, but “Speak to the Children of Israel.”


About Rabbi Dov Linzer

Rabbi Dov Linzer is the Rosh HaYeshiva and Dean of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, a groundbreaking Orthodox smicha program. Rabbi Linzer spearheaded the development of YCT to create an innovative four year smicha program which provides its students with rigorous talmud Torah and halakhic study and sophisticated professional training in the context of a religious atmosphere which cultivates openness and inclusiveness. Rabbi Linzer has published Halakha and machshava articles in Torah journals and lectures widely at synagogues and conferences on topics relating to Halakha, Orthodoxy, and modernity. He is most recently the awardee of the prestigious Avi Chai Fellowship.
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