Throughout the Torah, two expressions of speech are primarily used when
mitzvos are related to us – ‘amar’ and ‘dabeir.’ (For example, Va’yomer …,
or va’yedabeir …) Generally speaking, the word ‘amar’ denotes a softer
form of expression while ‘dabeir’ infers a more direct type of verbal
instruction. In the opening words of this week’s parsha, however, a third,
firmer form of oral instruction is used; a tzivui or command. “Tzav es
Aharon v’es bonov – command Aharon and his sons.” This is a more direct
type of instruction, one that seems to be firmer than the dabeir
Rashi opens his commentary on this week’s parsha (Vayikrah 6:2) by
explaining that the Torah uses the emphatic expression of ‘tzav’ (command)
to inform the kohanim that they needed to be especially careful in their
service of Hashem in the mishkan. Rashi explains that the ‘tzav’
commandment exhorts the kohanim to follow these instructions “Miyad
u’lidoros – to perform them immediately and [to pass these instructions
along] to future generations of their children. (See full text of Rashi
for additional insight regarding the tzav expression)
Several questions arise:
Firstly, Parshas Tzav opens with a discussion of how a korban olah (an
elevation offering) was prepared. If korbonos require a tzav expression to
underline their importance, why was this expression not used earlier in
Parshas Vayikrah when the korban olah was first introduced? Why is the
tzav command used only when it is repeated in this week’s parsha?
Additionally, we can ask a broader question on the treatment of the
korbonos in these two parshiyos. Why was there a need to repeat the
instructions for a korban olah in Parshas Tzav when it was already
mentioned in Parshas Vayikrah?
Finally, why was the emphatic term tzav utilized when discussing korbanos?
There are so many mitzvos that seem to be equally important to those of
the korbonos. Why, then, was such emphasis placed on these halachos?
To gain deeper insight into this matter and to address these three
questions, we can perhaps draw on the insight of the Ramban, who points
out that there is a fundamental difference between the two parshiyos.
Parshas Vayikrah approaches the topic of korbanos from the perspective of
the one donating the sacrifice, while Parshas Tzav takes a different
track – addressing the korbonos as they relate to the kohanim who perform
the actual service. Parshas Vayikrah begins with “Dabeir el Bnei Yisroel
(Vayikrah 1:2)”, while this week’s parsha starts with, “Dabeir el Aharon
I would like to expand on the though of the Ramban and suggest that the
term ‘tzav’ is most appropriate when speaking to the kohanim during their
initial training for serving in the mishkan.
Perhaps the training program of the Armed Services, lehavdil, would be an
appropriate analogy to explain the concept of acclimating individuals to
work in the broad framework of a unit. Much thought is given into
planning the training of these recruits during their period of basic
training. All branches of the Armed Services have a period of basic
training for incoming recruits. During this time, dramatically diverse
groups of people are trained to join together for the common good.
All recruits share the universal goal of defending their country when they
enter the service. However, as diverse individuals they have different
backgrounds and different frames of reference. It is the job of the drill
instructor to have them blend into a cohesive unit. After all, in the
battlefield, their lives will quite literally depend on effectively
following orders – whether or not they agree with them or whether they
understand the bigger picture of the reasoning for those directives.
Therefore, the unit is stressed, not the individual. To achieve this
result and to promote the feeling of unity, individual hairstyles and
individual forms of dress are discarded and replaced with across-the-board
hairstyles and standard uniforms.
The reason for all this unit building is that in the battlefield, one must
follow the commander regardless of his or her preferences. If the general
issues orders for his sergeants to take a particular hill, those
directives must be followed, regardless of any individual soldier's
thought process. Imagine the level of havoc that would reign if every
soldier created and implemented his own battle strategy!
Entering the Service of Hashem
This would perhaps explain why the term ‘tzav’ was used as the kohanim
were inaugurated into the service of Hashem in this week’s parsha. Precise
and specific instructions were given regarding the halachos of all the
korbanos. The ‘elite unit’ of kohanim was tasked with the job of carrying
out those instructions. In that context, a commandment is perfectly in
I would like to suggest a deeper meaning in the words of Rashi
(6:2), “Miyad u’lidoros – to perform them [the mitzvos of the kohanim]
immediately and [to pass these instructions along] to future generations
of their children.
Miyad, immediately, is the essence of a command. Do it now. We can discuss
it later, but for the moment, just do as you are told. I would like to
suggest this type of thinking is a necessary component of a Torah Jew and
an eved Hashem. Surely we should strive to understand and find meaning in
all of Hashem’s mitzvos. But there are some that we may never fully
comprehend. Our mission in life is to perform all of Hashem’s mitzvos –
miyad, as an immediate command. For if we do not do so, or if we ‘pick and
choose’ – performing only those we fully understand, it weakens our bond
with Hashem and makes it nearly impossible to transmit our mesorah
(tradition) to the next generation.
We can perhaps read this theme into the words of Rashi. Miyad, u’ledoros.
We are instructed to perform the mitzvos as commandments. Doing so will
enable us to grow as Torah Jews and pass our mesorah to future