|Tzav 5766 - Command!|
by Rabbi Jeffrey Feinberg
This week's parashah--TSAV!--Command!--directs the Kohanim (priests) to tend to the offerings of God's people. The first service of the morning requires the priest to extract glowing ashes from the altar, taken from the olah, a most-holy fire offering (Lev. 6:2-3). To obtain these ashes, the priests spend the entire night tending the fire on the altar and watching it consume the whole/burnt offering (Lev. 6:2, 5-6). In this way, the nation literally shines as a "light to the nations" and a "light that shines through the darkness."
Another name for the olah is the "ascent" offering, since all of it ascends in smoke to the heavens. Every morning and just before evening the priests begin and end the day offering the most-holy olat tamid--the twice daily olah--on behalf of the nation. There can be NO individual offerings acceptable upon the altar until the priests offer the national olah on behalf of a corporate and united nation. If we don't hang together as a nation, we will surely hang separately--thus the priests offer the olah, day in and day out, and the olah burns through the night with "the fire of the slaughter-site kept-blazing upon it" [Fox, Lev. 6:2].
One verse in Torah calls the olah expiatory (Lev. 1:4). Almost always, the category of "expiation" is reserved for "out-of-communion" offerings that restore one to fellowship; these are the hatta't (sin or "cleansing") and the asham (trespass or "reparation") offerings. However, an "in-communion" offering, the olah, can "atone" or "effect-ransom" for impure thoughts that are nursed but have yet to bear the fruits of an unwholesome thought life. According to Stone (p. 545, n3), "anyone who wishes to elevate his spiritual level" could atone for such thoughts by bringing an olah to God's altar.
One is reminded of a parallel principle in Yeshua's instruction,
"If you are offering your gift on the Temple altar and you remember there that your brother has something against you, leave your gift where it is by the altar, and go, make peace with your brother. Then come back and offer your gift"
After all, "whoever nurses anger against one's brother will be subject to the judgment" (Mt. 5:22). One might ask, "what if the anger can be justified as righteous indignation?" Key manuscripts omit the additional Greek word ekei, that connotes "justifiable reasons." Rather, nursing anger consumes the one who nurses it as an ungodly fire--"vengeance is mine," says the Lord, "I will repay!" (Dt. 32:35, Ro. 12:19-21).
Are you ready to offer yourself as a living sacrifice? Are you ready to follow Avraham (called to ascend Moriah and bind his son there as an olah)? Can you willingly turn your most prized hopes and dreams to ashes on God's altar? Are you ready to take every thought captive to the Holy One (2 Cor. 10:4-7). Will you be a light that burns brightly and exclusively for God?