Thursday, March 30, 2023

Hebrew Insights into Parashat Tzav – Vayikra (Leviticus) 6:8 – 8 (Hebrew Scriptures 6-8)


"Command Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘this is the law of the burnt offering…’” (Lev. 6:9), are YHVH's words to Moshe at the beginning of our Parasha, named after the imperative form for “command - "tzav". "The law (of the burnt offering)" is rendered "torah", making the usage of this word here, “binding instructions”. This is one of several examples of the way this multi-faceted term is utilized. The usage of the term “the torah of the…” offering/sacrifice, instead of when “a person” or “a soul” offers or sacrifices, indicates that here the issue at hand is the work of the priests as it pertains to sacrifices and offerings, and not to the general public as we saw last week.


But before attending to the subject matters included in the Parasha, let us pause and look at an all-important word that appeared three times in last week’s Parashat Vayikra (in Lev. 4:3, 5, 16, being its first appearing in Scripture), and once in ours (6:22). This word is “mashi’ach”, translated “anointed”. In Hebrew, however, there is a clear distinction between “anointed” in verb form (such as in 6:20), which is literally “to coat with oil”, as well as the adjective form such as in Sh’muel Bet (2nd Samuel) 3:39 where David declares:And I am weak today, though anointed (“mashu’ach”) king”, AND the noun: “Mashia’ch”.  In order to illustrate the difference, we can take, for example, the verb “to appoint”. An “appointed person” is an adjective, whereas “appointee” is classified as a noun. Similarly, “mashi’ach” is not someone who has been merely smeared or coated with oil, whether for a singular function or several functions or even for a permanent position or calling. “Mashi’ach’s” function and nature, his very being, are all embodied in this calling. And even though this term was used regarding the priests (or the people of Yisrael -  “m’shi’chim” – plural, in Ps. 105:15), these were obviously not The Messiah.  Yet this rendering was employed with the long-term view to the coming of the one and only “Mashi’ach” –  the Anointee if you will.    


Back to the Parasha’s topics, with the main one being the listing of the various sacrifices/offerings, with added specifications. The interaction and connection that exists between them is one more feature introduced in this Parasha. Thus, we read about the meal offering - "mincha" (6:17b): “It is most holy, like the sin offering, and like the guilt offering" (italics added). In verse 25, it says about the sin offering ("chatat"): "This is the law [torah] of the sin offering: In the place [the north] where the burnt offering is killed, the sin offering shall be killed before YHVH" (italics added). Likewise, regarding the guilt offering ("a'sha'm"): “In the place where they kill the burnt offering, they shall kill the guilt offering" (7:2, italics added), and again in 7:7: "As a sin offering is, so (is) a guilt offering. One law [torah] is for them. The priest who makes atonement by it, it is his" (italics added).


It says about Messiah Yeshua, who "knew no sin" that He was "sin for us" (2nd Cor. 5:21). And although there are parallels to Yeshua's sacrifice in each of the sacrifices and offerings, this statement emphasizes His role as the "korban chatat". This offering is "most holy", and what's more, "the priest who offers it for sin shall eat it" (Lev. 6:26). Thus, the proverbial partaking of Yeshua's body, as He admonished His disciples to do, is an act that denotes the priesthood of those who do so.

In summation, the meal offerings' holiness is identical to that of both the sin and guilt offerings, all of which are denoted by the term "kodesh kadashim" - holy of holies – i.e. the "holiest of all".  The animals for the sin and guilt offerings are to be killed in the same place as the burnt offering.  Similarly, both the sin and guilt offerings are to have one "torah," according to which they actually belong to the priest who makes the atonement of these two offerings. Thus, status (of holiness), place, and ownership are the three common elements shared in some way by all four of these sacrifices/offerings.


These three attributes may be quite easily related to the person of Yeshua, to what He has accomplished, and hence to the benefits that we derive thereby:


1. Holiness: The Holy One and the Just” (Acts 3:14 in reference to Yeshua, italics added). "According to as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, for us to be holy and without blemish before Him in love" (Eph. 1:4, italics added).


2. Place: "I am going to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2, italics added). “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28 italics added).


3. Ownership by the Priest: "I am the Good Shepherd, and I know those that are mine, and I am known by the ones that are mine" (John 10:14, italics added).  "I guarded those whom You gave to Me" (John 17:12, italics added). "Of those whom You gave to Me, I lost not one of them" (John 18:9, italics added).  “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Yeshua the Son of Elohim” (Hebrews 4:14 italics added).


Following the instructions for the "guilt offering" is the "torah of zeh’vach sh’lamim”, or the law of the sacrifice peace offerings (7:11-21), which appears to stand on its own. However, its conspicuous placement after the mention of the "guilt offering" may be significant. Last week, in Parashat Vayikra, we noted that the "guilt offering" was accompanied by reparations for damages incurred (5:6-8). Peace and reconciliation cannot take place before one is relieved of one's guilt (through YHVH’s provision, such as making good for damages).  We also noted that "sh'lamim" is of the root sh.l.m, meaning "complete or whole", as well as "peace, reconciliation, and payment". But the actual term for "peace offering" - sh'lamim - is rendered in the plural form. This is not surprising, as this type of sacrifice includes three different aspects or categories: thanksgiving, vow, and a freewill offering (7:12-16).


Thanksgiving is "toda", from the root y.d.a (yod, dalet, hey) connected to "hand" or “arm” – “yad” (and confession, as we observed last week). Interestingly, in quite a few cases carrying out a vow is conveyed as "paying the vow/oath" - "shalem neh'de'r" - making use of both these terms (“peace/whole/pay” and “oath”) together (e.g. 2 Sam. 15:7; Ecc. 5:4; Is. 19:21*; Jonah 2:9). The freewill offering is termed "n'dava", which is a word we encountered in Parashat Trumah (in Ex. 25:2). The root n.d.v. speaks of generosity and free giving. “Vow as "neh'de'r (n.d.r) is connected to another root, n.z.r, which is the root for "nazarite", being the adjective for 'he who is bound by a neh'de'r - oath' (see for example Numbers 6:2). The root n.z.r also appears in our Parasha. In 8:9, toward the end of the Parasha, we read about the consecration of A'ha'ron and his sons: "And put the miter on his head, and on the miter, on its front, he put the golden plate, the holy crown; as YHVH commanded Moses." The "holy crown" here is "nezer ha'kodesh", the “crown of holiness”.  Since the nazarite is a person who is "consecrated or dedicated" (having taken a vow, a nehd'er), the root n.z.r appears to be a fusion of that which pertains to a priestly ministry (even as the priests were to wear this crown) and at the same time also referring to a crown, an item associated with royalty. Does the term “nezer”, therefore, allude to the office of king-priest, particularly as it was to be fulfilled in Yeshua? (Ref. Zech. 6:13. See also Hebrew Insights into Parashat Va’yechi, re Genesis 49:26).


"As to the flesh of the sacrifice of the thanksgiving peace offerings, it shall be eaten in the day of his offering. He shall not leave of it until morning" (7:15). This idea engendered a variety of comments on the part of the sages and rabbis. Maimonides, writing in The Guide for the Perplexed- part 3, proffers the following reason: “‘The offerings must all be perfect and in the best condition, in order that no one should slight the offering or treat it with contempt’. And according to Sefer haHinuch: ‘There is an allusion [here] to our trust in God; a man should not begrudge himself his food and store it for the morrow, seeing that God commanded to utterly destroy sanctified meat after its time, when no creature - man or beast - is allowed to partake of it’”. This point of view is comparable to the way the Israelites were supposed to regard the manna.2 Notice that the Pesach lamb also had to be consumed without leaving its remains overnight (Ex. 12:10). In addition, if the offerer was to partake of the peace offering, he had to be ritually clean or else be cut off from his people (ref. 7: 20, 21). Similarly, in 1st Corinthians 11:20-34, we read that those who were breaking bread together were not to do so “unworthily, [such] that one will be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread, and let him drink of the cup; for he who is eating and drinking unworthily eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord" (v. 27-29).


Some more on “zeh'vach sh'lamim" (sacrifice of peace offerings) and its above-mentioned traits… This offering may be seen as an analogy to Yeshua's perfect (shalem) and "one [time] offering… [that] has perfected the ones being sanctified for all time" (Heb. 10:14, italics added), who are thereby able "through Him… [to] offer up a sacrifice of thanksgiving to Elohim always, that is, the fruit of the lips…” (Heb. 13:15, italics added).


"Any person who eats any blood, even that person shall be cut off from his people" (7:27). In last week's Hebrew Insights we looked at Vayikra 17:11, regarding the “blood which makes atonement for the soul". It also says there that, “the life is in the blood". And while Mankind - "adam" - is of the earth ("adama"), he is also of blood, which is "dam".  Man cannot partake of the very substance which is divinely designed to both give him life AND cover his sin and iniquity.


In chapter 8, dealing with the consecration of the priesthood, one of the words used for "consecration" is "milu'im" (vs. 22, 28,29,31,33), of the root m.l.a (mem, lamed, alef), meaning "full, to make full or fulfill”, and by implication "consecrate", as is seen in verse 33: "…until the days of your consecrationmi’lu’ey’chem” are fulfilledm’lot. For He shall consecrate – ye’maleh - you seven days" (italics added). The connection of "maleh" (singular form) to consecration seems rather obscure. Yet when looking at the items pertaining to the act of consecration, in verses 25 and 26, all of which were to be placed on the palms of A'ha'ron's hands and his sons’, we get a glimpse of the connection between 'making holy' and 'full.'  This is how it is described in the Gill Commentary: "And thou shalt put all in the hands of Aaron, and in the hands of his sons" [&c.], which accounts for the use of the phrase, filling the hand for consecration". Gill goes on to say - "For all the above things of the ram, bread, cakes, and wafers were put into their hands when consecrated, denoting their investiture with their office: all things are in the hands of Messiah, relative to the glory of God and the good of his people. Their persons are in his hands, and all grace and blessings of it for them; a commission to execute his office as a priest is given to him.  And as it was proper that he also should have somewhat to offer (Heb. 8:3), his hands are filled, and he has a sufficiency for that purpose, as Aaron and his sons had".3  And to that, we add: “And out of His fullness we all received, and grace on top of grace. For the Torah was given through Moses, and grace and truth came through Messiah Yeshua" (John 1:16,17, italics added).


 The Parasha ends with A’ha’ron and sons doing as they were commanded, that is sitting for a complete seven days and nights at the door of the Tent of Meeting, thus fulfilling the “charge of YHVH” (8:35) for their sanctification - “milu’im” (again, literally, “fullness” or “completion”). This charge takes us back to Sh’mot (Exodus) 40:34-38, and seems to actually be a continuation of the said passage which describes the coming down of the cloud of glory upon the completion of the Mishkan.


Lastly, another interesting encounter with the term “fulfill” or “fulfilling” by the “hand” is found in Divrey Hayamim Bet (2nd Chronicles). At the inauguration of the (first) Temple, Shlomo addressed YHVH, and then “turning around”, he blessed Yisrael saying: “Blessed be YHVH the Elohim of Israel, who spoke by his mouth to David my father, and with [or by] his hands fulfilled…”  (6:4, literal translation).  The question whose hands did the “fulfilling” (as in Hebrew verse 4 is ambiguous) is answered by Shlomo in verse 15 of the same chapter: “… You spoke by Your mouth, and with Your hand You fulfilled [it, on] this very day” (literal translation).  And as we saw above (in John 1:16), YHVH does not only do the fulfilling, He is also grants the FULLNESS.



*.  “Then YHVH will be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know YHVH in that day and will make sacrifice [ze’vach] and offering [mincha]; yes, they will make a vow [neh’der] to YHVH and perform [shi’lemu]”. Although this text from Isaiah 19:21 is referring to Egypt (a repentant Egypt, we may add), notice the usage that is made here of the same terminology that appeared in last week’s Parasha and also in the present one.


2. New Studies in Vayikra Part 1, Nechama Leibowitz, trans. Aryeh Newman. Eliner Library, Department for Torah Education and Culture in the Diaspora. Hemed Books Inc., Brooklyn, N.Y.


3. Gill Commentary, On Line Bible.


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