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The Torah's Weekly Portions
Vayikra - Tzav - 101
Posted April, 2001

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Sefer (Book)

Vayikra (Leviticus)

Beginning Perek (Chapter):

Vav (6)

Beginning Pasuk (Verse):

Alef (1)

Concluding Perek:

Khet (8)

Concluding Pasuk:

Lamed Vav (36)

Key Points of Parashat Tzav
This Weeks Psukim
The Focus of the Week
Commentary from the Stone Edition Chumash
Commentary by Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch
Commentary by Reb Yosef

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Key Points of Parashat Tzav:

Parashat Tzav continues the discussion concerning the various offerings and now includes the role of the kohanim (priests). In the middle of Perek Zayin (Chapter 7), we see a discussion concerning contamination. Further, the commentaries provide an insight into karet, spiritual excision.

This Week's Psukim - Perek Zayin (7):

  1. The flesh that touches any contaminated thing may not be eaten, it shall be burned in fire; but of the [uncontaminated] flesh, any uncontaminated person may eat the flesh:
  2. A person who eats flesh from the feast peace-offering that is Hashem's while his contamination is upon him, that soul will be cut off from its people:
  3. or he found a lost item and denied it -- and he swore falsely about any of all the things that a person can do and sin thereby:
  4. If a person touches any contamination -- whether human contamination or a contaminated animal [carcass] or any contaminated detestable [carcass] -- and he eats from the flesh of a feast peace-offering that is Hashem's, then that soul will be cut off from its people:

Translation by: Art Scroll Stone Edition Chumash.

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The Focus of this Week:
This weeks quotations and commentaries provide some very interesting thoughts worth considering.

Commentary from the Stone Edition Chumash:
(19) Eating in a state of contamination. The meat of offerings must be eaten in a state of spiritual purity, on the part of both the meat and the eater. This passage sets forth the prohibitions and the penalties for intentional violation of this requirement. The offering for an unintentional violation is given in 5:2-3.

(19) May not be eaten. Like every negative commandment for which no penalty is specified, the violator incurs lashes (Rashi v. 20). Only for transgressions mentioned in the next two verses is there a penalty of spiritual excision.

Any uncontaminated person. The flesh of a peace-offering may be eaten by any eligible person, not merely the owner (Rashi; Sifra).

(20) While his contamination is upon him. These two verses refer to a contaminated person, but they differ in this regard: Verse 20, which speaks of "his contamination," refers to someone who became impure as a result of his own bodily secretions (Rashi). Verse 21 specifies a contamination that resulted from touching other bodies or objects. In either case, the prohibition and penalty are the same (Ibn Ezra).

That soul will be cut off. This refers to the punishment of karet, spiritual excision.

There is a dispute among the commentators regarding the exact terms of karet. Rashi (17:9) states that the offender's [minor] children die and he dies young; however, Tosafot (Yevamos 2a) contends that children do not die unless the Torah specifies that punishment.

The Talmud Yerushalmi (Bikkurim 2) states that the early death takes place before the offender becomes fifty, but the Talmud Bavli (Moed Kattan 28a) holds that it happens between the ages of fifty and sixty.

Ramban (18:29), basing himself on variations in the verses that prescribe karet, maintains that there are different degrees of this punishment, depending on the merits of the sinner and the severity of his sin. If someone is basically righteous but could not withstand the temptation to commit a karet-sin, he will die young, but will not lose his share in the World to Come. If his sins outnumber his merits, his soul will be cut off from the World to Come, but he will not necessarily die young; he may even live a very long life. In cases of idolatry and blasphemy, the Torah prescribes both early death and loss of a share in the World to Come. Childlessness, too, applies only where the Torah specifies it, but is not a part of every karet punishment.

Ramban stresses that the very mention of karet in the Torah demonstrates that there is eternal reward for the soul. If there were not an unimaginable degree of spiritual bliss awaiting the righteous soul after it leaves its body, there could be no such thing as karet after death.

(21) A contaminated animal [carcass], i.e., a non-kosher animal that died through any means, or a kosher animal that died through any means other than a valid shechitah (method of slaughter). However, no live animal is tarah, contaminated.

Any contaminated detestable [carcass]. This refers to the eight species of small animals or vermin that are named in 11:29-30.

Commentary by Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch:
After an introductory discussion concerning these particular p'sukim, Rav Hirsch says:

We have already repeatedly had occasion to define the idea which I meant to be realized by tamei (contaminated) and taharah (pure). It is quite clear that tamei is the "lack of freedom." Everything which shows "organic life having to submit to physical pressure" is an encouragement to apply this idea to human beings, who are called to moral and mental freedom. The most striking example of such forced submission is, of course, a dead body. Etymologically the idea of tamei would be, that which has given up the freedom of a living independent existence, and symbolically, that which would be intro contract with it, to drag them down into the depressed state of feeling that they are not independently master o themselves, that, willy-nilly they have to do things. Tahor, on the other hand, would be, concretely, an existence developing itself free from all estranging forces, in complete freedom under the mastery of its own pure principles; and symbolically, all that which is liable to represent to the mind a condition of moral free will, mastery of oneself, without having to submit to the force of anything exterior to oneself.

The commentaries for this section are quite extensive but the above paragraph seemed most interesting.

Commentary by Reb Yosef:
The one thing that really caught my eye in the commentaries was the point outlined last in terms of karet wherein it says, " Ramban stresses that the very mention of karet in the Torah demonstrates that there is eternal reward for the soul. If there were not an unimaginable degree of spiritual bliss awaiting the righteous soul after it leaves its body, there could be no such thing as karet after death."

Where so many religions stress the after-life, the holy writings of Judaism hardly mention it. What is the reason, one might ask. Because we are expected to live in the here and now and act as if our rewards or punishments will derive from that not be a part of some indefinable future. This is not to say that we are not aware that at some point in time, we will have to stand for God and give an accounting. That goes without saying. However, by living well now, certainly that future accounting will be a better experience overall.


Translations in Torah Portions of the week are partially taken from the ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash and from Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch Chumash

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