Parashah Name – 25 Tsav, צַו
Last week, in Parasha Vayikra, God spoke to Moses from the Tent of Meeting, giving him the laws of the offerings (korbanot קָרְבָּנוֹת), detailing the circumstances under which they would be offered in order to draw close to God.
This week’s Parasha is entitled Tzav, which means to order or command.
What was God instructing Moses to command Aaron and his sons? He was commanding the Jewish priesthood (lineage of Aaron) to observe their rights and duties as the kohanim, who in Parasha Tzav are commanded to always keep the fire on the altar burning and never to extinguish it. (Leviticus 6:13)
For this reason, when we light our Shabbat candles on Friday night to usher in the Sabbath, it is customary not to blow out the flame but to let the candles burn down completely.
May our hearts, however, always burn brightly with the fire God Himself lit there, never to be extinguished by the cares of this world.
If it is an individual, a female sheep or goat is to be brought. For these latter two, the priests are to eat the sacrifices within the Tabernacle grounds.
The chatat is also required for three sins of omission
- withholding testimony
- becoming impure due to an interval of forgetfulness
- violating an oath unintentionally
Asham (אָשָׁם Trespass Offering)
Leviticus 6:5–7 details the guilt offering of a ram for the following:
- unintentionally using sanctuary property for personal use;
- forestalling punishment for one’s sin when one is uncertain one has sinned or for unknown sin, and
- lying under oath or defrauding a person in regards to a found article, a deposit, loan, etc.
For an Asham, it does not suffice to simply offer a sacrifice. The offender has to make restitution plus add an additional fifth of the value.
Judaism and the Treatment of Animals
Some may wonder if the Jewish People, through this endless sacrificing of animals, were being instructed by God to be cruel to animals?
In Judaism, animals are to be loved, properly cared for, and treated with kindness. For example, cattle are to be fed before their owner sits down to eat (Deuteronomy 11:15).
It is important to understand that the Torah emphasizes the humane treatment of animals and distinguishes that “a righteous man regards the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” (Proverbs 12:10)
Furthermore, the Talmud (oral law) provides instruction on how to slaughter animals for food in such a manner as to inflict as little pain as possible.
If one treats animals humanely, having high regard for all life, then seeing an animal perish for one’s sins would painfully underscore the desire to not sin, rather than seeing it as an easy payment for wrongdoing.
“For, behold, the day comes, it burns as a furnace; and all the proud, and all that work wickedness, shall be stubble; and the day that comes shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” (Malachi 4:1)
This Parasha is read on the Sabbath that precedes Pesach (Passover). That’s right! Pesach is next week!
It is a special Sabbath called Shabbat HaGadol (the Great Sabbath). For the Haftarah (prophetic portion), Malachi 3:4–24 is read. This prophecy references the coming of the Messiah—the Day of the Lord!
Hearing that the Day of the Lord is coming soon is good news for those of us who look to Yeshua’s (Jesus) return for our redemption; but for those who reject the Lord and work wickedness, it will be a terrible day of judgment.
In this chapter of Malachi, the way of teshuvah (repentance) back to the Lord is described in terms of giving. The whole nation of Israel was under a curse because they had robbed God by not bringing their tithes and offerings; but great blessings were promised those who would obey God’s command to give.
“Bring the whole tithe into the store-house, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall be more than sufficiency.” (Malachi 3:10)
Before the coming of this day, however, it is traditionally believed that God will send Elijah the prophet—the one who never died but went up to heaven alive in a fiery chariot. For this reason, a place is set at every Passover Seder (ritual meal) for Eliyahu Hanavi (Elijah the Prophet) in the hopes that this will be the year he arrives, signaling the imminent coming of the Messiah.
“Behold, I send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.” (Malachi 4:5)
On Shabbat HaGadol, the Haggadah (The Telling) is read in preparation for Pesach. Specifically, the Four Questions are read.
The first questions is, “Why is this night different from all other nights?”
The word haggadah is derived from lehagid, which means to tell.
The Zohar (Jewish mystical book) states that lehagid has the connotation of revealing a secret. Furthermore, it states that the word Pesach (Passover) comes from Peh Sakh, which means the mouth opens and speaks.
As Believers, we understand that Passover does indeed contain a great secret; it looks forward to the redemption of mankind through the coming of the Messiah. Indeed, Yeshua fulfilled Passover perfectly.
May we open our mouths and boldly speak of why this night is different than all other nights!