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Tzav | פרשת צו

Sefer Vayikra | ספר ויקרא

Vayikra 6:1 – 8:36 [HebCal] [על-התורה] ויקרא ו א-ח לו

Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 7:21 – 8:3; 9:22 – 9:23 | Unless it is Shabbat ha-Gadol, Shabbat Parah, or, less commonly, Shabbat Zachor |

הפטרה: ירמיהו ז כא-ח ג, ט כב-בג | אלא אם כן זה שבת הגדול, שבת פרה, או לעתים שבת זכור [על-התורה]

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In the previous parsha, Vayikra, five types of korbanot (sacrifices or offerings; singular: korban) were introduced, in the following order:

  1. Olah – עולה – the burnt offering;
  2. Mincha – מנחה – the meal offering;
  3. Shelamim – שלמים – peace, or thanks, offering;
  4. Chatat – חטאת – sin offering, for unintentional transgressions of certain types;
  5. Asham – אשם – guilt offering, for certain transgressions and in cases of uncertainty.

For each of these, details are provided about who needs to bring these korbanot, which animals or materials are to be offered, the offering process, and whether and how they are consumed. Some procedures of the offering were noted in Vayikra, but Tzav goes into further detail about the ritual itself: the actual process of slaughtering and offering the korban.

In Tzav, these same five korbanot are approached in a different order and thus from a different perspective, that of the kohanim who perform the ritual associated with that korban. We are also introduced to the concept of kodshei kodashim – קודשי קודשים, and a category of lesser sanctity, unnamed here in Tzav but termed by Chazal kodashim kalim – קודשים קלים, “light consecrations.”

In the category of greater sanctity are, in the order they’re discussed in Tzav:

  1. Olah – עולה
  2. Mincha – מנחה
  3. Chatat – חטאת
  4. Asham – אשם

In the category of lesser sanctity is the fifth and final korban discussed, (Zevach) Shelamim – זבח שלמים.

In addition to this conceptualization, in Tzav the penalty of karet (excision) is applied to several specific transgressions, a concept first introduced in Sefer Bereshit1

The Olah Ritual (and Introduction of the Category of Highest Sanctity)

[Vayikra 6:1-6]

The phrase kodesh kodashim, “holy of holies” or “holiest consecrations,” first appears in the previous parsha (Vayikra 2:3) in reference to the Olah. Here it is applied as a category, according to which the korbanot are to be discussed: first, those of greater sanctity, and lastly the one type, Shelamim, falling into the category of lesser sanctity.

Other details about the Olah included here are the dress of the kohen performing the ritual (linen, including linen pants) and the burning of the Olah—it’s kept on the Mizbeach (altar) throughout the night, with the fire burning. In fact, it’s specified here that a fire must always be burning on the Mizbeach. In the morning, the ashes are placed beside the altar, and, disposed of in a designated place outside the camp (with the kohen wearing different clothing for this part of the ritual). It’s specified that the fats of the Shelamim are burned along with the pieces of the Olah.

The Mincha Ritual

[Vayikra 6:7-11]

The procedure of offering Mincha is described here: the kohen would remove a palmful of the flour, with oil and levona (לבונה – frankincense), which is then burned on the altar. The remainder of the Mincha is to be consumed by the male kohanim, unleavened (as matzot – מצות), within the sacred area (makom kodesh – מָקוֹם קָדֹשׁ) in the enclosure of the Ohel ha-Moed (chatzer Ohel Moed – חֲצַר אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד). It too is in the category of most sacred, and anything that it touches becomes sacred.

The Korban for Aharon’s Anointment: A Type of Mincha

[Vayikra 6:12-16]

On the day that Aharon is to be anointed (be-yom himashach oto – בְּיוֹם הִמָּשַׁח אֹתוֹ), the offering is to be a tenth of an efah of solet (fine flour – סֹלֶת), half in the morning and half in the evening. This is to be a Mincha Tamid: a regular meal offering for all time. It is to be prepared on a griddle (machvat – מַחֲבַת) with oil, soaked (murbechet – מֻרְבֶּכֶת), and offered as baked pieces (tufinei minchat pitim – תֻּפִינֵי מִנְחַת פִּתִּים),2 and is burned in its entirety.

Any Mincha brought by a kohen is not to be consumed.

The Chatat Ritual

[Vayikra 6:17-23]

The Chatat is also in the category of most sacred, and it is to be burned (in part) at the same place as the Olah. The kohen who offers the Chatat may eat of it (males only, with the exception of one subtype of Chatat, which is not consumed) within the sacred precincts (as with the Mincha). Anything that touches its flesh becomes sacred, and so any blood-spattered clothing must be cleaned in the sacred precincts, and vessels broken if they are clay and scoured and rinsed if they are copper.

The Asham Ritual

[Vayikra 7:1-10]

The Asham too is in the category of most sacred, and is slaughtered in the same place as is the Olah. Its blood is dashed on all sides of the Mizbeach. All of its fat and various organs are offered (the broad tail; the fat that covers the entrails; the two kidneys and the fat that is on them at the loins; and the protuberance on the liver, which shall be removed with the kidneys). Again, only male kohanim may eat of it within the sacred precincts.

Next, the Asham, like the Chatat, is said to belong to the kohen who offers it, and other offerings to which that applies are now mentioned: the Olah (though the kohen may keep the skin of the animal) and a Mincha that is baked in an oven (tanur – תַּנּוּר), pan (marcheshet – מַּרְחֶשֶׁת), or griddle (machvat – מַחֲבַת), while all other types of Mincha can also go to the other kohanim.

The Shelamim Ritual, and different types of Shelamim

[Vayikra 7:11-19]

If a Shelamim offering is brought to express gratitude (al todah – עַל תּוֹדָה), it is offered along with unleavened cakes mixed with oil (matzot belulot ba-shemen – מַצּוֹת בְּלוּלֹת בַּשֶּׁמֶן), unleavened wafers (rekikei matzot – רְקִיקֵי מַצּוֹת) spread with oil, and leavened cakes (challot – חַלֹּת) of choice flour (solet), soaked and with oil mixed in. One of each is offered, and they go to the kohen who dashes the blood of the Shelamim. The flesh of the Shelamim must be eaten on the same day that it’s offered. If, however, it is a Shelamim of neder – נֶדֶר (votive, as in relating to a vow) or nedava – נְדָבָה (freewill), whatever is left may be eaten the next day. On the third day, it is prohibited.

Karet (excision) for violations relating to sacrifices

[Vayikra 7:20-27]

Flesh from sacrifices that touches anything tameh (ritually impure) cannot be eaten and must be burned. Also, only one who is in a ritually pure (tahor) state may eat of it.

If a person eats of it in a state of tumah (ritual impurity), eats forbidden fats, or consumes blood, they are subject to karet (excision). Fat from animals who died (treifot – ) may be used but not eaten.

Further details of Shelamim

[Vayikra 7:28-34]

One who brings a Zevach Shelamim offers it himself; the kohen burns the fats and gets the breast to consume, along with the right thigh:

וְאֵת שׁוֹק הַיָּמִין תִּתְּנוּ תְרוּמָה לַכֹּהֵן מִזִּבְחֵי שַׁלְמֵיכֶם: הַמַּקְרִיב אֶת דַּם הַשְּׁלָמִים וְאֶת הַחֵלֶב מִבְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן לוֹ תִהְיֶה שׁוֹק הַיָּמִין לְמָנָה: כִּי אֶת חֲזֵה הַתְּנוּפָה וְאֵת שׁוֹק הַתְּרוּמָה לָקַחְתִּי מֵאֵת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מִזִּבְחֵי שַׁלְמֵיהֶם וָאֶתֵּן אֹתָם לְאַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן :וּלְבָנָיו לְחָק עוֹלָם מֵאֵת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל

And the right thigh from your sacrifices of well-being you shall present to the priest as a gift; he from among Aharon’s sons who offers the blood and the fat of the offering of well-being shall get the right thigh as his portion. For I have taken the breast of elevation offering and the thigh of gift offering from the Israelites, from their sacrifices of well-being, and given them to Aharon the priest and to his sons as their due from the Israelites for all time.

Vayikra 7:32-34

The installation (Miluim) of Aharon and his sons


The entire community (eda– עֵדָה) is to be gathered for the installation of Aharon and his sons as kohanim serving the Mishkan. This event calls for special priestly garments, anointing oil (shemen ha-mishcha – שֶׁמֶן הַמִּשְׁחָה), and korbanot: a bull as is offered for Chatat, two rams, and an offering of matzot. The Urim and Tumim are placed into the choshen (breastplate). Moshe takes the anointing oil and anoints the Mishkan and everything in it, sprinkling it on the Mizbeach seven times, and anointing all the instruments. Moshe then pours some of the oil onto Aharon’s head, anointing him. He dresses Aharon’s sons, the kohanim.

A Chatat bull is brought, which Aharon and his sons lay their hands upon. It’s slaughtered, and Moshe takes his finger and uses it to apply blood to each of the four horns of the Mizbeach. Then he pours out the blood at the base of the Mizbeach, and it is consecrated. The fats and entrails are burned, and the rest is burned outside the camp.

The Olah ram is brought, and it has a different procedure: again Aharon and his sons lay their hands on it, but its blood is dashed on all four sides of the Mizbeach by Moshe (rather than on the horns). It is sectioned, the entrails are washed, and it’s burned completely.

A second ram is brought, called Eil ha-Miluim – אֵיל הַמִּלֻּאִים (ram of ordination). Moshe puts some of its blood on the ridges of Aharon’s right ear, on his right thumb, and on the big toe of his right foot. He then does the same for Aharon’s sons. The rest of the blood is dashed on all sides of the Mizbeach. Moshe then raises the fats, entrails, right thigh, one unleavened loaf (challat matzah – חַלַּת מַצָּה), one oil cake (challat lechem shemen – חַלַּת לֶחֶם שֶׁמֶן), and one wafer (rakik – רָקִיק) and offers them as tenufah – תְּנוּפָה (elevated offering). They are placed on the palms of Aharon and his sons, then burned. The breast belongs to Moshe.

Moshe takes the anointing oil and blood from the altar and sprinkles it on Aharon and his sons, consecrating them and their vestments. Moshe tells them to boil the flesh of the offerings and eat it with the bread that is in the basket of ordination (sal ha-miluim – סַל הַמִּלֻּאִים); the leftovers must be burned. Aharon and the kohanim are to stay in the Ohel ha-Mo’ed for seven days. Each day, the entire process is to be repeated. Aharon and his sons do so.

Haftarah Summary – עלותיכם ספו על זבחיכם

[Yirmiyahu 7:21-8:3; 9:22-9:23]

Because of when it falls on the calendar, Parashat Tzav can have different haftarot. The “standard” one, when there is no coincidence of a special Shabbat, is actually rarely read, because on most non-leap years Tzav will coincide with Shabbat ha-Gadol; it’s taken from (two places in) Yirmeyahu. It concerns the offering of korbanot not backed up with pure intentions and upright behavior. A harsh prophecy of destruction is described against the people of Yehudah, for whom bringing korbanot is futile.

If Tzav, as it often does, falls out on Shabbat ha-Gadol, the Shabbat before Passover, the haftarah is instead from Malachi 3. Specifically, this is part of Malachi’s final prophecy, and thus the very end of all prophecy. In that, as well as its themes of redemption and generational remembering, the haftarah connects to Pesach.

Image credit: “Bonfire” by CPSutcliffe is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


  1. For lack of circumcision: see Bereshit 17:14); and seen also in Sefer Shemot, for eating chametz on Passover: see Shemot 12:19). The subject of karet, more broadly, is discussed in detail in the Mishnah tractate and the Gemara devoted to the subject, Keritot (the plural of karet).
  2. On the meaning of this obscure phrase, see Rashi on Vayikra 6:14.

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