Parshat Tzav The Special Garments Worn for Removal of the Ashes from the Altar

The Special Garments Worn for Removal of the Ashes from the Altar

And the Kohen should wear linen vestments and linen pants he should wear upon his flesh. And he should lift the ashes of the Olah consumed by the fire from the altar and place them near the altar. (VaYikra 6:3)

Each morning a portion of the ashes is removed from the altar and placed near the altar. This is a positive command. Because it is an element of the service in the Mishcan, it can be performed only by a Kohen. The Kohanim wear special garments when performing any avodah – the service – in the Mishcan or Bait HaMikdash. These vestments consist of four garments. The Kohen is required to wear these garments when removing the ashes. Maimonides explains that the garments worn during this service are not exactly the same as those worn during other elements of the avodah. The vestments worn for the removal of the ashes are of slightly lesser quality. Maimonides explains the reason for this requirement. It is inappropriate that garments used for the removal of the ashes be worn when performing the more elevated aspects of the service. He expresses this concept with a parable. A servant would not serve a meal to his master in the same clothing worn when cooking the food.[1]

This explanation presents a problem. Based upon Maimonides reasoning, it is appropriate for the Kohen removing the ashes to put on fresh garments after this service. However, Maimonides does not seem to provide the reason the garments worn for removal of the ashes must be of lesser quality!

In order to answer this question, we must more carefully consider the function of the garments worn by the Kohen. These vestments are very carefully and beautifully designed. Maimonides explains that the Kohen is dressed in these garments and only then may he perform the service in the Temple.[2] This seems to imply that these special vestments are required to glorify the avodah. Through wearing these special vestments, the Kohen demonstrates the sanctity of the service.

Now, it is possible to understand Maimonides’ position. How do the garments glorify the avodah? They are reserved exclusively for the service. This exclusive designation is essential to their function. If these vestments are worn casually and at other times, their special status will be lost. They can no longer demonstrate honor for the avodah. Similarly, it is not be appropriate to allow these garments to be worn for the removal of the ashes. This detracts from the elevated status of the vestments. Nonetheless, the removal of the ashes is part of the daily service. The removal also requires that the Kohen wear his special garments. How can these two considerations be reconciled? Maimonides responds that the Kohen wears a set of the special vestments when removing the ashes. However, these are not of the same quality as the garments worn at other times. Now the problem has been solved. The Kohen wears the appropriate garments for the removal of the ashes. Yet, the vestments worn for other services retain their exclusive designation.

The Offering of a Portion of the Shelamim Sanctifies the Entirety

And if the flesh of the Shelamim sacrifice will be eaten on the third day, it will not be accepted. It will not be accounted for the one who offered it. It will be disgusting. And the one who eats from it will bear his sin. (VaYikra 7:18)

The Shelamim sacrifice is shared between three “parties.” A portion is burned on the altar. A portion is given to the Kohanim. The rest is handed to the person bringing the sacrifice. The consumption of the sacrifice is a mitzvah. The Kohanim and the owner participate in this mitzvah, through their eating of the sacrifice. In addition to this mitzvah requiring the consumption of the entire sacrifice, there is a prohibition against leaving any portion of the sacrifice unused.

Rabbeynu Avraham ibn Ezra offers an interesting explanation for this law. The portion of the sacrifice that is offered on the altar is regarded as part of a larger whole – the entire animal. Therefore, although only a portion of the animal is consumed on the altar, the offering of this part of the animal on the altar sanctifies the entire animal from which this portion is taken. Because the entire animal is sanctified, any failure to respect the sanctity of the remainder of the animal is a failure to respect the portion offered on the altar. Therefore, all parts of the Shelamim must be consumed. No portion can be discarded.

Ibn Ezra applies this reasoning to another area of halachah. The Bait HaMikdash – Holy Temple – and its altar are constructed of stones. The Torah specifies that only whole stones may be used. Ibn Ezra applies the above reasoning to explain this requirement. He explains that the law reflects a practical consideration. The inclusion of a portion of a stone in the Temple would sanctify the entire stone. Therefore, any portion not used in the Temple would require special treatment consistent with its sanctity as a remnant of stone used in the Bait HaMikdash. It would be impossible to assure that these fragments received appropriate treatment. In order to avoid this problem, halachah requires that only whole stones should be used. No leftover fragments are created.[3]

The Installation Ram

And he brought forth the second ram, which was the installation ram. And Aharon and his sons pressed their hands on the ram’s head. (VaYikra 8:22)

A seven-day process was required to initiate the Mishcan – the Tabernacle – and the Kohanim. Each day three basic sacrifices were offered. These were an Olah offering, a Chatat offering, and a Shelamim offering. The Shelamim was accompanied by a Mincha offering. Our pasuk is discussing the procedure Moshe followed each of the seven days. Specifically, the pasuk introduces a discussion of the offering of the second ram which was a Shelamim offering. The passage describes it as the “installation ram.”

Each of the sacrifices was essential to the initiation process. However, the only offering referred to as an installation offering is the Shelamim. Why are the Chatat – the sin offering – and the Olah not defined as installation offerings?

Rabbaynu Yonatan ben Uzial explains that the Shelamim was the final offering of the three installation sacrifices. It completed the process of installation. The installation was affected with this final offering. Therefore, only this sacrifice is referred to as the installation sacrifice.[4]

Nachmanides offers an alternative explanation. The Olah and Chatat sacrifices were required as atonements. The Shelamim was not offered as an atonement. It was brought as an expression of gratitude to Hashem. In offering the Shelamim, the Kohanim gave thanks to Hashem for selecting them to serve Him.[5] This is a fundamental distinction. The Olah and Chatat sacrifices were required to execute the installation. The Shelamim was intended as a reflective expression upon the process and expressed gratitude. It is a consequence of the installation process. Only this sacrifice that is a response to and reflection upon the process is identified as the installation sacrifice.

Unjustified and Justified Pride

And from the opening of the Ohel Moed you should not go out for seven days, until the days Thus says Hashem, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, nor the mighty man in his might, nor the rich man in his riches. For in this should one glory – that he understands and knows Me. For I am Hashem who does kindness, justice and righteousness in the Land. For in these things I delight. “ So says Hashem. (Yermiya 7:22-23)

This pasuk is found in the haftarah for Parshat Tzav. If Parshat Tzav is read on the Shabbat before Pesach, this Haftarah is replaced by an alternative selection.

The Navi – the Prophet – explains that a person should not take pride in his wealth or wisdom. The only legitimate source of pride is one’s knowledge of or relationship with Hashem. One possible interpretation of the Navi’s comments is that wealth and might are not meaningful. They may seem to us to be valuable accomplishments. However, they are merely temporary, fleeting achievements that end with our short time in this world. In contrast, the knowledge and understanding that we acquire and the relationship that we develop with Hashem are eternal. These have true everlasting significance and appropriate cause for pride.

Malbim offers an alternative explanation. He explains that personal pride is rarely justified. Most of our accomplishments are only partially a result of our own choices. A person may enhance his physical might through proper exercise. However, genetics play a major role in the success of his exercise program. Wealth is a result of sound business decisions combined with good fortune. Not every skilled entrepreneur achieves wealth.

However, there is one area in which a person may claim credit for his accomplishments. This is in regard to moral conduct and the performance of mitzvot. The Navi describes this moral person who is committed to mitzvot as possessing knowledge of Hashem. Why does this person deserve credit for his accomplishments? Malbim responds that every person is endowed with freewill. Through freewill we determine the level of our observance and the morality of our conduct. In this area, the outcome is totally in our hands.[6]

 

[1] Rabbaynu Moshe ben Maimon (Rambam/Maimonides) Mishne Torah, Hilchot Temidim U’Musafim 2:10

[2] Rabbaynu Moshe ben Maimon (Rambam/Maimonides) Sefer HaMitzvot, Mitzvat Aseh 33.

[3] Rabbaynu Avraham ibn Ezra, Commentary on Sefer VaYikra, 7:18.

[4] Rabbaynu Yonatan ben Uzial, Tirgum on Sefer VaYikra 8:22.

[5] Rabbaynu Moshe ben Nachman (Ramban/Nachmanides), Commentary on Sefer VaYikra 8:22.

[6] Rabbaynu Meir Libush (Malbim), Commentary on Yirmiya 7:22-23