Aliya-by-Aliya Sedra Summary
Numbers in [square brackets] are the Mitzva-count of Sefer HaChinuch AND Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot. A=ASEI (positive mitzva); L=LAV (prohibition). X:Y is the perek and pasuk from which the mitzva comes.
Kohen - First Aliya - 11 p'sukim - 6:1-11
After burning all night, the fires of the Mizbei’ach are tended first thing in the morning (before sunrise). This first task of the day is relatively less important than other tasks, although it was enthusiastically sought after by young kohanim who vied for the honor of performing the mitzva of "T'rumat HaDeshen" [131,A30 6:3]. The kohen performing this task would remove the ashes from the Mizbei’ach fires and place them beside the Mizbei’ach. He would then change into other garments (of a slightly lesser quality than those worn for "regular" Temple service) and take the ashes to a specific "clean" place outside the camp.
The fire of the Mizbei’ach was to burn always [132,A29 6:6] and was not allowed to be extinguished ever [133,L81 6:6].
SDT: The portion from the beginning of Tzav until this point is one of the daily readings of the Korbanot section of the Shacharit service. It is very important to recite the portions of Korbanot, based on the concept of "And our lips will substitute for the bulls". The Gemara relates the following: Avraham Avinu asked G-d "what method will my descendants have to pursue atonement for their sins?". G-d told him that sacrifices will help bring atonement. Avraham then asked what will be during the time that the Beit HaMikdash will not stand and sacrifices will not be practiced. G-d's answer: "I have already prepared for that eventuality. As long as they read the Torah portions about sacrifices, I will consider it as if they actually offered the sacrifices, and I will forgive them their iniquities." This idea is hinted at by the words in the opening pasuk of the sedra: ZOT TORAT HA'OLAH - This Torah (portion) of the Olah - HI (sounds like the English word he) HA'OLAH... - It (the passage) IS the Olah.
SDT: The Mishna in Yoma describes the enthusiasm with which the kohanim would vie for the honor of tending the fires on the Mizbei'ach. When given the "go ahead" by the senior kohen in charge, the young kohanim would race up the ramp - first one to the top of the Mizbei'ach would perform the task. When it happened that one kohen fell (or got bumped) from the ramp and was injured (some say worse), the Sages changed the method of choosing from among many kohanim, to the less dangerous counting fingers around the circle of kohanim to a randomly selected larger number than kohanim present.
[P> 6:7 (5)] The Torah next returns to the topic of the "meal-offerings", the MINCHA. A small amount of the flour-oil mixture and all of the frankincense (L'VONA) was scooped up and placed on the Mizbei'ach to burn. The "mincha" was not to be made Chametz [135,L124 6:10] (there are exceptions to this rule, notably some of the Menachot that accompanied the TODA offering, which therefore was not brought on Pesach - this is why we do not say "Mizmor L'Toda", T’hilim 100, on Pesach. The other exception is/are the SHTEI HALECHEM, the two-loaves offering of Shavuot.). The rest of the "mincha" is eaten by male kohanim on duty in the Beit HaMikdash at the time of the offering [134,A88 6:9].
Levi - Second Aliya - 22 p'sukim - 6:12-7:10
[P> 6:17 (7)] The CHATAT [138,A64 6:18] was slaughtered in the same place as the "Olah" (viz. the north side of the Mizbei'ach). An integral part of a sin-offering is the eating of its meat by the kohen (kohanim) who brought it on behalf of the sinners.
SDT: The Meshech Chochma points out that the kohen who dealt with the sacrifice is the one who should eat from it, because only he would know if his kavanot (thoughts and intentions) were correct or not. His eating of the sacrifice makes the statement that he indeed did and thought all that was required. (The punishment for a kohen intentionally eating of an invalid sacrifice - in this case, he being the only person who could know of its invalidity - is punishable by "death from heaven".) We see in this issue, a high level of accountability a person carries for his own actions. Sort of like a Mashgi’ach certifying the kashrut of a restaurant - would he himself eat there? One would hope so.
Certain chata'ot, whose blood was brought into the Mikdash, were not to be eaten [139,L139 6:23], but rather completely consumed on the Mizbeiach.
SDT: The Kli Yakar points out that the Torah commands the bringing of the Chatat and Asham (the Sin and Guilt offerings) in the same place in the courtyard of the Beit HaMikdash as the Olah in order to protect the feelings and privacy of the sinner.
People who see him at that place can now assume that he is bringing an Olah and will not automatically jump to the conclusion that he has sinned. This is similar to one of the reasons given for the Amida being a silent prayer - this protects a davener from the embarrassment of something he might include in his prayer being overheard by others. This is one of many, many moral lessons that can be derived from the Korbanot.
Someone with very limited vision might ask, “Why should we ‘waste our time’ learning about Korbanot?” Part of the reason (only part) is for the lessons we learn that have ramifica- tions beyond the service in the Mikdash. Torah lessons are for always.
Shlishi - Third Aliya - 28 p'sukim - 7:11-38
It is forbidden to eat "Pigul" [144, L132 7:18]. Pigul is a type of invalid korban, where that which rendered the korban unfit for the Mizbei’ach was not something physical nor a mistake in the kohen's action, but rather an incorrect thought (kavana), of certain types. It is significant that improper thoughts alone can effect the status of a korban.
SDT: The most severe lapse in a kohen's kavana is one concerning time. A lapse regarding place of the eating of the korban, for example, still renders the korban invalid, but is less severe, punishment-wise. If the kohein has in mind to eat from the korban at a time when it is no longer allowed, then that mis-kavana renders the korban “Class-A Pigul”. This fits with our previous notions concerning Shabbat and the Mishkan, that the sanctity of time is "higher" (in some way) than the sanctity of place. (from a long time ago - but memorable drasha by Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld.)
It is forbidden to eat of a korban that has become tamei (ritually unclean) [145,L130 7:19]. This is punishable by makot. It is required to burn tamei korbanot [146,A90 7:19]. A person who is tamei who intentionally eats meat of a korban is liable to "koreit" ("cut off" by G-d).
Certain fats of kosher animals are forbidden to eat [147,L185 7:23]. This is the prohibition of "cheilev". There are differences between the cheilev of a korban and that of a regular CHULIN (non-sacred) animal.
Eating blood of a bird or mammal is a capital offense (from Heaven) [147, L185 7:26]. Eating meat with blood still in it is a lesser offense, but nonetheless forbidden. This is why meat has to be "kashered", not just kosher.
SDT: Rashi teaches us that the specific mention of mammals and birds in the prohibition of blood teaches us that the blood of fish and locust are not forbidden. Note that birds and mammals require sh'chita, and they are the two classes of warm-blooded animals, as opposed to fish and insects.
[P> 7:28 (11)] What follows are more details of the SH'LAMIM: what parts go on the Altar, what parts go to the kohen, etc.
These are the rules of the various types of korbanot that G-d commanded Moshe on Har Sinai on the day that He commanded the people of Israel to offer korbanot to G-d, in Midbar Sinai
R'vi'i - Fourth Aliya - 13 p'sukim - 8:1-13
According to Rashi, based on the Gemara, the seven day inauguration period for the Mishkan preceded its being put together. This, says Rashi, is another example of EIN SEDER MUKDAM U'M'UCHAR BATORAH, that the Torah is not always in chronological order.
Chamishi - Fifth Aliya - 8 p'sukim - 8:14-21
The first of two rams was next offered, as an OLAH.
It is very important for us to understand that Korbanot were not "hocus- pocus, we're forgiven" offerings. It doesn't work like that. Never did. A Sin Offering, whipping by the Sanhedrin, even a death penalty, had to be accompanied by real T'shuva and Vidui. Without the heart in the korban-equation, the people were continually castigated by G-d for hollow meaningless acts and lip service. The ceremonies have deep significance and meaning, but the heart and soul of a person must truly be involved, otherwise the korban is (less than) nothing.
Shishi - Sixth Aliya - 8 p'sukim - 8:22-29
SDT: From the description of the procedures of the bringing of various sacrifices, it is clear that the kohen is not merely a technician who is authorized to perform the service, but rather he is an integral part of the bringing of the korban. This is seen by the various dabbings on the earlobe (some say that it was the upper part of the ear that is the T'NUCH, and still others say the cartilage in the center of the ear), thumb, and big toe of the kohen, etc. as described in this parsha. So too, the fact that the kohanim must eat of various offerings - not just to be fed, but to be active in the Korban process - indicates their integral involvement in the bringing of Korbanot.
Sh'vi'i - Seventh Aliya - 7 p'sukim - 8:30-36
SDT: Rashi teaches us that in addition to this one-time isolation of 7 days, there were two other times the Kohein Gadol was isolated for a 7-day preparatory period. One is the week before Yom Kippur - this was every year, of course. And the other was for the preparation of the Para Aduma - this was once in a (long) while - Para Aduma was not a common event. This idea is alluded to by the words LA’ASOT (Para) and L’CHAPEIR (Yom Kippur).
Aharon and his sons did all that G-d had commanded through Moshe.
The final 4 p'sukim are reread for the Maftir. Unlike the special Four Portions which have a special reading in a second Torah, for Shabbat HaGadol there is a special haftara, but only one Torah is taken out and the Maftir is Parshat HaShavua style, i.e. repeat of the last 3-6 p’sukim.
Haftara - 21+1 p'sukim - Mal’achi 3:4-24
Note: The penultimate (next to the last) pasuk is repeated as the concluding pasuk of the haftara. This is done to end Trei-Asar on a positive note.
The date of the first Shabbat HaGadol was 10 Nissan. And that is particularly significant, because one of the reasons we call it Shabbat HaGadol, has to do with events of the 10th of Nissan 2448. The Jews in Egypt were commanded - not a mitzva for the generations, but rather a one-time commandment - to take a lamb (or young goat) into their homes on the 10th of Nissan, four days before they were to slaughter it as the Korban Pesach. (In future years, halacha allows one to acquire his animal for K.P. even on his way to Har HaBayit on the afternoon of Erev Pesach. In practice, however, people did designate the lamb or goat as early as the 10th of Nissan, so it could be properly inspected for blemishes for the four days before its being brought to the Mizbei'ach. But it was required to take the animal on the 10th, only during that first, original Nissan.)
The Midrash tells us of the unusual miracle that occurred on the original Shabbat HaGadol. The Egyptians asked the Jews what they were doing with the lambs. When the Jews told them that they were going to sacrifice them to G-d, the Egyptians would have been expected to react with outrage and anger at the "desecration" of their deity. But they didn't. They took the news calmly. This is considered a great miracle, in addition to other miracles of that Shabbat day; this led to identify the day throughout the generations as Shabbat HaGadol.
Since the people of Israel entered into the realm of mitzvot by fulfilling the command to take the K.P. into their homes, they changed their status from KATAN to GADOL, much like a Bar Mitzva boy or Bat Mitzva girl do when they receive upon his shoulders the yoke of mitzvot. Hence, Shabbat HaGadol.
Even after Moshe got Shabbat from Par'o for the people as a day of rest, when Shabbat ended, it saw the Jews back into slavery and oppression. Not so the Shabbat prior to the Exodus. That was truly a Shabbat HaGadol.
The Torah calls the first day of Pesach Shabbat (because of the forbidden activities on Yom Tov, it qualifies to be called Shabbat, a day of rest), as in, "on the morrow of the Shabbat you shall begin counting". The Tzedokim claimed that Shabbat refers only to Saturday. Traditional Judaism claims that there is a "minor" or small Shabbat (Yom Tov) in contrast with Shabbat HaGadol, when all Melachot are prohibited. It is the Shabbat right before the Yom Tov day in question that got the name Shabbat HaGadol - because of its closeness to the first day of Pesach, the contrast between the two Shabbats is highlighted.
Of course, the famous pasuk in the Haftara, telling us that G-d will send Eliya(hu) HaNavi before the coming of G-d's Day, the great (haGadol) and terrifying one.
Until this pre-Exodus Shabbat, Shabbat only possessed the aspect of acknowledging G-d for His Creation of the world. With the preparation for K.P. and for leaving Mitzrayim, Shabbat took on the extra dimension of commemorating the Egyptian experience and the Exodus. Shabbat increased in significance and scope and became then a Shabbat HaGadol.
Kohen - First Aliya - 16 p'sukim - 9:1-16
Then the People offer a goat as a CHATAT and a calf and a lamb as OLOT. Then a bull and ram as SH'LAMIM.
Ponder this... It is “obvious” that the CHATAT of a calf is an atonement for the Sin of the Golden Calf and/or an indication that G-d has forgiven the people for the Golden Calf. In one context the Golden Calf was called "the calf that Aharon made".
Therefore, the calf on the Eighth Day is his CHATAT. The calf of the people is an OLAH, rather than a CHATAT. OLAH is brought for thoughts of certain sins; CHATAT is for acts. Those of Bnei Yisrael who DID whatever we will call it, the EIGEL, were killed. The rest of us were "guilty" of indecision, fence-sitting, confusion - "sins" of thought. Our calf was an Olah. Aharon's OLAH was a ram, reminding us of Akeidat Yitzchak. No sin associated with that. (Olah is not always about sin.) Our CHATAT was a goat, reminding us of our former collective sin of the selling of Yosef and deception of Yaakov with the help of goat’s blood.
SDT: The Kohen Gadol removes his gold garments before entering the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, because the "accuser does not become the defender". Why then would we not make the same argument against Aharon's offering of a calf as a Korban? Rashi indicates that the super-sensitivity involved here applies inside the Mikdash, but not outside (at the Altar).
Here's a general answer to this question and others. Horns from the bovine family of animals are not acceptable as a Shofar. On the other hand, look at these korbanot. And the fact that the Para Aduma is considered an atonement for the Golden Calf.
The K.G. didn't enter "inward" with gold, but what greeted him inside was an ARON plated with gold, gold rings, gold-covered poles, a solid gold lid, and K'RUVIM of gold.
Bottom line: If G-d commands us to use gold, we use it. If He says no, we don't. Calf, cow, yes, no. Fine with us. Yes AND no, just as G-d commands. Apply your own logic and do what you decide is best - WRONG. Not up to us. Halacha tells us what is appropriate.
Levi - Second Aliya - 7 p'sukim - 9:17-23
The Torah spelled YADAV, his hands, without the second YUD, making the word resemble YADO, his hand. From here comes the tradition of the kohanim holding their two hands together as one during Birchat Kohanim.
SDT: Baal HaTurim says that the three parts (3 p'sukim) of Birchat Kohanim correspond to the three kinds of korbanot that Aharon brought on this first day of official functioning of the Mishkan. May G-d bless you and protect you... from sin (CHATAT), the second pasuk uses words that tie in with OLAH, and the SHALOM of the final pasuk corresponds to SH'LAMIM.
Shlishi - Third Aliya - 12 p'sukim - 9:24-10:11
Then Nadav and Avihu, two sons of Aharon (who had been assisting Aharon), took censers with fire and offered incense before G-d. The fire was their own, not that of the Mizbei’ach. A Divine Fire struck them dead, consuming them from within, leaving them outwardly unmarked.
Moshe's words of consolation to Aharon are met with Aharon's silence. Moshe calls two cousins, Misha'el and Eltzafan, sons of Uziel, to remove the bodies. (That Aharon would not be allowed to become TAMEI to his sons is known from the rules of Kohein Gadol. But neither were Elazar and Itamar allowed to tend to the bodies. Although they were not kohein gadol, they had been anointed to the k'huna which gave them the status of KG. Hence, the cousins, who were Leviyim had to be called.)
(Almost in reaction to the tragedy,) the Torah next sets down several rules (mitzvot) for kohanim, to save them from endangering their lives. Kohanim may not enter the Mikdash with long hair (a monthly trim was required) [149,L163 10:6], nor with torn garments [150,L164 10:6]. They may not leave the Mikdash while performing their sacred work [151, L165 10:7].
[P> 10:8 (4)] Furthermore, kohanim may not enter the Mikdash while under the influence of wine [152,L73 10:8]. Violations of any of the above would be a show of disrespect to G-d. [Some commentators infer from this last prohibition that Nadav and Avihu had drunk wine before they entered the Mishkan. Others offer different reasons for their deaths.]
MitzvaWatch: With Mitzva #152, we have an example (there are others) of a mitzva that has a specific context and application from the Torah, but the scope of the mitzva is much wider. The Written Word forbids a Kohen from doing sacred service while having recently drunk wine. Sefer HaChinuch gives a second definition for mitzva, based on the Oral Law. Namely, a halachic authority may not render a decision (psak) while under the influence of alcohol. (It seems that this prohibition does not apply to divrei Torah and the like - only to halachic decisions.) This prohibition is NOT a case of Rabbinic extension of the scope of Torah Law; it is part of the Oral Law on the D’Oraita level. It is interesting to note that the Sefer HaChinuch, whose final paragraph of each Mitzva presents its applicability – who, when, and where, says that this mitzva (152) applies to men and women in the time of the Beit HaMikdash, that is for the first part of the mitzva. As to the second application of the mitzva, this, says the Chinuch, applies in all times and all places, to men AND women who are qualified to render halachic decisions.
SDT: Two of the other "traditions" as to what Nadav and Avihu did wrong are that they decided a point of halacha on their own, in the presence of their "rebbi" (Moshe Rabeinu), and that they did not consult with anyone in this halachic matter. It behooves us to learn a serious, sobering lesson (among others) from all of the possible flaws in the actions of Nadav and Avihu. One must be careful when it comes to deciding the correct halacha for oneself and his family. Consulting a Rav is an excellent "habit” to get into.
R'vi'i - Fourth Aliya - 4 p'sukim - 10:12-15
Chamishi - Fifth Aliya - 5 p'sukim - 10:16-20
Shishi - Sixth Aliya - 32 p'sukim - 11:1-32
Likewise, one is required to examine fish for scales and fins [155,A152 11:9]. It is forbidden to eat non-kosher fish [156, L172 11:11].
With birds, the Torah lists 20 kinds of birds (not species, families, genus, etc. - kinds) that are not kosher [157,L174 11:13]. All the rest of the birds are kosher. So how do know if a particular bird is in one of the forbidden families or not? Usually, the answer is TRADI- TION. We eat chicken etc. because we have an unbroken tradition.
Finally, the Torah specifies four types (8 families) of locust that we may eat. Checking their identities is a mitzva [158,A151 11:21]. All other insects are not permitted to us. We have lost the ability of identifying kosher locust, so we don't eat any of them. [Some Yemenites have the necessary traditions to identify the kosher varieties. As to whether they eat locust or not, ask your Yemenite friends.]
[S> 11:29 (10)] Next the Torah deals with the ritual impurity of creeping things [159, A97 11:21].
Sh'vi'i - Seventh Aliya - 15 p'sukim - 11:33-47
[S> 11:39 (9)] Once again, the Torah presents the rules of the carcass of animals and the resulting ritual impurity from contact of various types [161,A96 11:39]. The Torah reiterates the prohibition of eating "creepy things" [162,L176 11:41], as well as worms and insects that infest fruits and vegetables [163,L178 11:41], seafood and other life-forms that inhabit the water [164,L179 11:43], and maggots that develop in rotting food material [165,L177 11:44].
All of the above is meant to elevate the Jew's soul to the sanctity that G-d wanted us to attain. For us, there is a direct link between body and soul, the spiritual and the mundane. The laws of kashrut bring the point home.
Haftara - 40 p'sukim - Shmuel Bet 6:1-7:17