Numbers in [square brackets] are the mitzva-count of the Sefer HaChinuch
Kohen – First Aliya – 11 p’sukim – 6:1-11
After the preliminary descriptions of the different korbanot from last week’s sedra, we now find the description of the daily service in the Mikdash.
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 “T’rumat HaDeshen” . 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  and was not allowed to be extinguished ever .[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 – HEE 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 (got bumped) from the ramp and was injured, 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 large number.
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  (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 .
Levi – Second Aliya – 22 p’sukim – 6:12-7:10
Each day, the Kohen Gadol is to bring a meal-offering of a tenth of an eifa of flour (plus oil & spice) – half in the morning and half before evening . This mincha was not to be eaten , but rather was completely consumed on the Mizbei’ach.
The “chatat”  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.
Certain chata’ot, whose blood was brought into the Mikdash, were not to be eaten , but rather completely consumed on the Mizbei- ach.[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. Why should we “waste our time” learning about Korbanot? That’s what someone with very limited vision might ask. Maybe this is part of the reason.
Shlishi – Third Aliya – 28 p’sukim – 7:11-38
The Torah next discusses the Sh’lamim,  beginning specifically with the “Toda”. The animal sacrifice is accompanied by various types of wafers and cakes. Parts of the animal are burned on the Altar, parts are given to the kohen and the remainder is to be eaten by the bringer of the korban. The korban must be eaten by midnight (actual deadline: dawn; mid- night is required as a precaution). It is forbidden to leave over any of the korban until morning ; that which is left over must be burned . If the Sh’lamim is in fulfillment of a vow, its meat may be eaten for two days, becoming “Notar” on the 3rd.
It is forbidden to eat “Pigul” . 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 signifi- cant that improper thoughts alone can effect the sanctity of the korban.
It is forbidden to eat of a korban that has become tamei (ritually unclean) . This is punishable by makot. It is required to burn tamei korbanot . A person who is tamei who intention- ally eats meat of a korban is liable to “koreit” (“cut off” by G-d).
Certain fats of kosher animals are forbidden to eat . 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) . Eating meat with blood still in it is a lesser offense, but nonetheless forbidden. This is the reason for “kashering” meat.
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 us at Sinai.[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, 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” than that of place. (from a drasha by Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld.)
R’vi’i – Fourth Aliya – 13 p’sukim – 8:1-13
Having set down the rules, G-d now commands Moshe to take Aharon and his sons, the special garments of the kohanim, the sacrificial animals, and the anointing oil, and perform the inaugural ceremonies for the Mishkan in the presence of the People. Moshe dresses Aharon in the garb of the Kohen Gadol, anoints him, the Altar, and the vessels of the Mishkan. He also dresses Aharon’s sons.
According to Rashi, the seven day inauguration period for the Mishkan preceded its erection. This, says Rashi, is another example of EIN SEDER MUKDAM U’M’UCHAR BATORAH, that the Torah is not always in chrono- logical order.
Note from the Torah Tidbits chief statistician: This portion of R’VI’I in Tzav contains the middle of the Torah in P’sukim. According to my (computer assisted) count, the midpoint of the Torah is between p’sukim 8 and 9 of Vayikra 8. This is one pasuk later than the standard Chumash says the midpoint is. This discrepancy might be explained by different treatment of Parsha breaks within a pasuk. Might be explained. There might be other reasons.
Again, according to my count, the midpoint of the Torah in words is contained within the Chamishi portion of Tzav. The words EL HAYESOD in Vayikra 8:15 is the midpoint, with EL belonging to the first half of the Torah, and YESOD being the first word of the second half. This midpoint is considerably earlier in the Torah when compared with the “traditional” midpoint of DAROSH DARASH, in Parshat Shmini, Vayikra 10:16. Similarly, the ALEF of HU in 8:28 is the midpoint for letters, also far off from the large VAV in GACHON in Vayikra 11:42. We’re still waiting for a plausible explanation of the discrepancies. If anyone has something on this, please send it in.
Chamishi – Fifth Aliya – 8 p’sukim – 8:14-21
A bull as a sin-offering is brought and Aharon and his sons “lean” on it. (This is a vital element of most personal korbanot. It facilitates a psychological identification with the animal and adds meaning to the act of sacrifice.) Leaning (smicha) is accompanied by confession (vidui) or words of praise to G-d, depending upon the korban. The bull was slaughtered and part of its blood was put on the corners of the Mizbei’ach and on its base. Parts of the bull were placed on the Mizbei’ach; the remainder was burned outside the camp.
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
The second ram was then offered (as a SH’LAMIM called EIL HAMILU’IM) and several procedures, as specified in the Torah, were followed. Note that Moshe Rabeinu was an active participant in the 7-day inauguration period for the Mishkan. Thereafter, Aharon and his sons (and all kohanim) are the ones who perform the sacred service of the Mikdash.[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, indicates their integral involve- ment in the whole process.
Some commentators speculate that had Moshe accepted his first mission at the Bush without continually claiming inadequacies, he would have been the Kohen Gadol as well as Leader (Melech) of the People. Instead, Aharon was “given to him” then, to share the burdens of leadership. Moshe was acutely aware that he was to pass the baton to Aharon in this vital area of communal and spiritual function. It must have been difficult for Moshe to step back at this point.
Sh’vi’i – Seventh Aliya – 7 p’sukim – 8:30-36
Further anointing of Aharon, his sons, and their garments. Then Moshe told them to prepare part of the meat for eating with the accompanying cakes and wafers. That which was left over was to be burned. During the seven inaugural days, the kohanim were not to leave the Mishkan; they remained there as an honor-guard.[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. (And any Kohein could be the one in charge, not just the K.G.) 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.[SDT] Rashi says that this implied that they made no changes or improvisation, much to their credit. (Sometimes, the same kind of statement can be meant as a criticism – not this time.)
The last 4 p’sukim are read for Maftir.
Haftara – 21 p’sukim -Mal’achi 3:4-24
Unlike the four recent special Shabbatot, when we read a special Maftir in a second Torah and a special Haftara, for Shabbat HaGadol that is not the case. We use only one Torah and we read Parshat HaShavua from it. We do, however, read a special Haftara.
Some opinions say to read this haftara only when Shabbat HaGadol is Erev Pesach. The GR”A opined that we should say this haftara only when Shabbat HaGadol is NOT Erev Pesach. Common practice is to read it on Shabbat HaGadol in all cases, preempting the regularly scheduled Haftara.
The haftara speaks of faithfulness to Torah and the promise of the coming of Eliyahu HaNavi as the harbinger of the Final Redemption. As such, this haftara helps us view Pesach in its proper perspective. Eliyahu HaNavi partakes of the Seder, so to speak. That G-d will send him before the Great Day (of Complete Redemption) makes this Haftara the perfect expression of “Next year in rebuilt Jerusalem”. Geula of the past always looks to the Geula of the future.
Note: The penultimate (next to the last) pasuk is repeated as the concluding pasuk of the haftara. This is done to end the book of Trei-Asar on a positive note (Mal’achi being the last section of the Book). Three other books of Tanach are similarly concluded. Kohelet, Eicha, and Yeshayahu.
Sobering note: To say that the Haftara speaks of T’shuva is also to say that it speaks of widespread disregard for Torah & Mitzvot and a deterioration of proper interpersonal behavior. In fact, the Haftara speaks of what was, and what will be. What is – that is our present – must be examined by us to see whether we are more like the problem-filled Jewish society that the prophet addressed, or more like the realization of the prophetic vision. Let’s take the Haftara, then, as a challenge for our time. ZICHRU TORAT MOSHE AVDI… That part is a command. And that becomes our challenge, so that we can hasten the coming of Eliyahu and the Great Day that he will announce, to usher in the Geula Sh’leima.