03/30/2012 08:56 am ET Updated Jun 08, 2012

Parshat Tzav: Weekly Torah Portion Summary, Questions, Resources

Editor's note: The HuffTorah is an overview of the Torah reading of the week, which is found in the Book of Leviticus 6:1-8:36, and includes links to additional resources for study and discussion. Read the full text of Parshat Tzav with interlinear Hebrew/English.

God speaks to Moses again, telling him to command Aaron more about the priestly sacrificial offerings.

The burnt-offering may burn all night in the fire of the altar. The priest should don his garb and shovel out the innermost ashes that remain of the offering. He should change his clothes and remove these ashes from the camp.

The fire of the altar should be continuous. It must never go out. Every morning, the priest should kindle wood and arrange the offerings.

Aaron's sons should bring the meal-offering to the front of the altar, before God. The High Priest should take the three-finger fistful from the offering. He should make this, along with the frankincense, go up in smoke as a pleasant aroma before God. Whatever is left over, Aaron and his sons should eat in a holy place -- like the Tabernacle's courtyard. This portion is God-given and most holy.

The meal-offering of a sinner must be given with the proper intention. The voluntary meal-offering needs no special intention. And any of Aaron's sons may eat it. This is eternal. Anything that touches this offering becomes holy.

On the day a priest is initiated, he must bring such an offering from fine flour. The High Priest must bring this kind of offering daily. This statute is eternal. It must be burned completely. A pleasant aroma for God. Nothing may be eaten from it.

The sin-offering should be slaughtered in the same place as the burnt-offering. It is most holy. The priest who offers it should eat it. It should be eaten in a holy place. Any food that touches it becomes holy. If any blood from the sacrifice is sprinkled on any garment, it should be washed in a holy place. If the meat of a sin-offering is cooked in earthenware, that pot must then be broken. If it is cooked in a copper pot, it can be washed with boiling water and used again. Every male priest may eat from this most holy offering.

A sin-offering brought with blood may not be eaten. It must be burned. It is invalid.

The holy guilt-offering should be slaughtered in the same place as the burnt-offering. Its blood should be dashed upon the altar. The priest should offer the sacrificial fats and organs, making them go up in smoke. Every male priest may eat from this most holy offering.

Both the guilt-offering and the sin-offering belong to the priest who does the offering. Baked meal-offerings belong to the offerer and other priests present that day. Dry meal-offerings or those mixed with oil belong equally to Aaron's sons.

When a person brings a thanksgiving-offering, along with it he should bring 10 unleavened loaves mixed with oil, 10 unleavened wafers smeared with oil, 10 unleavened loaves bake from flour that is scalded and mixed with oil and 10 leavened loaves. This is a peace-offering. He should give one of each kind of bread to the priest who dashes the blood of the offering. The meat of this sacrifice should be eaten on that day. No leftovers allowed. If the offering is voluntary, the meat may be eaten on that day or the next. Leftovers should be burned completely on the third day. If his intention in offering is that it should be eaten on the third day, the offering is invalid. If the meat touches anything ritually impure, it should not be eaten. The soul of a ritually impure person who eats the meat of this offering will be cut off from the people.

The Children of Israel should not eat sacrificial fat from an ox, sheep or goat. The soul of a person who does will be cut off. They should not eat any blood. The soul of a person who does will be cut off.

Any person who dedicates a peace-offering to God should bring the offering from the animal personally -- specifically, the fat of the breast -- waving it before God. The priest should make it go up in smoke. The breast belongs to Aaron and his sons. A portion of the right leg should be given to the priest as an elevation offering.

These are the privileges of the anointed priests. An eternal statute. These are the laws of the offerings for the day of the priests' inauguration.

Questions and resources:

Why must Moses command Aaron rather than tell him? Why is the description of the fire of the altar repetitive? Why does the High Priest bring a meal-offering every day? Why can't blood be eaten?

Moses commanded Aaron so that the message would stick, which is related to the seemingly redundant description of the eternal flame of the altar. Rabbi Isaac Abravanel explains why the priest made a daily offering. Blood is the life-source of an animal, and the soul is even considered to be in the blood, so it may not be eaten.

God speaks to Moses, telling him to gather Aaron and his sons. Bring the garments, the anointing oil, the sin-offering bull, the two rams, the basket of unleavened bread. Assemble all of the people at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting.

Moses does this. The people assemble. Moses tells them that he is about to fulfill commands from God.

Moses immerses Aaron and his sons in water. He dresses Aaron in the garments of the High Priest. Moses anoints the Sanctuary and everything inside of it, sanctifying it. He sprinkles oil seven times on the altar. He pours oil on Aaron's head, sanctifying him. He dresses Aaron's sons in the priestly garments.

Moses brings the sin-offering bull and Aaron and his sons touch its head. Moses slaughters the bull, putting its blood on the altar, sanctifying it. He then makes it go up in smoke as commanded.

He does the same with the burnt-offering ram. A pleasant aroma before God.

He brings the inauguration ram close. Aaron and his sons touch its head. Moses slaughters it, placing some of its blood on the cartilage of Aaron's right ear, on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. He does the same to Aaron's sons. He pours the rest of the blood on the altar.

Moses places an offering -- sacrificial fats, organs and limbs, as well as one loaf of unleavened bread, one of bread boiled and fried in oil and one wafer -- in the palms of Aaron and his sons, waving them before God. He makes this offering go up in smoke. These inauguration-offerings are a pleasant aroma for God.

Moses waves the breast as a wave-offering before God. This portion belongs to Moses.

Moses sprinkles anointing oil and blood from the altar on Aaron and his garments, on his sons and their garments, sanctifying them. He instructs them to cook the meat at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting; to eat it there with the bread; to burn the leftovers. He tells them they should not leave the entrance of the Tent of Meeting for seven days. The same process must be completed on all seven days, as a means of atonement. They must do this, Moses says, lest they die.

Aaron and his sons do everything God commands through Moses.

Questions and resources:

Why does Moses sprinkle oil seven times on the altar? Why can the meat from the sacrifice only be eaten in the holy space of the entrance to the Tent of Meeting?

Rashi himself says he does not know where Moses is commanded to sprinkle oil seven times on the altar. In the time of the Tabernacle, eating meat was a holy, intentional act. And what about today?

Resources for further commentary, discussion and reflection: