Sefer Vayikra begins a section of the Torah that many find difficult, perhaps even unintelligible. The esoteric nature of Korbanot and the seemingly bloody business of sacrificing animals as part of our relationship with God is almost foreign to us today, and it is hard to imagine returning to that system in the time of Mashiach. The Rambam even suggests that Tefillah is the higher form of Korbanot, indicating that they will not return. Why, then, is it necessary for the Torah, a living document whose relevance only grows with each passing generation, to spill such enormous amounts of ink over this ostensibly irrelevant topic?
Oddly enough, Parshat Tzav only compounds the problem of Parshat Vayikra. Instead of a new set of topics, we have what seems to be a repeat of all the Korbanot mentioned in the last Parsha – Olah, Mincha, Chatat, Shelamim, Asham – with little new information. However, as with everything, the answer to both of our questions is in the details.
Rabbi Mark Smilowitz, a former Rabbi at TABC, points out that a quick reading of this Parshat Tzav shows an amazing shift of focus, amazing because it leaves the learner with a completely new perspective on the exact same information. Instead of a section about Olah from the bringer's (Makriv's) perspective, we have a section about Olah from the Kohen's perspective. The same holds true for all of Parshat Tzav; each section begins with an injunction to "tell Aharon and his sons…" This is not a rehash of a story we have already heard, but a retelling of a past directive from a new position.
The next question, obviously, is: why is this necessary? How many perspectives are needed? Isn't the perspective of the Makriv enough to understand the Korban and its purpose? Clearly, the answer is no.
The Korban is not the performance of penance by a sinner in physical representation to God, as the surface reading of Vayikra seems to indicate. Nor is it the bribing of a Kohen to lobby the Ribbono Shel Olam to let this one slide, as the surface reading of Tzav seems to indicate. It is in fact a complex relationship entered into by the Makriv and the Kohen, as both work to undo the damage the Makriv has done, or accomplish whatever the particular aim of that Korban may be (e.g. thanksgiving, forgiveness, or oath). The animal (or Mincha) substitutes for the Makriv himself, and the Kohen is charged with bringing the Makriv to the next step, namely, up to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, for the fulfillment of his obligations. Both parties must understand the rights and obligations involved, and both must agree to do their part fully and without reservation. If, therefore, one has an intention that is anything other than pure, the Korban is worse than useless (Pigul) and must be thrown away. Just as with many aspects of the relationship between man and God, a person needs a little help to get all the way up.