A Sanguine Ceremony by Nachum Fisch


In Parashat Tzav, we read about the ceremonial consecration of the Kohanim as the official spiritual caretakers of the Mishkan. They are taken to the Ohel Mo’eid, where they are immersed in water to make sure that they are pure, and have the Bigdei Kehunah put on them by Moshe. Moshe then sprinkles the Shemen HaMishchah, anointing oil, around the entire Mishkan, and pours the remaining oil on the heads of Aharon and his sons, and brings a few Korbanot afterwards. The most perplexing aspect of the Parashah is that after the Korban Chatat is slaughtered and burnt, the inaugural ram, the Eil HaMilu’im, is slaughtered. Moshe proceeds to perform a peculiar procedure with the blood of the ram. He takes the blood and places it upon the middle of Aharon’s right ear, the thumb on his right hand, and big toe of his right foot, and then proceeds to do the same to Aharon’s sons. Why would Moshe take the blood of the Eil HaMilu’im and perform this strange procedure, and why would he anoint the Kohanim specifically on these parts of the body?

Rav Avraham ben HaRambam answers in a particularly symbolic and enlightening fashion. He writes that while the ritual performed was a unique, never-repeated practice reserved only for the Kohanim, there is a message in it for everyone. The places that are sprinkled upon have particular messages, and the blood was from a Korban, specifically the Eil HaMilu’im, which shows that it is connecting the body parts to something related to Hashem. All of the body parts are on the right side because the right side represents strength. The ear is chosen because the Kohanim should listen to everything that Hashem commands them. The hand is chosen because the hand represents action, and the Kohanim are supposed to actively grasp the objects required by their duties. The big toe of the foot is chosen because the Kohanim are supposed to run about with quickness and enthusiasm to perform their duties. All of these body parts can be tied back to a message for the common, modern-day man. The ear symbolizes that while we may not be in direct contact with Hashem, we should still listen to His Torah and Mitzvot. The hand represents the requirement to do said Mitzvot, and the foot represents the swiftness and eagerness that we should have to perform these Mitzvot. We should learn a lesson from what appears to be such a literally sanguine idea, but carries a valuable message for generations to come.

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