Covenant of Blood by Jesse Dunietz


Towards the end of the Parsha, we hear about the special Korbanot brought before Matan Torah.  Perek 24, Pasuk 6-8 says “Vayikach Moshe Chatzi Hadam Vayesem Baaganot, Vachatzi Hadam Zarak Al Hamizbeach… Vayikach Moshe Et Hadam Vatizrok Al Haam.”  “Moshe took half the blood of the Korbanot and placed it in bowls, and half the blood he sprinkled on the mizbeach… and Moshe took the blood and he sprinkled it on the people.”  In interpreting these Pesukim, the Shem Mishmuel  uses Rashi and the Zohar to develop two different approaches to the concepts behind Moshe’s actions.

Regarding the second sprinkling, Rashi says, “He sprinkled the blood on the Mizbeach to atone for the people.”  In his opinion, both halves of the blood from the Karbanot were actually put on the mizbeach.  He also says that it was not Moshe, but an angel, who divided the blood in the first place.  The Zohar says something slightly different: “Moshe split the blood into two: half of the blood he sprinkled on the people, and half he sprinkled on the mizbeach.”

According to the Shem Mishmuel, the Zohar’s intention in saying, “He split it into two,” is that Moshe first split the blood into two halves, one for the people and one for Hashem (the Mizbeach).  Moshe then sprinkled the blood meant for the people on the Mizbeach and vice versa.  Thus, the result was the end of Pasuk 18: “Vayomer Hinei Dam Habrit Asher Karat Hashem Imachem Al Kol Hadevarim Haeleh,” “He said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant that Hashem has made with you over these things,’” that is to say, the Torah.  Because of the switching of the halves of the blood, the two recipients became closely linked with each other.  In fact, Vayikra Rabba mentions this clearly.  It describes Hashem telling Moshe to switch the halves of blood, and that this caused a two-way covenant.  Thus, according to the Zohar, switching two bowls of blood caused the permanent link between Hashem and Bnei Yisrael.

According to Rashi, however, all of the blood was sprinkled on the Mizbeach.  Therefore, a different explanation is needed for how the blood formed a Brit.  The Shem Mishmuel suggests that after Hashem had already made a promise to Bnai Yisrael that He would be their G-d forever, His oath needed no confirmation by blood.  Therefore, the blood designated for him could be placed on the Mizbeach.  The nation’s promise, however, was a human promise, so it needed reinforcement.  The half of the blood designated for them was placed on the Mizbeach  to provide a visual and lasting bond to Hashem.  This concept, is also supported by several Midrashim. 

In the end, no matter which way the Pesukim are read, the events recorded were carefully ordered and crafted to create a lasting attachment between Bnai Yisrael and Hashem, that has lasted until this day.

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