Priests Performing Perfectly by Josh Lehman


In Parashat Tzav, the Torah provides guidelines for how the Kohanim should sacrifice the Korbanot and instructs how to proceed in performing the various sacrifices throughout. While the Torah seems specific and very intricate in explaining what the Kohanim should do, ultimately, the Kohanim have two main requirements: to complete the tasks correctly, and to have the proper mindset while doing so.

Parashat Tzav begins with an explanation of the guidelines for the Olah offering. The first action that the Kohein must complete is removing the ashes created by the Korban Olah (VaYikra 6:3). This is a strange first task for the holy Kohanim. One would think that the first step of the process would be something majestic, not menial cleanup.

The Chovot HaLevavot answers this dilemma. When giving the Kohanim this significant task of working with the Korbanot in the Mishkan and Beit HaMikdash, there was concern that there would be a sense of pretentiousness among the Kohanim. In order to prevent this important line of work from getting to their heads, the first task given to the Kohanim in Parashat Tzav is the removal of leftover ashes from the Korban Olah. This assignment is one of humility; it is intended to remind the Kohanim to remain humble throughout their mission.

While in the beginning of the Parashah we see this idea of being scrupulous regarding one’s intentions and mindset while performing the chores of the Korbanot, Parashat Tzav also stresses the importance of strict adherence to the physical duties of the Korbanot. In the last Pasuk of Parashat Tzav, the Torah writes, “VaYa’as Aharon UVanav Eit Kol HaDevarim Asheir Tzivah Hashem BeYad Moshe,” “Aharon and his sons did all of the things that Hashem commanded by the hand of Moshe” (8:36). Rashi (s.v. “VaYa’as Aharon UVanav”) explains that this Pasuk is a praise of the Kohanim, as they didn’t sway right or left when working with the Korbanot, but did exactly as instructed. The Torah praises Aharon and his sons not only for completing the tasks assigned to them, but for diligently making sure not to adjust the guidelines in any way, making them neither more lenient nor more stringent than was commanded of them initially. The Siftei Chachamim concurs with this Rashi, agreeing that the praise of Aharon and his sons is for their ability to perform the Korbanot exactly as intended.

Gur Aryeih adds that the Kohanim didn’t make even one mistake throughout the entire Korbanot process. The Maskil LeDavid takes this further, explaining that lengthening the Pasuk from, “VaYa’asu Kein,” “And they did so,” to “VaYa’as Aharon UVanav Eit Kol HaDevarim Asher Tzivah Hashem BeYad Moshe,” stresses the perfection of their performance. This was praiseworthy, as doing such a demanding task with such complicated demands is no easy task. The fact that Aharon and his sons were able to do it so perfectly is something to be commended.

Ultimately, we see that every commandment of Hashem that we fulfill has two aspects. Not only do we have to perform the task itself, but we also have to strive to perform it with the right mindset and with physical perfection. The Kohanim in Parashat Tzav exemplify this by not only practicing humility when executing the acts of the Korbanot, but also by being diligent to carry out the tasks with absolute perfection. May we, too, act with such diligence and care when performing the Mitzvot commanded to us.

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