Saturday 27th March 2021 14th Nissan 5781
PARASHAT TSAV SHABBAT HAGADOL
Leviticus 6:1 – 8:36; Malachi 3:4 – 24; Matthew 17: 9 - 13
We come now to the 2nd parasha in the book of Leviticus called ‘Tzav – Command’. Allow me to paint a brief overview of the entire book, which I certain, is one of your favourite in the bible.
At the conclusion of the book of Exodus, the Mishkan stood erect and the cloud of G-d’s Presence filled the tent of meeting. We studied its construction in some detail and we know that every part of the tabernacle symbolized holiness. We also understand that there is nothing holy per se in an inanimate object however magnificent it might appear. The fact that the Tabernacle glittered with silver, gold, precious jewels and scarlet thread did not make it holy. What set it apart was from the mundane was that the Mishkan was filled with the Divine Presence!
Adonai reigns—He is robed in majesty! Adonai has robed and armed Himself with strength. Yes, the world is firmly established—unshakable. Your throne is established from of old. You are from everlasting. so majestic is Adonai on high! Holiness befits Your House, Adonai, for endless days.
Are you aware of this truth? Holiness suits you! Each one of you
– no matter how tall or short you are … no matter whether you are plump or thin … when you are clothed in holiness,
you stand out from the crowd.
It is holiness that sets you apart from the chol or common!
And then, horror of horrors, as we start studying the book of Leviticus, much to our surprise and initial dismay, we learn that the main function of this Tabernacle was to sacrifice animals, thereby spilling blood.
Our modern minds recoil with this seeming primitive practice and we associate it – quite rightly so – with primitive, pagan religions.
But what is crucial to our understanding is that HaShem sets limits on the practice of sacrificing animals. You can only bring your offerings at certain times, on certain days and they can only be sacrificed in one place! Furthermore, these instructions were given at Mount Sinai. In other words, they too are min hashamayim – from above!
How then are we to relate to the Father’s emphasis on sprinkled blood with His instruction for righteous living?
This is something that we have to take seriously because it involves a large chunk of Torah, which Sha’ul informs us ‘is written by men under the inspiration of the spirit and is profitable for doctrine, for correction, for reproof and for training in righteousness’ (2 Tim 3:16).
The book of Leviticus commences with:
1 The LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting. He said,
2 "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'When any of you brings an offering to the LORD, bring as your offering an animal from either the herd or the flock.
Since Leviticus also contains the rules for the sacrifices and the conduct of the priests, it is also known as
Torat Kohanim - the Priestly Code.
In the understanding that Leviticus is predominantly concerned with holiness, the question that we should pose is this:
How does a fallen and and sin-tainted humanity
draw near to a holy and majestic G-d?
This is the primary topic of the entire book of Leviticus
Now, the very title of the parasha is informative. The most common phrase used in Torah when G-d speaks to Moses is 'Vayidabeir Adonai el Moshe leimor' ' – ‘And God spoke to Moses, saying.' This exact phrase appears over fifty times in the Torah. Vayikra – and G-d called to Moses - is an unusual departure from the norm and is rarely used. In fact, there are only 3 instances where this form of greeting is used.
Exo 3:4 - when HaShem called to Moses from the burning bush.
Exo 19:3 - when G-d called Moses to come to the top of Mount Sinai
Exo 24:16 – when HaShem called Moses to the top of the mountain
A second time
· Lev 1:2 - in our parasha
How we can understand this, is that in these 4 unique instances, HaShem is calling Moshe to draw near across the divide that separates them. And so, we see almost a contradiction here. The glory-cloud keeps Moses at a distance; the voice of Adonai beckons Moshe to come near.
At the Burning Bush, God appears to Moses as transcendent and awe-inspiring, but the blazing fire of God’s Presence keeps him at a distance. And yet, the voice of God calls to him to draw near. This is holy ground – remove your sandals - but God calls Moses into dialogue with the Almighty.
Similarly, at Sinai, HaShem’s manifestation is awesome; the glory-cloud covers the mountain and no one could approach. But the voice of God calls Moses to come near and gives him the instructions that will guide Israel from then on. God calls to Moses across the distance of His holiness and Moses’ fallenness. He cannot diminish the impact of his holiness, but he still seeks to bring humanity near.
This act of divine love and grace should inculcate a sense of awe,
deep gratitude and humility.
Spiritual maturity means learning to recognize God's transcendence, as well as learning to hear his voice calling us to draw near in spite of our unworthiness! And not only this, he bridged the gap between His utter holiness and mankind’s sinfulness, by providing a pleasing sacrifice, the only sacrifice that need be slain, once for all time. And that, of course, is Yeshua!
Therefore, it was necessary for the replicas of these heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices—but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Messiah did not enter into Holies made with hands—counterparts of the true things—but into heaven itself, now to appear in God's presence on our behalf. And He did not offer Himself again and again—as the kohen gadol enters into the Holy of Holies year after year with blood that is not his own. For then He would have needed to suffer again and again from the foundation of the world. But as it is, He has been revealed once and for all at the close of the ages—to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after this judgment, so also Messiah, was offered once to bear the sins of many. He will appear a second time, apart from sin, to those eagerly awaiting Him for salvation.
The shedding of the blood of innocent animals is the crucial ingredient in bridging this divide between the Father’s transcendence and our fallenness. The intent of the offerings was to repair the breach caused by man’s sin.
When Yeshua yielded up His Spirit on the execution stake, two things happened virtually simultaneously:
Yeshua said “it is finished”, which in our context, we can understand to mean that the divide was potentially bridged forever.
the Parochet (curtain) that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place was rent from heaven to earth! The way to restored fellowship was opened!
14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed
through the heavens, Yeshua, ben Elohim, let us hold fast our
15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may
obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
G-d is beckoning us across the divide in the Person of Yeshua! He is the bridge into the Divine Presence. Yeshua Himself said "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
Indeed, the root karav (come near) appears twice in this one verse, for it also forms the verb translated as "bring." Literally then our verse says, "When a man among you brings near a near-offering."
The Hebrew word for sacrifice is korban or in plural, Korbanot! An entire order of the Talmud (Tractate Kedashim, that is, Holy Things) is devoted to the subject.
However, to translate korbanot as sacrifice or offerings, does not render its meaning accurately. Most of us tend to view something sacrificed as a loss of something or a giving up of something. Generally, what comes to mind when we think of sacrifice? We think of:
1. a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.
2. a sacrifice for cleansing because sins contaminate
3. we give up something of value because a yearling from the flocks and
herds was worth a great deal of money
4. sacrifices was essential in order for a holy G-d to even contemplate
dwelling in the midst of the camp of Israel
All of these four components are an intrinsic part of the ritual, but that is not the literal meaning of the Hebrew word, korbanot.
KORBAN comes from the root Kuf-Reish-Beit, קָרְבָּן which means
"to draw near," and this interpretation indicates the primary purpose of offerings. Everett Fox, in his masterful work called The Five Books of Moses, quotes Martin Buber, the Austrian born Jewish philosopher as sayings (and I quote): “The names of several of the korbanot suggest movement between the human and the divine. Thus, the names of the two most common sacrifices can be rendered near-bringing offerings.” And so, in Jewish theology, a more accurate translation of korban is the near-bringing offering.
Everett Fox translates Lev 1: 2 as follows: ‘Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them; “anyone who brings a near-offering for Adonai, from your domestic animals, from your herds and flocks, you may bring near your near-offering””.
Three undergirding concepts lie behind the korbanot
Let me leave you by asking a rhetorical question. We are commanded to bring a sacrifice of praise.
A sacrifice of praise honours Me, and to the one who orders his way, I will show the salvation of God."
Through Yeshua then, let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips giving thanks to His name.
Furthermore, we are instructed to be willing to offer up our bodies as a willing sacrifice:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
"If anyone wants to follow Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross every day, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.
The instruction to lose one’s life for Messiah’s sake, is found in all four Gospels and in fact, is repeated twice in Luke’s Gospel (Matthew 10:39; Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; Luke 17:33; John 12:25).
If the instructions not only require that we should offer up a sacrifice but also, be willing to be that korban sacrifice, are we obedient to our Master’s call?
Are you and I willing to lay down our rights and our self-will for the sake of knowing Messiah? Are you williing to submit to the process of our sanctification for we are commanded (tzav) to be holy, even as the Lord our God is holy.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.