Parshat Tzav Summary

Parshat Tzav is the 2nd parsha in Sefer Vayikra (also known as Leviticus).

This parsha is verses Leviticus 6:1 – 8:36, or a total of 96 verses, but see the Note after Aliyah 7.

Here is a brief summary for each aliyah.

In Parshat Vayikra various offerings were described. This parsha gives more details about those offerings and how the priests were to bring them.

Aliyah 1: Leviticus 6:1 – 6:11, 11 verses

The outer altar in the Tabernacle is where the offerings and parts of offering were burnt. The fire on that altar was to be burning continuously. Every morning one of the priests added wood to the fire. Another priest removed some of the ashes from the fire.

In Parshat Vayikra one of the offerings was the ground wheat with oil and frankincense. The priest separates a small portion of the wheat offering and burns it on the outer Altar. The priests eat the rest of it in the Courtyard of the Tabernacle.

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Aliyah 2: Leviticus 6:12 – 7:10, 22 verses

When a priest is elevated to the position of High Priest he brings a special wheat offering. He brings half of it in the morning and half in the afternoon. This wheat offering is not eaten, but all of it is consumed on the outer Altar. The High Priest brings this wheat offering every day.

The Sin Offering and Guilt Offering are slaughtered in the same place as the Burnt Offering, the north side of the Tabernacle. Part of the offering is burnt on the outer Altar and the rest of it is eaten by the priests on duty at that time.

The hide of a Burnt Offering is not burnt on the Altar. Rather, the priest who offered it gets to keep the hide.

Aliyah 3: Leviticus 7:11 – 7:38, 28 verses

One of reasons for bringing a Peace Offering is to express gratitude to God. Then the offering is called a Thanksgiving Offering.

He brings with the animal three types of unleavened breads and one type of leavened bread. According to tradition, he brings 10 of each type, therefore, 30 unleavened breads and 10 leavened. These breads are not burnt on the Altar. One of each type is given to the priest and the remainder are eaten by the person who brought the offering and his guests.

All of the offerings that are to be eaten must be eaten within specific time limits. The offerings have different time limits that are either stated explicitly in the Torah or are hinted at. The intention to eat an offering after its accepted time renders the offering rejected (in Hebrew, “pigul”).

All offerings that are eaten may only be eaten by a person who is “pure” (in Hebrew, “tahor”). Also, the meat must also be tahor.

The Torah specifically forbids Jews to eat blood and certain fats. However, in many instances, the fat forbidden to be eaten may be used for other purposes.

We learned in Parshat Vayikra that a portion of the Peace Offering is given to the priests. We now learn that it is the breast and the right thigh that are given to the priest.

Aliyah 4: Leviticus 8:1 – 8:13, 13 verses

At the end of Sefer Shemot / Exodus (verses 40:12-16), the God commands Moses to consecrate Aaron and his sons as priests. The rest of this parsha describes that consecration in more detail.

Moses was commanded to bring the entire Jewish people to the entrance of the Tabernacle. Aaron and his sons immersed in water. Then Moses dressed them in their priestly garments.

Moses took some anointing oil. He anointed all of the furnishings of the Tabernacle. He sprinkled some of the oil on the Altar and poured some of it on Aaron’s head.

Aliyah 5: Leviticus 8:14 – 8:21, 8 verses

The first offering of the consecration ceremony was a bull brought as a sin offering. Aaron and his sons pressed their hands on the head of the sin offering.

bull for a sin offering

Moses, who acted as High Priest during the consecration ceremony, slaughtered the sin offering. He took some of the blood and placed it on the Altar. The innards of the sin offering were burnt on the Altar. The rest of it was burnt outside the Jewish camp.

The second offering of the consecration ceremony was a ram brought as a burnt offering.

Aliyah 6: Leviticus 8:22 – 8:29, 8 verses

The third and final offering of the consecration ceremony was a Peace Offering. The Torah calls it a Ram of Investment or a Ram of Inauguration (Hebrew, “eil ha’miluim”).

rams for an offering

After Aaron and his sons pressed their hands on its head, Moses slaughtered the ram. He took some of the blood and placed on the right ear, right thumb, and right big toe of each of them.

A portion of the animal and some breads were waved before God and then burnt on the Altar. The breast was then waved before God and given to Moses as his portion to eat.

Aliyah 7: Leviticus 8:30 – 8:36, 7 verses

Then Moses took some anointing oil and blood from the Ram of Inauguration and sprinkled it on Aaron and his sons.

The remainder of the meat from the ram and the breads were given to Aaron and his sons. They were to eat this while sitting inside the courtyard of the Tabernacle.

This ceremony was repeated every day for seven days with Moses officiating as the High Priest.

NOTE: You may have noticed that adding up the verses in each reading indicates that there are 97 verses in Parshat Tzav. This is a situation that occurs a few times in the Torah. I discuss this issue more fully in Parshat Yitro Summary in the notes after Aliyah 7.

Haftarah Summary

Jeremiah 7:21 – 8:3, 9:22 – 23

Verse 22 states: “For I did not speak with your forefathers nor did I command them – on the day I took them out of the land of Egypt – concerning olah-offering or peace-offering.”

But, wait. We’ve read in Parshat Vayikra and Parshat Tzav many details about these offerings! Of course God commanded them!

The prophet is upbraiding the Jewish people for turning animal offerings into a type of cult devoid of its true intention and meaning.

The animal offerings were meant to be brought with sincerity. The person bringing an offering was meant to rededicate himself to serving God with a pure heart.

Further Reading

One of the topics in this parsha is the daily meal offering of the High Priest. There are some questions for you to ponder addressed in this article.

A Note on the Translations
The translation of Bible verses is based on the Judaica Press Tanach.
The translation of Gemara is based on the Soncino Talmud.
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