Commentary For Tzav

1 Apr

This week’s parshah, which mostly deals with sacrifices, begins by discussing the basic daily maintenance of the altar. The instructions given are that “the priest shall don his linen tunic and he shall don linen breeches on his flesh; he shall separate the ash of what was consumed of the ascent offering on the altar and place it next to the altar (Lev. 6:3).” The second half of the verse seems very simple to understand: Before you can use the altar again, you need to clean off the ashes of the things that were burnt on it overnight. The first part of the verse, however, seems much more complicated. Obviously the priest needs to dress in the official uniform, but why repeat the details of the uniform here when they were already outlined in the instructions to make them back in Ex. 28:40-43?


Rashi points out that the word use for “his tunic”- “mido” can also mean “his measure,” and teaches us that each priest’s garments should be fitted specifically for him. The Gemarah teaches on Yoma 23b that the phrase “and he shall don linen breeches on his flesh” means that the priest should have nothing between his linen breeches and his flesh. Just as the Torah included these details to give extra insight into how a priest should come before God to prepare the altar for the day’s sacrifices, we can use these insights to better prepare ourselves for when we come before God in our contemporary replacement for sacrifice: prayer.


We must all come before God in “clothes” of our own measure, and with no barriers between us and our “clothes.” When we approach God to pray, we must do so with honesty, about who we are, where we stand, and what we have done, and what we truly want. God will know if we are lying or trying to hide something, so to come before God trying to do so not only disrespects God but also deceives ourselves. If we are attempting to hide our own problems from God, we are less likely to notice whatever solutions God might offer.

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