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5 Facts About Parshat Tzav that You (Maybe) Didn’t Know

Published on Wednesday March 3th, 2021

Discover and learn every week, "5 Facts" written on the weekly Parshah that you can share at your Shabbos table.


וְלָבַ֨שׁ הַכֹּהֵ֜ן מִדּ֣וֹ בַ֗ד וּמִֽכְנְסֵי־בַד֮ יִלְבַּ֣שׁ עַל־בְּשָׂרוֹ֒ וְהֵרִ֣ים אֶת־הַדֶּ֗שֶׁן אֲשֶׁ֨ר תֹּאכַ֥ל הָאֵ֛שׁ אֶת־הָעֹלָ֖ה עַל־הַמִּזְבֵּ֑חַ וְשָׂמ֕וֹ אֵ֖צֶל הַמִּזְבֵּֽחַ׃ (6:3)

The priest shall dress in linen raiment, with linen breeches next to his body; and he shall take up the ashes to which the fire has reduced the burnt offering on the altar and place them beside the altar.

1.     How were the Altar’s ashes disposed of?

One of the miracles that occured in the Temple was that all the ashes from the Altar would be swallowed up into the ground after being  deposited in the northern corner which was about 10 feet from the east ramp.. There remained no trace of them. (Baal Haturim, Tosafot in Yoma Ch.1)


וְהָאֵ֨שׁ עַל־הַמִּזְבֵּ֤חַ תּֽוּקַד־בּוֹ֙ לֹ֣א תִכְבֶּ֔ה וּבִעֵ֨ר עָלֶ֧יהָ הַכֹּהֵ֛ן עֵצִ֖ים בַּבֹּ֣קֶר בַּבֹּ֑קֶר וְעָרַ֤ךְ עָלֶ֙יהָ֙ הָֽעֹלָ֔ה וְהִקְטִ֥יר עָלֶ֖יהָ חֶלְבֵ֥י הַשְּׁלָמִֽים׃ (6:5)

The fire on the altar shall be kept burning, not to go out: every morning the priest shall feed wood to it, lay out the burnt offering on it, and turn into smoke the fat parts of the offerings of well-being.

2.     How was Moshe’s altar cared for?

Despite Moshe’s altar being in use for about 116 years (39 years in the desert, 14 years in Gilgal, 13 years in Nob and 50 years in Gibeon) and always burning, it miraculously never deteriorated and always looked like new. (Rashash, Vayikrah Rabbah 7:5)


זֶ֡ה קָרְבַּן֩ אַהֲרֹ֨ן וּבָנָ֜יו אֲשֶׁר־יַקְרִ֣יבוּ לַֽיהוָ֗ה בְּיוֹם֙ הִמָּשַׁ֣ח אֹת֔וֹ עֲשִׂירִ֨ת הָאֵפָ֥ה סֹ֛לֶת מִנְחָ֖ה תָּמִ֑יד מַחֲצִיתָ֣הּ בַּבֹּ֔קֶר וּמַחֲצִיתָ֖הּ בָּעָֽרֶב׃ (6:13)

This is the offering that Aaron and his sons shall offer to the LORD on the occasion of his anointment: a tenth of an ephah of choice flour as a regular meal offering, half of it in the morning and half of it in the evening,

3.     What does the word “ze/this” allude to?

The word ze alludes to the word ze mentioned in association with the  golden calf. (Exodus 32:24). It has a numerical value of 12, representing the 12 tribes. This teaches us that although this mincha offering was  inexpensive it had the same value as the 12 tribes. (Vayikra Rabbah, Moreh Nevuchim, Siftey Cohen, Rabenu Bachya, Imrei Noam)


וְאֵ֥ת כָּל־חֶלְבּ֖וֹ יַקְרִ֣יב מִמֶּ֑נּוּ אֵ֚ת הָֽאַלְיָ֔ה וְאֶת־הַחֵ֖לֶב הַֽמְכַסֶּ֥ה אֶת־הַקֶּֽרֶב׃ (7:3)

All its fat shall be offered: the broad tail; the fat that covers the entrails;

4.     What is the only animal whose tail is placed on the Altar? 

The sheep is the only animal whose tail is placed on the Altar. (Rashi)


וְנֶ֜פֶשׁ כִּֽי־תִגַּ֣ע בְּכָל־טָמֵ֗א בְּטֻמְאַ֤ת אָדָם֙ א֣וֹ ׀ בִּבְהֵמָ֣ה טְמֵאָ֗ה א֚וֹ בְּכָל־שֶׁ֣קֶץ טָמֵ֔א וְאָכַ֛ל מִבְּשַׂר־זֶ֥בַח הַשְּׁלָמִ֖ים אֲשֶׁ֣ר לַיהוָ֑ה וְנִכְרְתָ֛ה הַנֶּ֥פֶשׁ הַהִ֖וא מֵעַמֶּֽיהָ׃ (פ) (7:21)

When a person touches anything unclean, be it human uncleanness or an unclean animal or any unclean creature,and eats flesh from the LORD’s sacrifices of well-being, that person shall be cut off from his kin.

5.     What is the Karet punishment? 

There are a number of opinions on what the Kares punishment is. According to Rashi, it means that the offender’s young children may die and/or that the offender may die young . According to Tosfot, children are only subject to death where the Torah explicitly states it. According to the Talmud Yerushalmi, the offender dies before he turns 50.  Finally, according to the Talmud Bavli,  the offender dies between the ages of 50 and 60. (Yevamot 2a, Yerushalmi Bikkurim Ch.2, Moed Katan 28a)


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