Parashat Tzav – Erev Shabbat 26 March 2021
Week of 21-27 March 2021
Torah portion: Leviticus 6:1-8:36 Haftarah: Malachi 3:4-24
Theme: The Priest and sacrifice.
I am intrigued and excited to delve into the meaning of Priests (kohanim), Aaron and his sons, in the context of our Parashat Tzav and their role regarding the offerings, sacrifices (korbanot). So we hear in the very first line of our Parasha, God spoke to Moses to command Aaron and his sons regarding their role and duties as priests. We hear it again, crystal clearly, regarding the priest’s portion at the end of chapter 7: “This, then was the portion for Aaron and his sons in YHWH’s burnt offerings on the day he presented them to YHWH to be his priests”(v. 35). Aaron is regarded as the official High Priest in Judaism.
I find it helpful in trying to understand the role of Aaron, by looking at it from the perspective of the role of Moses. From the Hebrew Bible, we learn how Moses first confronted the Egyptian king about the liberation of the Israelites. Aaron served as this brother’s spokesman (prophet) to the Pharaoh. So Moses was to lead the Israelites from exile, Aaron to be the prophet, the voice of God to negotiate with Pharoah. How vital is this role of Aaron in the negotiation process? Is this an essential part of the priestly role, the voice of God to the world? Part of the Law (Torah) that Moses received from God on Sinai granted Aaron the priesthood for himself and his male descendants, and he became the first High Priest of the Israelites: the liberation from exile, the role of Moses, and the role of Aaron.
Louis Ginzburg in “Legends of the Jews” noted that even though Aaron was the first high priest mentioned in the Book of Exodus, the first man that assumed the title of the high priest of God is Enoch, succeeded by Methuselah, Lameck, Noah, Shem, Melchizedek, Abraham, and Levi. We learn from the Book of Genesis of Enoch the Patriarch, a biblical figure son of Jared and father of Methuselah. In the text we read: “In all, Enoch lived for three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God. Then he vanished because God took him” (Gen 5:23-24).
I will take Melchizedek and look at his role as a priest and the offering of sacrifice. Melchizedek, also transliterated Melchisedeck or Malki Tzedek, “The King is Justice” was the king of Salem mentioned in the 14th chapter of the Book of Genesis. “Melchizedek was a priest of El Elyon (Gen 14:18), a deity mentioned in Phoenician records” (Plaut, p. 106). Elyon later came to mean Most High and the expression El Elyon, God Most High was also applied to the God of Abraham. In Gen 14:18, Melchizedek brought out bread and wine as an offering to God the Most High, Creator of Heaven and Earth. The priest (Kohan) performed his duties, offerings, and sacrifices (korbanot) according to what was due to God the Most High.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. Give a simple definition of a priest and a prophet and their role in the community. 2. How does it sit with me, when I speak of a priest, minister, rabbi, and pastor? 3. What can I say when Christians speak of Jesus as a Jew, Son of God: a priest, a prophet, and a king; the priest and sacrifice?
Bibliography: Plaut G, W., The Torah A Modern Commentary (New York: 1981).
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Aliki A Langi, Australia, Bat Kol Alumnus: 2005, 2018