Redeemed for Relationship

Parashat Tzav (Command)
Leviticus 6:1-8:36 (English 6:8-8:36)
Shabbat Parah (Cow)
Maftir: Numbers 19:1-22
Haftarah: Ezekiel 36:16-38

The various sacrifices that God instituted point us to a larger purpose in God’s plan of salvation. In the Parashah, we read of the different kinds of sacrifices that the children of Israel were to make. We find the Torah (laws or teaching) of the “HaOlah” (Burnt offering; Leviticus 6), which literally means "to go up" and comes from the idea that the entire sacrifice would go up on the altar. The command was that twice a day—in the morning and in the early evening—the Priests were to offer sacrifices to the LORD. This was to be a continuous act, which suggests that there was a continuous need for the forgiveness of sin. I believe that on a spiritual level, it would keep Israel close to God, because they would be ever mindful of their need for God’s forgiveness. We also find the Torah of Mincha (the grain or meal offering in Leviticus 6), Hasham (guilt offering in Leviticus7) and the Shlemim (peace offering).

We also have a special reading for what is called “Shabbat Parah”, which is the Shabbat before the “Shabbat HaChodesh” (Shabbat of the Month). The name “Shabbat Parah” comes from the special reading from Numbers 19:1-22 which speaks about the red cow, also known as the Red Heifer:

Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “This is the statute of the law which the LORD has commanded, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel that they bring you an unblemished red heifer in which there is no defect and on which a yoke has never been mounted. And you shall give it to Eleazar the priest, and it shall be brought outside the camp and be slaughtered in his presence. And Eleazar the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger and sprinkle some of its blood toward the front of the tent of meeting seven times. Then the heifer shall be burned in his sight; its hide, its flesh, and its blood, with its refuse, shall be burned. And the priest shall take cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet material, and throw it into the midst of the burning heifer. The priest shall then wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward come into the camp; but the priest will be unclean until evening. The one who burns the heifer shall also wash his clothes in water and bathe his body in water, and will be unclean until evening. Now a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer and put them outside the camp in a clean place, and the congregation of the sons of Israel shall keep them for water to remove impurity; it is purification from sin. And the one who gathers the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes and will be unclean until evening; and it shall be a permanent statute for the sons of Israel and for the stranger who resides among them.”
Numbers 19:1-10

The entire sacrificial system is fascinating. In it we find God’s desire for relationship with us, and also the importance of holiness and obedience within our lives. When looking at the requirements of the sacrificial system and all the nuances that they require, one should see that it is almost impossible to stand within them in our own human ability. Yet, God has given these requirements to us. Has God set us up for failure? Not by any means! I believe the Haftarah portion points us to the reason:

Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the Lord GOD says: “It is not for your sake, house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went.  And I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I show Myself holy among you in their sight. For I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the lands; and I will bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you and bring it about that you walk in My statutes, and are careful and follow My ordinances.”
Ezekiel 36:22-27

It is God Himself who will cleanse us from our iniquities and He will do so for His own namesake and glory. As we see from the above scripture, it is also God Himself who brought Israel back to the Land for His own namesake. We cannot lose sight of this, especially in these trying days.

However, God does not do that in order for us to say that He did so for us, but rather in order for us to follow Him and walk in His ways. God ultimately redeemed us to serve Him, in His Spirit. His Spirit guides us to walk in His ways; this is not something we can do in our own strength. 

Remember, you are redeemed for relationship with your Creator, to love and serve Him with a purpose!

Shabbat Shalom,

Check out previous blogs on this parashah!

Did you know? — Lone Soldier

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