Parashat Tzav (Command)
“Shabbat HaGadol” (Great Sabbath)
Leviticus 6:1-8:36 (English 6:8-8:36)
Haftarah Malachi 3:4-24 (English 3:4-4:5)
This Shabbat is the Shabbat before Passover. It is called the “Shabbat HaGadol” (Great Sabbath) because while in Egypt, it was on Shabbat that God commanded His people to bring the Passover Lamb into their homes and keep it until the 14th day of Nissan, when they sacrificed it and placed its blood upon their doorposts (Exodus 12). No doubt, it is a very special time of reflection and gratitude for all God has done for us.
In our Parashah this week, we find more of God's instructions that He gave to the children of Israel through Moses. These instructions relate to the different kinds of sacrifices that they 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 continuous need for the forgiveness of sin. I believe that on a spiritual level, it was also something that 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).
Sometimes, we approach God’s commandments as a form of “work”, yet with a desire to obey them. However, as I was reading all those instructions of the different kinds of sacrifices that the children of Israel were to make, I stopped and asked myself, what is the focus here? Is it the sacrifices and all the intricate details of how to offer them, or the reason they were needed in the first place?
I named this commentary “Soul Searching” because I believe in the importance of stopping and searching our hearts regarding what motivates us. The sacrificial system was in place so that the people could draw closer to God through forgiveness of sin. I also believe that the sacrificial system existed to ultimately point us to the final sacrificial work of our Messiah. But I wonder, how often did the people stop to search their souls regarding the reason that they needed to offer sacrifices?
As I read the Haftarah portion this week, I believe that some of the strong words written there ought to cause all of us who love and follow God to stop for a minute and do a “deep dive” into our souls, making sure that our lives align with what God has called us to. Are we motivated to do things out of love and reverence for God, or out of selfishness as we put ourselves as the center? Malachi 3:5 says:
“Then I will come near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, those who oppress the wage earner in his wages or the widow or the orphan, and those who turn away the stranger from justice and do not fear Me,” says the LORD of armies.
These words are echoed in Revelation 22:15:
Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the sexually immoral persons, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.
And finally, in Malachi 3:19 (4:1 in English) we read:
“For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the LORD of armies, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branches.”
The Day of the Lord is coming; whether you believe in it or not, it is coming, and with all that is happening around us, we would do well to stop and search our souls for what is important and what is not, for what motivates us, and ask if it is honoring to God or not.
Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened attentively and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and esteem His name. “And they will be Mine,” says the LORD of armies, “on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will have compassion for them just as a man has compassion for his own son who serves him.” So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.
As we celebrate the “Great Shabbat” which is right before Passover, let’s search our hearts and rid ourselves from all the leaven (i.e., sins) in our lives as we choose to honor God, not with empty words or empty sacrifices, but rather from a place of love and reverence to the Lord. Not because of any blessing that we may receive, but rather because of who He is.
Let us serve Him because He is God, and He is faithful – not for any other reason.
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