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In The Garden Of The Torah
Insights of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Shlita
on the weekly Torah Readings

Tzav = Shabbos Hagadol - Pesach - 5754

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Publisher's Foreword

This year Parshas Tzav is read on the 14th of Nissan, the day before Pesach.

Our Sages teach that Nissan is "the month of redemption" (Shmos Rabbah 15:11) and a month associated with "miracles of a truly wondrous nature (Berachos 57a).

These are not abstract concepts, but a description of the dynamic spiritual realities which prevail every year.

"In Nissan, [our ancestors] were redeemed, and in Nissan, we will be redeemed" (Rosh HaShanah 11a).

And every Nissan has the potential to be that Nissan, the time when will be fulfilled the prophecy, (Michah 7:15) - "As in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show you wonders," wonders so great, they will obscure the miracles of the exodus (Zohar I, 261b; Or HaTorah, Nach Vol. I, p. 487).

Awaiting miracles is not a passive process. The Rebbe shlita explains in his Communal Letter of Tishrei 6, 5750:

"The Hebrew word for "miracle," nes, also means "uplifted," i.e., a miracle is an event which introduces a higher frame of reference into creation, elevating the world beyond its natural limits."
Pesach hints at the parallel to this concept within our Divine service.

Pesach means "leap"; it is a time to accept a radically different and more elevated pattern of behavior.

Rather than merely endeavor to improve ourselves gradually, Pesach grants us the potential for a drastic advance, to reach a plane of conduct that can be compared miraculous when compared to our conduct in previous years.

May this approach, coupled with the miraculous influence of Nissan, evoke wonders from above for every Jew, and in particular for the Rebbe Shlita, Melech HaMashiach. And may he lead us to our Redemption in the immediate future.

11 Nissan, 5754
92nd Birthday of the Rebbe Shlita, Melech HaMashiach

Making Connections
The Message of Mitzvos

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VII, p. 30ff;
Vol. VIII, p. 232ff; Vol. XXXII, p. 1ff

To Breach a Chasm

From the earliest ages, man has been aware of a spiritual reality beyond his immediate material surroundings. And yet, that very awareness is confounding, for by definition that spiritual reality is above him, on a level which transcends his conceptual grasp.

Our world is material in nature, and our powers of perception are defined by that setting. The spiritual reality which we knows exists is on a higher plane than we can comprehend.

There are modes of religious experience which attempt to resolve this difficulty by trying to reach above the context of our limited worldly environment. There are, however, two fundamental difficulties with these approaches:

  1. Since by definition, the desired spiritual reality is above our conception, how is it possible for man to relate to it?

  2. Moreover, otherworldliness runs contrary to G-d's intent in creation. G-d brought our material environment into being for a positive purpose, and adopting a thrust whose focus is on going beyond that environment implies a rejection of that purpose.

Invitation From Above

Judaism offers a different alternative.

A bond can be established between the material and the spiritual, but the initiative in doing so must be G-d's, not man's. [1]

G-d reaches down into our world, and gives us a means to relate to Him and by doing so, to elevate our environment.

This is the purpose of the mitzvos.

"What difference does it make to the Holy One, blessed be He, whether one slaughters an animal from the neck or the back.

The mitzvos were given solely to refine the created beings. [2]

Most of the mitzvos involve material things, [3] entities which we can relate to and which are accessible to us.

In and of themselves, these entities are of no importance to G-d.

Nevertheless, to give man a channel with which to relate to Him, He attaches importance to these actions.

Moreover, the bond established with G-d through the fulfillment of the mitzvos permeates our environment, and the entities used in this observance are encompassed in this spiritual connection.

To explain by way of analogy: [4]

A wise man lives in the realm of thought; his life centers on ideas and concepts. Little else is important to him. A simple water carrier will not attract his attention. It's not that he looks down on him, or views him negatively. They simply have nothing in common. There is no way that the water carrier can relate to the wise man; he does not have the capacity to comprehend his thoughts. Nor does what preoccupies the water carrier carry any interest for the sage. If, however, the wise man asks the water carrier a favor and the water carrier obliges a connection is established between them.
The gap between the Creator and the created beings is far greater than that separating the water carrier and the sage. And yet G-d asks us a favor: "Perform My mitzvos," and with that request, a connection is established.

The very word mitzvah hints at this relationship, for it shares a common root with the word tzavsa, which means "bond."

Three Approaches

There is a deeper dimension to the above concept.

It is G-d's command - not man's fulfillment of it - which establishes the connection between the two.

Man has the choice whether to obey or to disobey, but by giving him a command, G-d has already entered his world. If he chooses to fulfill the command, he affirms the connection, and if he refuses, he denies it.

But regardless of man's decision, G-d has already made an overture that has established a relationship between them. Man's option lies in the extent of his willingness to develop that relationship.

Herein lies a connection with the weekly Torah reading, Parshas Tzav.

The name Tzav means "command," and is taken from the opening verse: [5] "And G-d spoke to Moshe: 'Command Aharon....' "

Throughout the Torah, there are three terms generally used to introduce a commandment:

  1. Emor - "tell"

  2. Dabber - "speak to"

  3. Tzav - "command"

All three terms communicate G-d's commandments, but the term tzav is most closely related - conceptually as well as etymologically - to the concept of mitzvah explained above.

The terms "tell" or "speak to" appear to leave the option in the hands of the person receiving the command. Yes, he has been given a directive to fulfill, but the tone with which the directive is communicated implies that he has a choice. He has been told what he should do, and the decision is his whether to do it or not.

When, by contrast, the word "command" is used, the implication is that the matter is imperative. The directive must be fulfilled; the person receiving it has no alternative. [6]

In these instance, the initiative which G-d has taken in commanding man is so encompassing that it propels him toward the fulfillment of the charge.

Strength in the Center

This concept can be amplified by combining teachings from Midrashic and Kabbalistic sources.

Emor, translated as "tell," is associated with gentle speech, [7] while dabber, translated as "speak to," is associated with harsh tones. [8]

In the Kabbalistic arrangement of the Sefiros, there are three vectors.

The right vector is associated with kindness, and the left vector with harshness.

Tzav is associated with the middle vector, a balanced approached which fuses together these two extremes.

For example, mercy (one of the attributes of the middle vector) represents a fusion of the attributes of kindness (the right vector) and judgment (the left vector).

Kindness implies a willingness to give without consideration of whether the recipient is worthy.

Judgment, by contrast, scrutinizes the recipient and evaluates his worthiness.

Mercy takes into consideration the standing of the recipient, and yet may grant him assistance although he is not worthy.

From the position of kindness, one gives blindly. From the position of mercy, one gives because one has established an inner connection to the recipient and gives him what one has evaluated will be for his benefit.

How is it possible for two opposite tendencies to be combined in a single attribute?

Because the middle vector conveys the revelation of unlimited G-dliness, a dimension that transcends the different tendencies that characterize the two opposite thrusts. [9]

Since its source is on a plane above all distinction, it is able to bring about a synthesis between these two different approaches. In doing so, it conveys this unbounded influence to the recipients, even those which are on the lowest levels. [10]

The mitzvos which are associated with the word tzav reflect this thrust.

They relate to the transcendent dimension of G-d and penetrate to the inner dimension of man, binding the two together in comprehensive unity.

Service for His Sake

The above concepts are reflected in the subject matter of this week's Torah reading: the sacrifices offered in the Sanctuary, and later in the Beis HaMikdash.

Sacrificial worship is something above our understanding.

Human intellect cannot appreciate why G-d would desire the slaughter of an animal or the burning of flour on the altar.

By way of explanation, our Sages tell us [11] that G-d says: "It is pleasurable before Me that I gave a directive and My will was done."

There are mitzvos which bring benefits that are readily appreciated, and others whose benefits we cannot comprehend, but trust that exist. [12]

The sacrifices, by contrast, are not for man's sake at all, not even to train him in obedience. They are for G-d's sake. Thus the Torah refers to them [13] as Lachmi, "My sustenance," implying that He needs this spiritual service as it were.

Why does G-d need the sacrifices?

Only to provide man with a means of connecting to Him in a complete way. [14]

When a person brings a sacrifice, the emphasis is not on his commitment to G-d's will, but that "My will was done."

A person bypasses all consideration of his own import and sees himself as no more than a medium for G-d's will to be carried out. Like the mitzvos associated with the term tzav, man's identity is totally subordinated to the fulfillment of G-d's will.

The complete performance of all the mitzvos, and particularly, the sacrifices will be in the Era of the Redemption. As we say in our prayers: [15] "Bring us with joy to Zion Your city, and with everlasting joy to Jerusalem Your sanctuary. There we will offer to You our obligatory sacrifices... in accordance with the command of Your will."

May this be in the immediate future.



  1. (Back to text) Shir HaShirim Rabbah, commenting on the Song of Songs 1:3, speaks of the material and the spiritual as discrete planes.

    Synthesis between them became possible only, because G-d said, "I will take the initiative," and gave the Torah to man. See the essay entitled "What Happened at Sinai" (Timeless Patterns in Time, Vol. II, p. 91ff) where these concepts are explained.

  2. (Back to text) Bereishis Rabbah 44:1.

  3. (Back to text) There are certain mitzvos, e.g., the love and fear of G-d, which involve spiritual service within our hearts and souls. These, however, represent a distinct minority; the overwhelming proportion of mitzvos focus on deed, rather than on thought or feeling.

    Moreover, even these mitzvos must be fulfilled in a manner which effects our bodies.

    Our hearts must beat faster because of the love of G-d, and the physical phenomena associated with fear must accompany our awe of Him (Sefer HaMaamarim 5697, p. 215 and sources cited there).

  4. (Back to text) Maamar BaYom HaShemini, 5710

  5. (Back to text) Leviticus 6:1.

  6. (Back to text) This does not mean that man's free will is taken from him. He still has the choice whether to fulfill the mitzvah or not.

    Nevertheless, when a mitzvah is communicated using the term tzav, the command itself spurs man to its observance.

  7. (Back to text) Mechilta and Rashi, commenting on Exodus 19:3, Sifri and Rashi, commenting on Numbers 12:1.

  8. (Back to text) Makkos 11a; Sifri and Rashi, loc. cit.

  9. (Back to text) In Kabbalistic terminology, "the middle vector ascends to the inner dimension of Kesser." See Sefer HaMaamarim 5706-5707, p. 150ff, where this concept is discussed.

  10. (Back to text) To refer again to Kabbalistic terminology: "The middle vector extends from one end to the other" (op. cit.).

  11. (Back to text) Rashi and Toras Kohanim, commenting on Leviticus 1:9.

  12. (Back to text) See Ramban, commenting on Leviticus 19:19 who explains that even the chukim, mitzvos which we cannot explain are Divine decrees with sublime rationales that will bring us benefit.

    See also the comments of Ibn Ezra to Exodus 20:1, and Rambam, Moreh Nevuchim, Vol. III, ch. 26.

  13. (Back to text) Leviticus 21:6, 8, 17, 21 et al.

  14. (Back to text) See Sefer HaBahir, sec. 46, which states that the Hebrew word for sacrifice, korban, shares a common root with the word karov, meaning "close."

    The sacrifices bring our people and each individual close to G-d.

  15. (Back to text) Musaf service for Festivals, Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 259. See Hemshech VeKocha 5637, ch. 17ff.

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