Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #25 Tzav (Take an order) Vayikra (Leviticus) 6:1-8:36
Haftarah Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) 7:21-8:3; 9:22-23
B’rit Chadashah: 1 Cor. 10:14-23
In this week’s parashah, G-d lays out all the laws in great detail for presenting the offerings because He is a G-d of detail, exactness, perfection. His desire is for us to ascend toward that end as we run the race toward the prize of salvation and an eternity with Him (Acts 17:11, 1 Cor. 9:24; 2 Tim 4:7). We need to understand the concept of these offerings and the redundancy and this may be compared to running a race. Those who ran the races from which Sha’ul (Paul) draws a parallel trained constantly, before and after the specific event. Our lives are similar to this concept. We are to train constantly; sometimes failing, sometimes triumphant as we negotiate the hurdles placed before us. Our training session is brief; a mere 80 years or so. As we study, pray, and hopefully internalize and act upon our new knowledge, coupled with wisdom from above, we ascend toward the prize by decreasing in self. It is difficult to practice, train, study on a daily basis. But like the runner, we keep our eye on the prize and continue to prepare (action verb) for Yahshua’s return.
Let’s start with Vayikra (Leviticus) 8: 22-26; “Then the other ram was presented, the ram of consecration; Aharon and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram. After it had been slaughtered, Moshe took some of its blood and put it on the tip of Aharon’s right ear, on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot. Next Aharon’s sons were brought, and Moshe put some of the blood on the tips of their right ears, on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the big toes of their right feet; then Moshe splashed the blood on all sides of the altar. He took the fat, the fat tail, all the fat covering the inner organs, the covering of the liver, the two kidneys with their fat, and the right thigh. From the basket of matzah that was before Adonai he took one piece of matzah, one cake of oiled bread, and one wafer, and placed them on the fat on the right thigh.”
Why are the specific parts of the anatomy chosen for the application of blood? Why the right side? One of the Sages (R’Avraham ben HaRambam) explains that this scriptural decree has a lesson that applies to us all. The blood on the ear symbolizes that the Kohanim (Priests [of which we are of the new priesthood; the Melchizedekian priesthood 1 Pet. 2:9]) who should always listen to and obey G-d’s commands. The hand is the organ that grasps things and that is active; so the blood upon the thumb symbolizes that the Kohanim should actively carry out His will. The foot is the organ of movement; so the blood on the big toe symbolizes that the Kohanim should always move with alacrity to serve G-d. There is nothing in this explanation that implies a passive profession of faith. The Zohar (Vol. IV, p. 359) offers a clue into the use of the right hand. And the L-rd exalted Abraham (Gen. 22:1) because the Right Hand was completed and perfected. This refers to Yahshua’s sacrifice for the sin of man that was already accomplished in heaven but not yet manifested on earth. Yahshua sits at the right hand of the Father. Before we move on I want to discuss why the offerings were to be slaughtered on the north side of the altar (Lev. 1:11). One may conclude that this should be done on the East side closest to G-d, but not so. Looking to the Zohar once again (Vol. IV) we find an explanation consistent with the mystical shape of the G-d-head. Sacrifices were killed on the north side of the altar, because that corresponds to the sefirah Gevurah (Justice), which is designated Elohim; the purpose being to soften and break the spirit of severity, so that mercy may obtain the upper hand. Mercy, chesed or loving kindness sits on the opposite side of Gevurah and acts as a counterbalance to it. G-d chooses one or the other, or both as he sees fit. The point is that man should stand before the altar with a contrite spirit and repent his misdeeds so that the stern spirit may be softened, and mercy prevail over severity (p.333). Isaiah 14:12-14 provides Biblical proof text that G-d’s throne is on the North. We read, “You thought to yourself, I will scale the heavens, I will raise my throne above G-d’s stars. I will sit on the Mount of Assembly far away in the north. I will rise past the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”
Now to the significance of the liver, kidneys, and right thigh. There must be something significant about the covering of these organs as they are mentioned specifically several times in relation to sacrifices and offerings. The right thigh is also mention in Lev. 8: 25-6.
Anatomically speaking, the liver is our detoxification plant. Without a functioning liver we die. The detoxification system within the liver is so specific that when a woman is pregnant, there is a separate part of the circulation to the fetus to accommodate this function. The fetus waste is filtered through the mother’s system through the placental membrane. It has a constant rich supply of blood and has the ability to regenerate if part of it is removed. On an abstract level, the liver is associated with bitter and sharp bile springs.
An explanation on the sacrifice of kidneys and the associated fat is offered by Kidney International (2005). The authors of the particular article hypothesize that since the brain and heart are organs of intellectual administration and everything associated with the intellectual precursor to sinning (for which Yahshua died), to offer these organs as sacrifices would not be appropriate. However, the fat of kidneys serves as a warming and binding material, forms urine, and is associated with the reproductive organs. From an abstract point of view the kidney and energy that comes from it, that is to say pleasure, with fat, symbolizes desire.
It is difficult to confirm that G-d mandated the specific sacrifice of these organs in response to Jewish familiarity with Egyptian sacrificial rites and customs which also included offering specific organs, or whether another explanation exists of which I am unfamiliar. Perhaps the mandate to burn these organs with their associated fat served as a sign that the one offering the sacrifices was symbolically surrendering their natural desires and toxic attitudes.
Let’s now address the significance of the right thigh. The Hebrew word for thigh is shoq. When shoq refers to a man’s body it designates the lower part of the leg. When it refers to an animal’s body it designates the upper, thicker part of the leg. The term shoq is used in the Old Testament or Mosaic Law only with reference to the thigh of the peace offering. IN Ex. 29:22-25 the right thigh of the ram was to be burned with the peace offering, and the breast was to be given to Moshe. Lev. 8:25-26 says that the right thigh was burned as an offering by fire at the ordination of Aharon and his sons, In verse 29 we see that Moshe took the breast for himself. In Lev. 7:29-34, by contrast, the breast was to be shared by all the priests, while the right thigh was given to the officiating priest. In other words, the right thigh of the ram of ordination was burned, but subsequently, the priest who offered the peace offering received the right thigh as his own. Perhaps this suggests that Adonai and Moshe were officiating priests at the ordination of Aharon, since He and Moshe received the priest’s portions. Looking at this from another perspective, in our past parashot, we studied blessings given by the patriarchs with the recipient placing his hand under the thigh of the one giving the blessing. It is clear that the thigh and breast are associated with some characteristic of the priesthood. This is shown not only in the fact that the priests were exclusively permitted to eat the thigh (and breast), but that both are compared to the firstborn, which also represent the priesthood. Moreover, the fact that the right thigh is given to the priest is significant. The priest of Psalm 110 sits, after all, on the right hand of G-d. The association of the right hand with the right thigh suggests that the right thigh does symbolize authority and power of the priesthood. It appears to have been an ancient custom to adorn the images of deities, princes, victors at public games, and other eminent persons with inscriptions, expressing either the character of the persons, their names, or some other circumstance which might contribute to their honor. These inscriptions were also placed on their garments, usually on the right shoulder. The association is strengthened by the fact that the groom’s thigh in the Song of Song’s 5:15 is compared to a pillar. The two pillars outside the temple represent the priest and the king. Thus, the right thigh is associated with a pillar that is associated with the right hand of G-d. Unsurprisingly we find shoq associated with military strength in Psalm 147:10. The right hand given to the priests was a sign that the priesthood was the strength of Israel and that the priest’s service was, by G-d’s appointment, the source of Israel’s military victories (2 Chron. 20:1-30). It may be that placing the fat and the matzah on the right thigh of a consecrating sacrifice represents acknowledgement of YHVH/Yahshua’s authority as the King of Kings, and similarly as Yahshua’s role as the Prophet and High Priest that would be manifest in the future. This hypothesis makes sense when we look at Rev. 19:16, “And on His robe and on His thigh, he has a name written: King of King and L-rd of L-rd’s” His authority is written in both places (right thigh and shoulder) to leave no doubt.
Haftarah: Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) 7:21-8:3
This is one of the first haftarot that doesn’t end with a happy note. Jeremiah is told by G-d not to pray, cry or intercede on the behalf of Israel for the sins it has committed. As we have read so many times in our Torah studies, G-d is a G-d of detail. He reminds the people that He had not given the orders concerning the offerings while bringing them out of Egypt. He orders them to pay attention to what he said and to live according to the way He ordered. Here we can clearly see that nothing has been abrogated. G-d expected obedience in these verses, and Yahshua, who came to do His Father’s will confirms it throughout the B’rit Chadashah (New Testament). If you read these verses you will see that G-d’s justice is alive, well, and used, contrary to the “all love and grace” taught by many Christian clergy.
G-d does not change; Yahshua, as part of the compound unity of the G-dhead cannot become a separate entity as taught under the doctrine of the Trinity which is inconsistent with the whole integrity (Echad) of G-d and is not a biblically supported concept. That would be like trying to extract the “snow” from a snow globe without changing its integrity. G-d tells Jeremiah ahead of time that the people will not heed his words, so Jeremiah need not be surprised. Similarly, we need to accept the same truth in our society. There are many who are not interested in the Word of G-d, let alone follow it. There is an increasing undercurrent of anti-Semitism that we must accept just as Yahshua warned us would happen if we choose to follow Him (John 15:18-25). The sacrifices mandated in our parashah set a conceptual template for us to follow until the Temple is rebuilt. This is evidenced by the statement within each paragraph for each offering: Lev. 6:6(13); 11(18);15(22); 7:34. You will notice that the absence of a statement to this effect regarding the sin and guilt offerings. I encourage you to research the possible reason for the absence of a statement mandating these two offerings perpetually throughout the generations. You can also access a specific teaching on the offerings on the website http://www.rabdavis.org for further information.
This haftarah ends with G-d admonishing, “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, nor the strong man boast of his strength, nor the rich man boast of his riches. But let him that boasts exult in this, that he knows and understands me, for I am G-d who practices kindness, justice and righteousness on the earth, for in these things I delight, says G-d. Note that G-d does not say “ I am all love, kindness, and grace.” Any doubt about whether or not He will execute His righteous judgment in the near future? Look around you and compare what you see to prophecy throughout the Bible. Compare what has happened to what is happening now. Prepare while it is still day! (John 9:4)
B’rit Chadashah: 1 Corinthians 10:14-23
Sha’ul begins this section by telling us to run from idolatry. We are not to meander, stroll by or participate in an idolatrous atmosphere thinking we are strong enough to resist if we hang around anyway. A Biblical example is found in the narrative of Yosef and Potifer’s wife (Gen. 39:11-12). HaSatan is going to tempt us at our weakest point, whether it is a family member, the opposite sex, jewelry, food, money, cars, sleep, “fun” activities, or anything else that takes priority over serving G-d as He commands. We just read the haftarah that describes G-d’s punishment for Israel’s rebellion. How dare we think we are above such retribution for our own rebellion! We are not to associate with those who are anti-Torah. We are not to partake in activities that leave room for misinterpretation. Paul uses food offered to idols. Although we know that there is no significance to this, we are not to take part. This is what Sha’ul is talking about. We have to be on guard at all times. The Ruach (Holy Spirit) will guide us in all things if we remain in Torah and follow all His ways. One way to do this is to keep in mind the offerings described in our parashah. By studying the concepts of each individually and looking up their meanings, we can apply them to our lives just as a cement form is laid before pouring the cement for a more solid and uniform structure.
Rabbi Tamah Davis -Hart