Tzav / Command
HafTorah Jeremiah 7:21-8:3
Brit Chadasha Hebrews 8:1-6
Shabbat HaGadol - The Great Sabbath
The Eternal Flame
Leviticus 6:12-13. ‘And the fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not be put out. And the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order on it; and he shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. 13 A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out.’
It is the NerTamid, the Eternal Flame in all the Synagogues, that burn continuously, to be radiant with light no matter what it takes. This flame or light that glows and illuminates above the ark is the light that we could trace back generations to our ancestors wandering in that wilderness. The Torah purposefully uses the word tamid. The fire on the altar is a continuously burning fire from the past providing for the present and fire from the present providing for the future.
It is taught that the initial form of prayer from the people to God was originally done as a sacrifice and offering. It was bloody and distant and mostly an answer to God for sins. Yet now, what remains true is that when it comes to spirituality, prayer and connection with the Divine, we must be active participants. We are the ones that must ignite the flame.
So many of us have the notion or received the teaching that prayer and spirituality ought to happen and flow naturally. Maybe this is why it is challenging to pray regularly as doubt and despair sets in. These moments should remind us that prayer and connection to the Divine is also the responsibility of ourselves - where we are called to light the flame within us. Love is a verb, so also, faith, Emunah, is a verb. Whether we are wandering in the wilderness, in our synagogues with community or alone in our despair within our hearts. There is always the ability to light and maintain an everlasting flame.
An Eternal Light the Ner Tamid hangs above the ark in every synagogue. It is often associated with the menorah, the seven-branched lamp stand which stood in front of the Temple in Jerusalem. It is also associated with the continuously-burning incense altar which stood in front of the ark. Our sages interpreted the Ner Tamid as a symbol of God's eternal and imminent Presence in our communities and in our lives.
The Torah of God is the Light: Provers 6:23 states: ‘For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life.’
Yeshua represents the Light of the Torah: John 8:12 ‘Then Yeshua spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
John 11:9 ‘Yeshua answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.’
What is the light of the world? The Word of God.
2 Corinthians 6:14 ‘Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?’
Can the light of the Torah mix with the light of evil?
Matthew 5:16 ‘Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.’
What is the light that we are to show? What are our good works? Works of our own or works of The Father?
John 3:21 ‘But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.’
Yeshua is not just the light on His own, but the manifestation of the Torah, the Torah’s light. So when we look upon the Ner Tamid illuminating the Ark, we are reminded of Yeshua illuminating our hearts.
Micah 7:8 ‘Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; when I fall, I will arise; when I sit in darkness, The Lord will be a light to me.’
Psalm 18:28 ‘For You will light my lamp; The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.’
No one can make their own Divine Light. It has to come from somewhere, from a foundation. What is the foundation? We cannot stop at the Greek word Jesus, we must go to the truth of Yeshua, and His truth is the Torah, the Living Word.
Psalm 119:130 ‘The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.’
HafTorah Jeremiah 7:21-8:3
The Perfect Truth of Elohim…
This parsha begins with a command about the Light: ‘Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 9 “Command Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the law of the burnt offering: The burnt offering shall be on the hearth upon the altar all night until morning, and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning on it.’ Leviticus 6:8-9. Tsav also ends with a command/tsav: ‘So Aaron and his sons did all the things that the Lord had commanded by the hand of Moses.’ Leviticus 8:36.
Light is a fire, to burn continuously. Amazingly, Yeshua references the fire which connects to the Word. The fire is to be burning within us. There is truth and there is deception. The fire of the Word either draws us in as we long for the Word of Truth, or we repel at the fire and allow the deception of our hearts to rule over us, letting our flesh speak to us. Loyalty can either lie within our flesh, or with God, which sometimes is at all costs. Yeshua warns us of this cost in Luke 12:49-53 ‘“I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished! 51 Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. 52 For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. 53 Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
In 2 Chronicles 16:7-9 God is speaking through the seer Hanani to the king of Judah; ‘And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him: “Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand. 8 Were the Ethiopians and the Lubim not a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong on behalf of those who whose heat is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly therefore from now on you shall have wars.’
Specifically, the first part of verse 9, ‘For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.’
We know that Adonai doesn’t need to look for those that have loyal hearts. Hanani was clarifying without a doubt to King Asa that God knows the hearts of all men, even the hearts of kings.
1 Kings 8:39-40 ‘…then hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and act, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men), 40 that they may fear You all the days that they live in the land which You gave to our fathers.’
1 Samuel 16:7 ‘But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’
Psalm 7:9 ‘O let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous; for the righteous God tries the hearts and minds.’
Proverbs 21:2 ‘Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts.’
We know that the truth of Elohim is the Torah. It leads some into truth, yet some will deny the truth and turn towards the deception, allowing their hearts to rule over them. The Word is the sword that divides:
Ephesians 6:17 ‘Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.’
Hebrews 4:12-13 ‘For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.’
Revelation 1:16 ‘He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.’
Revelation 2:12 ‘And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword…’
The Dividing Truth of the Word:
Psalm 119:160 ‘The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.’
2 Samuel 7:28 ‘Now, O Lord God, You are God, and Your words are truth, and You have promised this good thing to Your servant.
John 17:17 ‘Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.’
1 Kings 17:24 ‘Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”
Is the fire of truth within us? It is taught in Jewish metaphors, relating to this parsha, “A constant fire shall burn upon the altar” that the altar is symbolic of the human heart, the space in each of us most capable of sacrifice. The heart, however, needs a continuous fire burning in it. For the human heart to live deeply, for it to feel empathy and experience the depth of life and love, it needs to be on fire, passionate, aflame.”
But this fire must be maintained as stated in Tsav, ‘And the fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not be put out. And the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order on it; and he shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. 13 A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out.’ Leviticus 6:12-13. The priest must continually put wood on it to keep the fire burning.
The High Priest Hebrews 4:14-15 ‘Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.’
The Fire is The Word Jeremiah 23:29 ‘Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?’
Jeremiah 31:33 ‘But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Hebrews 8:10 ‘For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.’
Ezekiel 36:26-27 ‘And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.’
Tzav / Command
HafTorah Jeremiah 7:21-8:3
Brit Chadasha Hebrews 8:1-6
Tzav continues with the regulations of the Levitical system and the duty of keeping the perpetual fire burning on the altar. This is the Ner Tamid – the Eternal Light. Today, this is a light that is placed above the Ark in synagogues worldwide. This is also considered Shabbat HaGadol, The Great Sabbath. It is the Sabbath before Pesach, and it is also taught that the 10th of Nisan in the year of the Exodus was a Sabbath.
Combing these two, Shabbat HaGadol and the Ner Tamid, we see redemption and light. Redemption was a pivotal part of the Great Exodus – they were released from bondage, redeemed to God to serve Him His way. Today, when we come into the ways of God we are redeemed to worship Him His way – not the ways of a Hellenistic system which He with great Divine wisdom and word, frees us from.
Tzav is translated as Command – which is different than the other parshas where they start out with ‘God spoke…’. The word command signals an urgency of utmost importance, it is non debatable and without options. Tsav begins with command for obedience and ends with obedience, ‘So Aaron and his sons did everything the LORD commanded through Moshe. Leviticus 8:36.
Also in this week’s Torah portion there is a type of peace offering in Leviticus 7:11- ‘This is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings which he shall offer to the Lord.’ It is Shlamim in Hebrew and is known as the thanksgiving sacrifice. The sages teach that this sacrifice was given after experiencing a special miracle. For Ramban, the offering of thanksgiving at such exceptional times reminds us that all times are exceptional. We know that God’s intervention in the supernatural should give one a sense of God’s involvement in the everyday. For example, from the splitting of the sea, an event in which God was so obviously the creator of such a grand and awesome miracle, one should come to recognize the input of God every day, just by observing the oceans and the never-ending tides.
Nehama Leibowitz said: “the unusual deliverances and outstanding miracles are there merely to draw our attention to the miracle of existence.”
The idea that the natural is supernatural, deserving our gratitude is found in the Dayenu sung at the Seder. Some think Dayenu deals with our telling God that we have had enough suffering. In reality the song says the reverse. We say to God, had You only performed but a fraction of the larger miracle, it would have been enough. Dayenu is the great statement of thanks to God. The fact that the thanksgiving sacrifice is a type of peace offering is of great import. When giving to God, the human being achieves a level of inner peace. This is because love is not only a function of receiving, but also of giving.
Leviticus 7:11-14 states: ‘This is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings which he shall offer to the Lord: 12 If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer, with the sacrifice of thanksgiving, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, unleavened wafers anointed with oil, or cakes of blended flour mixed with oil. 13 Besides the cakes, as his offering he shall offer leavened bread with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offering. 14 And from it he shall offer one cake from each offering as a heave offering to the Lord. It shall belong to the priest who sprinkles the blood of the peace offering.’
The peace offering of thanksgiving is so important that when King David brought the Ark of God back to its place in the Tabernacle, the first thing he did was offer burnt offerings and peace offerings. He also appointed some of the Levites to minister before the Ark of the Lord, to thank and praise the Lord God of Israel with psalms, stringed instruments, harps, cymbals and the shofar. 1 Chronicles 16:4 “He appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to extol, thank, and praise the Lord, the God of Israel.”
Hebrews 13:15 “Through Yeshua therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess His name.”
Offering our thanksgiving and praise to God is perhaps, the greatest sacrifice we can give – especially when things don’t seem to be going our way and our flesh doesn’t feel like praising and thanking the Almighty. This is to be thankful for even the mundane. Gratitude is a biblical lifestyle that has its roots in the Torah.
Psalm 50:23 “He who sacrifices thank offerings honors Me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.”