Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #25: Tzav (Give and order) Vayikra (Leviticus) 6:1(8)-8:36
Haftarah: Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) 7:21-8:3; 9:22-23
B’rit Chadashah: 1 Corinthians 10:14-23; Mark 12:28-34; Romans 12:1-2
This week we are going to concentrate on the relationship between the parashah and the B’rit Chadashah a little more than usual to emphasize the applicability of the sacrifices beyond the Tanakh and into the time of Yahshua, the present, and beyond.
YHVH elaborates on the sacrifices in the previous parashah but adds a new one; the Thanksgiving Offering, which is a type of peace Offering. It is a voluntary offering with two special features. Forty loaves are brought with it and it must be eaten the same day. This is unusual as the time allotted for eating all the other Peace Offerings is two days. Only compulsory sacrifices are eaten in one day. So, the logical question is whether this offering is really voluntary or compulsory?
We must consult King David’s Psalm of Thanksgiving (Psalm 116) to understand the nature of the Thanksgiving Offering. David is praising YHVH for saving him. The final stage is a Thanksgiving Offering performed publicly as the Psalm reads” I will pay YHVH my vows in front of the whole nation.”
In this public feast, an individual thanks YHVH and tells all those present of the miracle that happened to him. Perhaps we can now understand why this voluntary offering has a hint of the compulsory offering added. The whole purpose of this offering is to proclaim YHVH’s greatness and providence. This is why this offering has 40 loaves; to force the individual to find at least 40 people to share it with him, consuming all of it in one day. At the feast he gets to opportunity to tell his story, which encourages people in their belief. The entire community is united in praise of YHVH. In this way, the offering serves a double purpose; to let everyone know that YHVH watches over us and to unite the community in belief and praise of YHVH Elohim, glorifying Him as is our purpose in this life. The problem with encouraging testimonies for YHVH today is that many people choose to recite a dissertation with a self-aggrandizing agenda rather than a simple explanation of what YHVH did for them, glorifying Him. 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.”
Let’s first discuss the application of the blood on the right ear, thumb of the right hand, and big toe of the right foot. Why these parts of the anatomy? Why the right side? One of the Sages (R’Avraham ben HaRambam) explains that this scriptural decree has a homiletic lesson that applies to us all. The blood on the ear symbolizes that the Kohanim (Priests [of which we are the new priesthood 1Pet. 2:9]) 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; 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. Some may say “So, what do we do with a left- handed person?” The decree is to place the blood on the right thumb, period! 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. Abraham sought out the one true G-d and G-d consecrated him from heaven as Abraham consecrated himself through the covenant of circumcision that was physical and spiritual. 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 that is Kabbalistic in nature consistent with the mystical shape of the G-dhead. The sacrifices were killed on the north side of the altar, because that corresponds to the 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 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.”
Let’s turn our attention 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 and 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 “filling” 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 b rest 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 this 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 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 7:21-8:3; 9:22(23)-23(24)
Our parashah continues with the subject of sacrifices the Children of Israel must bring to YHVH. In this haftarah, Jeremiah lists all of Israel’s sons during the Temple period, just as we are currently studying in Micah. One of the sins mentioned is that instead of sacrificing animals in the Temple, B’nai Ysra’el built altars to sacrifice their own children to the heathen gods. The Prophet tells them that YHVH wants them to do kind and just deeds (see the grace=kind and just=law) instead of sinning and bringing sacrifices. A sacrifice loses its efficacy when an individual heart is not repentant and obedient toward YHVH.
B’rit Chadashah: Romans 12:1-2
“I exhort you, therefore, brothers, in view of G-d’s mercies, to offer yourselves as a sacrifice, living and set apart for G-d. This will please him; it is the logical ‘Temple worship’ for you. In other words, do not let yourselves be conformed to the standards of the olam hazeh (this world). Instead, keep letting yourselves be transformed by the renewing of your minds; so that you will know what G-d wants and will agree that what He wants is good, satisfying, and able to succeed.”
Sha’ul is exhorting all believers to respond positively and fully to G-d because of everything he has done and is doing; in chapters 1-11, “I exhort you” to do everything; in chapters 12-15, all of which is emphasized in the instruction to “offer yourselves as a sacrifice”
G-d’s mercies were spoken of throughout chapters 1-11, especially in 9-11, and explicitly in 11:30-32. G-d’s mercies form the pivotal book of Romans, on which Sha’ul turns from doctrine to the practical advice introduced by the Greek word “parakalo” (“I exhort” or ‘I advise, counsel, encourage, request, comfort”).
Offer yourselves (literally, “your bodies”) as a sacrifice- a striking metaphor when animal sacrifices were still being made twice a day in the Jerusalem Temple worship. In 6:1-14 and 8:13, Sha’ul explained what kind of death is required: the believer is not to live by his old nature but by the Spirit: then he will be living with the Messiah’s life (8:10-11) and thereby be set apart for G-d.
It is logical “Temple worship” for you- The KJV reads “… which is you reasonable service.” Greek latreia corresponds to the Hebrew avodah, which can mean “work, service,” in the everyday sense (the cognate eved means “slave”); and this is what contemporary readers mistakenly picks up from the archaic expression in the KJV. But “avodah” is also the technical term for the religious “service” performed in the Temple, and the context dictates this translation.
In verse 2, presenting your body to G-d for right action commences with your mind. Turn from the standards of this world (olam hazeh), that are rooted in secular humanism/ Hellenism, that are totally contrary to G-d’s Torah. We must learn what G-d wants from us. After careful consideration, we must agree that what He wants is morally good, psychologically satisfying, and in practice within our ability to accomplish; reaching our goal. In the Greek, teleion, sometimes rendered “perfect” but in this passage strongly connotes the goal-orientation and accomplishment inherent in the related word “telos,” as explained in 10:4.
Let’s look at these verses in more detail. Later in the book, Sha’ul speaks of the evidence that non-Messianic Jews “have not submitted themselves to G-d’s way of making people righteous” (10:3), which shows that their “zeal for G-d” is “not based on correct understanding.” (v.2). This lies in the belief that the Messiah has not brought the law to an end, nor is He the termination of the Law as a way to righteousness. The Torah continues; “it is eternal.”. G-d’s Torah, properly understood as the very teaching which Yahshua upholds (1 Cor. 9:21, Gal. 6:2), remains the one and only way to righteousness- although it is Yahshua the Messiah through whom the Torah’s righteousness comes. For the Good News that righteousness is grounded in trust is proclaimed already in the Torah; this is the central point of 9:30-10:21. In seed form, this was already stated in 1:16-17; Sha’ul declares it directly in Gal. 3:6. To such a Torah there is no cessation, neither in this or the next world.
This truth is not peripheral, but central to the Gospel, and it cannot be compromised, even if the whole of Christianity were to oppose it, which they do. While there is a recent and valuable strand of modern Christianity scholarship that acknowledges Sha’ul was neither anti-Jewish nor anti- Torah, this truth is not widely taught in popular Christianity. To embrace this truth would mandate Christians reexamine their belief system and the pagan traditions they hold dear to this day. To Jews who have even a modest amount of Jewish training, the Torah is correctly understood as a central and eternal element of G-d’s dealing with mankind in general, and with Jews specifically. Therefore, the idea that “the law has come to an end with Christ” or was “nailed to the cross” is for them both shocking and unacceptable. Fortunately, these statements are also untrue!
According to Arndt and Gingrich’s A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, the Greek word “telos” used 42 times in the “New “ Testament, has to mean “finish, cessation, termination” in four or five places (Mark 3;26; Luke 1:33; 2 Cor. 3:13; 1 Peter 4:7). In the majority of cases, its meaning is either (1) “aim, purpose, goal” toward which a movement is being directed (1 Ti.1:5; 1 Peter 1:9), or (2) “outcome, result, consummation, last part” of a process not obviously being directed and which may or may not terminate (6:21-22 above; Mat. 26:58). These meanings are reflected in the English word “teleology,” the branch of philosophy dealing with goals and purposes. So, we must ask why is “telos” generally regarded as meaning “termination” in this case? The answer is that theology gets in the way of exegesis, wrong theology that falsely understands the Mosaic Law as not offering G-d’s righteousness through trust; wrong theology that denigrates G-d’s Torah and thereby both the G-d who gave it and the believers to whom he gave it and who observe it out of love and obedience.
Even the paraphrases of the Living Bible persist with misinterpretations such as “Christ gives to those who trust in him everything they are trying to get by keeping his laws. He ends all of that” and Phillips “Christ means the end of struggle for righteousness-by-the-Law for everyone who believes in him.” Sadly, these statements completely miss the point. The verse is not about our struggle; it is about G-d’s Torah. It is true that whoever comes to trust in Yahshua relies on Him for reconciliation and forgiveness of PAST SINS (Rom. 3:25; 2 Pet. 1:9), thus ending self-effort. But this verse does NOT speak of ending ANYTHING. It says the great sweep of G-d’s purpose in giving the Torah as a means to righteousness achieves its goal and consummation in the coming of the Messiah. Sha’ul (Paul) says that it therefore follows, that a person who has the trust in G-d which the Torah requires will- precisely because he has this trust (an action verb in Hebrew that means to worship, follow) which forms the basic foundation for obedience to the Torah (1:5)- understands and responds to the Gospel of the Kingdom and NOT profession, by also trusting in G-d’s Messiah Yahshua who are one and the same. Only in this way will a person be deemed righteous in the sight of the G-d he wants to serve and whose Torah he wants to obey. Only by an active belief in Yahshua will one be able to obey the Torah by the gift of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) which empowers the believer. Disbelief in Yahshua is necessarily disbelief in G-d’s Torah, for Yahshua is the manifested Living Word of G-d; HaTorah. This is because the goal at which the Torah aims is the Messiah, who offers the Torah’s righteousness, which is G-d’s righteousness (His Torah), to everyone who trusts and obeys His mitzvot.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart