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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Skorka

Tzav – Reparation and sacrifice

This parashah continues with the description of the various sacrifices. Some of them were part of the atonement process for errors and transgressions committed against both God and other people (Leviticus 4-5). When such errors or transgressions have affected one’s neighbor, they also impact God because the neighbor is the Creator’s supreme work. First the injury caused must be repaired and then the expiatory sacrifice can be offered (5: 21-26).

Thus, the sacrifice must be accompanied by a process of acceptance that an error or transgression has been committed and by the firm commitment not to repeat the offense. The one presenting the sacrifice should place his hands between the horns of the animal being offered and say: I have erred, I have sinned, I have transgressed, I have done such and such in reparation and now I have returned in contrition to You with this sacrifice of atonement (Leviticus 4: 4, 15, 24, 29 Yad HaHachazakah, Hilkhot Maaseh Ha-Korbanot 3:15). This process is called in Hebrew: Teshuvah.

The sages of the Talmud explained: Every sacrifice that is not accompanied by Teshuvah is judged by the verse: "the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination" (Proverbs 21:27).

Sacrifice was a ritual that conveyed a great concept, that of the Teshuvah, of repentance, changing one’s mental and spiritual orientation through a deep, prayerful work and returning again to God. As the prophet Hosea said (14: 3): "Take with you words of supplication, and return to the Lord. Say unto Him, “Forgive all guilt and accept our bit of goodness, … and we will offer the offering of our lips.”

Teshuvah is one of the most important principles of faith of the creed of Israel. The human person is not predetermined to do good or bad. One has to choose. If one chooses the bad, there is always a path of return to a life of goodness and kindness.

Shabbat Shalom!


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