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Shabbat Parashat Tzav| 5765

You Need a Strong Foundation

Harav Yosef Carmel

 In our parasha the Torah dedicates several p’sukim to the description of the preparations needed to erect the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and the beginning of the service in it. A kohen, for example, is not allowed to begin his service without bringing a minchat chinuch (meal offering of initiation). A kohen gadol needs such an initiating offering every morning (see Vayikra 6:13 and Rambam, Klei Hamikdash 5:16). As the parasha proceeds, we find a whole chapter on the anointing of Aharon and his sons and the various animal sacrifices that accompanied the beginning of the seven days that opened the service in the Mishkan (shivat y’mei hamiluim). Such careful preparations are found as atonement and spiritual initiation throughout history for generations of kohanim.
 Evidence of this type of practice were uncovered a few years ago in one of the most significant archeological finds in Israel, or the world for that matter. A large altar was found on the eastern slopes of Har Eival, a place that is mentioned prominently in the Torah. It is almost certain that this was the altar that Yehoshua built when Bnei Yisrael entered EretzYisrael, as Hashem commanded Moshe. It was on Har Eival that Bnei Yisrael were to, on the day they entered the Land, build an altar, bring sacrifices and write the words of the Torah on stones (Devarim 27: 4-8). This altar, which was used by Bnei Yisrael during the fourteen years of capture and division of the Land was, as we can now see, abandoned and covered in dirt in an orderly manner. This apparently happened when Bnei Yisrael moved the Mishkan to its more permanent location at Shilo, at which point sacrifices became forbidden everywhere but there.
 How was this altar constructed? The altar was built in two stages. Originally, sacrifices were brought on the natural ground level, on top of the rocks present at the spot from before. Apparently, after that area was sanctified by the sacrifices, a large altar was built on top of the spot. (The dimensions are almost precisely as they are described in the tractates of Zevachim and Midot and the Rambam’s Laws of Beit Habechira.)
 This concept of consecrating and then building has an additional, historical precedent in connection with the shofet, Gidon. First, Gidon was instructed to bring some food to a stone and it was consumed like a sacrifice. Only afterwards did Gidon build a proper altar to Hashem on the spot of the sanctified stone. (Shoftim 6: 10-24).
 (We suggest to learn more about these important, archeological finds in Adam Zartel’s book, “Am Nolad.” They prove that which the Talmud Yerushalmi says that the Kuttim lied when they raised questions as to the authenticity of our traditions.)
 The eternal lesson from these concepts is that any attempt to build holiness requires that there be a process of sanctification and fundamental preparation. Let us pray that we will merit seeing the preparations and the realization of such sanctity.
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This edition of
Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of
R’ Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld o.b.m.,
Yitzchak Eliezer Ben Avraham Mordechai Jacobson o.b.m.

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