The Difference Between Tzav and Vayikra

This shiur provided courtesy of The Tanach Study Center In memory of Rabbi Abraham Leibtag

Is Parshat Tzav simply a repeat of Parshat Vayikra?

In the following shiur, as we undertake a 'tedious' study that will explain how and why they are very different - we will also arrive at several conclusions that will help us appreciate why we eat 'kosher' meat.


In both Parshiyot Vayikra and Tzav we find an organized set of laws concerning each of the five basic categories of korbanot: OLAH, MINCHA, CHATAT, ASHAM and SHELAMIM.  However, in each Parsha, the order and detail of their presentation are quite different.

A priori, it would have been more logical for the Torah to combine all these laws into one unit.  To understand why they are presented separately, the following shiur analyzes Parshat Tzav in an attempt to understand its internal structure, and then compares it to Parshat Vayikra.

A Key Phrase

The 'key' towards understanding Parshat Tzav is the phrase "v'zot torat ha'...".  To verify the centrality of this phrase, briefly review the seven "parshiot" that comprise chapters 6 & 7, noting how just about each "parshia" begins with this same phrase: "zot torat..." - as it introduces each new category.

For example, in 6:2 we find "zot torat ha'olah", in 6:7 - "zot torat ha'mincha", in 6:18 - "zot torat ha'chatat", etc.  [See also 7:1 (asham), and 7:11 (shlamim).]

Then, study the last two pesukim of this unit (i.e. 7:37-38), noting once again how this phrase forms a very fitting summary for each of these introductory phrases:

"zot ha'torah - la'OLAH la'MINCHA, v'la'CHATAT..." (7:37).

Furthermore, recall that we didn't find this phrase (or anything similar) in Parshat Vayikra.  Hence, to understand what Parshat Tzav is all about, we must first understand the meaning of the word "torah" in this context.

Today, the word "torah" is commonly used to describe the entire Torah [i.e. Chumash], and hence the most general category encompassing all of the mitzvot.  However, in Sefer Vayikra the word "torah" carries a more specific meaning, as "torah" is only one of the various categories of laws, distinct from "chukim" and "mishpatim".  [See for example 18:1-5.]

Another example of the use of the word "torah" in a more specific context is in regard to God's comment to Yitzchak concerning Avraham Avinu:

"ekev asher shama Avraham b'koli - v'yishmor mishmarti mitzvotai chukotei, v'TORAHtei" (see Breishit 26:5 )

Here, the word "torah" clearly implies a specific category (and not a general one); and so claim Ibn Ezra, Rashbam, Ramban, and Seforno (even though each gives a different explanation of what that category is).

To understand the specific meaning of the word "torah", let's consider its "shoresh" [root] - the verb "l'horot" - to instruct.  Hence, we should expect the word "torah" in Sefer Vayikra to refer to an instructional (or procedural) law, i.e. a series of actions necessary for the completion of a given process.

[The same is true in Sefer Bamidbar, as we shall see in our discussion of Parshat Parah.]

How or What

Based on this context, the pasuk in Parshat Tzav "zot torat ha'mincha..." (see 6:7-10) should be translated as, "This is the PROCEDURE for offering the "korban mincha", as this pasuk introduces the details regarding HOW the priest must offer the korban mincha.  More specifically, this would include:

a) taking it to the mizbeach; b) offering a handful ("kometz") from its flour and oil; c) eating the leftovers as "matza" in the courtyard, etc.

In this manner, Parshat Tzav details the procedures for HOW to offer all the other types of korbanot. Herein lies the basic difference between Parshat Tzav and Parshat Vayikra.  Whereas Parshat Tzav deals primarily with the procedures for HOW to offer the various korbanot, Parshat Vayikra focuses on WHAT korban (or which korban) is to be offered.  Let's explain.

Parshat Vayikra discusses which offerings the individual can bring should he wish to offer a korban ["nedava"], as well as which offering he must bring should he transgress ["chova"].  In contrast, Parshat Tzav explains how the "kohanim" offer these korbanot, i.e. the procedures for the "kohanim" to follow once the owner presents them with the "korban".

This distinction explains why the opening pasuk of each Parsha directs itself to a different audience.

  • Parshat Vayikra begins with: "...Speak to BNEI YISRAEL and tell them, if an INDIVIDUAL among you WISHES TO OFFER a korban... " (1:1-2)
  • Parshat Tzav begins with: "Command AHARON & HIS SONS saying, this is the procedure for bringing the OLAH..." (6:1-2)

Parshat Tzav is addressed specifically to the KOHANIM for it explains HOW they must offer the korbanot, while Parshat Vayikra directs itself towards Bnei Yisrael, since everyone must know WHICH specific korban he CAN or MUST bring in any given situation.

In other words, Parshat VAYIKRA serves as a 'halachic catalogue' - guiding the individual as to WHICH korban to bring, while Parshat TZAV serves as an 'instruction manual' - teaching the kohen HOW to offer each type of korban.

Chumash presents each 'manual' independently because each serves a different purpose. This can explain why the Torah divides these details into two separate sections.

[This distinction also explains why certain details are found in both Parshiot, i.e. those laws that must be known to BOTH the kohanim and to the individual.

Furthermore, certain procedures that only the kohen can perform are also included in Vayikra because the kohen serves in this capacity as the emissary of the individual offering the korban.  Ideally the owner should offer the korban, but since only kohanim are permitted to come near the MIZBEACH, the kohen must perform the "avodah" on his behalf. Additionally, the owner must also be aware of what he is permitted to do and which rituals are restricted to the kohanim. For example, the owner is permitted to do "shechita," but may not perform other "avodot."]

The 'New Order'

This background also explains the difference in the ORDER of the presentation of the korbanot in each Parsha.

As we explained in last week's shiur, Parshat Vayikra discusses the categories of "korban yachid," beginning with the voluntary NEDAVA korbanot - OLAH & SHELAMIM - and then continuing with the obligatory CHOVA korbanot - CHATAT & ASHAM.

In contrast, Parshat Tzav makes no distinction between NEDAVA and CHOVA. Once the korban comes to the Mikdash, the kohen doesn't need to know why it was offered.  Instead, he only needs to know its category.  Hence, the order in Tzav follows the level of "kedusha" of the various korbanot: OLAH - MINCHA - CHATAT - ASHAM - SHLAMIM.

[The SHELAMIM is now last instead of second, since it has the lowest level of "kedusha" ("kodshim kalim").]

The Order in Parshat Tzav

One could also explain that the internal order of Tzav follows according to how much of the korban is consumed on the MIZBEACH (in Chazal, known as "achilat mizbeach"):

The OLAH is first as it is totally consumed on the mizbeach. The MINCHA follows, as it is either totally consumed, in the case of a MINCHA brought by a kohen (see 6:16); or at least the "kometz" is consumed, while the leftover flour ["noteret"] can be eaten only by the KOHANIM.

Next we find the CHATAT and ASHAM, as their "chelev" [fat] and "dam" [blood] is offered on the mizbeach; while the meat can be eaten only by the KOHANIM.

[All of the above korbanot are known as "kodshei kodashim", as the meat either is consumed on the mizbeach or eaten by the kohanim, but must remain within the courtyard of the Mishkan.  The Gemara explains that this meat eaten by the kohanim is considered a 'gift' to the kohanim from God (and not from the owner) -"mi'shulchan gavoha kazachu leh".]

The SHELAMIM comes last as some of its meat can be eaten by the owners (after the "chelev" and "dam" are offered on the mizbeach).  As this meat can be eaten anywhere in the camp (and not only within the courtyard of the Mishkan), this category is known as "kodshim kalim."

An Outline of Parshat Tzav

The following table summarizes the overall structure of Parshat Tzav based on the principles discussed above. As you study it, note that not every 'parshia' begins with a "zot torat ha'--".  Instead, we find several 'digressions' into 'parshiot' of related topics (noted by a '**").  We will discuss these digressions at the conclusion of the outline.

Torat Ha'Olah - 6:1-6

  1. Bringing the daily "olat tamid";
  2. "Trumat HaDeshen" - daily removal of ashes from mizbeach;
  3. Preparing the wood and fire on the mizbeach;
  4. Mitzvat "aish tamid" - to ensure a continuous fire.

Torat HaMincha - 6:7-11

  1. The "kometz" (handful) of flour placed on the mizbeach;
  2. The "noteret" (leftover portion), eaten by the kohen;** Related laws: (6:12-16)
  3. The "minchat chinuch" - the special inaugural meal offering brought by a kohen the first time he performs AVODA.
  4. The "minchat chavitin" - offered daily by the Kohen Gadol.

TORAT ha'CHATAT - 6:17-23

  1. The procedure how to offer the korban;
  2. The portion eaten by the kohen;
  3. where it can be eaten (in the "azara");Related laws:
  4. special laws concerning a case where the blood of a chatat touches a garment or vessel.

Torat HaAsham - 7:1-7

  1. The procedure how to offer the korban;
  2. The portion eaten by the kohen;
  3. Where it can be eaten;

[As "asham" forms the conclusion of the Kodshei Kodshim section, several laws concerning the reward of the kohen are added, such as the kohen's rights to the animal hides of the OLAH and the issue of who receives the "noteret" of the various types of korban mincha (see 7:8-10).]

Torat HaShelamim - 7:11-34

  1. The laws regarding the Korban Todah (thanksgiving);
  2. The laws regarding a Korban Shelamim (freewill);**Related Laws:
  3. Laws concerning meat that becomes "tamey" (defiled);
  4. The general prohibition of eating "chelev" and "dam" (blood)
  5. The kohen's rights to the "chazeh" (breast) and "shok" (thigh), a 'gift' to the kohen from the owner of the korban.

Summary - 7:35-38  (this concludes the unit)

35-36: "This is the 'reward' of the kohanim from the korbanot. ["mashchat" = reward, but see m'forshim!] 37:    ZOT HA'TORAH:  l'OLAH, l'MINCHA, l'CHATAT v'l'ASHAM... ul'ZEVACH HA'SHLAMIM".

The Digressions

Even though most of outline follows according to the structure set by the phrase "zot torat..." (and hence its laws are directed specifically to the kohanim) we do find several digressions.

The first such digression is the 'parshia' of 6:12-16, and follows the laws of how to bring a "korban mincha".  It describes both the:

  • "Minchat Chinuch" - the inauguration flour-offering that the kohen brings on the day he begins his service; and the
  • "Minchat Chavitim" - an identical korban offered daily by the Kohen Gadol.

This digression is quite logical, as this law relates to both the korban mincha and to the kohanim.

Within the laws of the korban SHELAMIM we find two additional digressions. The first (7:22-27) discusses the prohibition to eat "chelev v'dam" from any animal, even if was not offered as a korban SHELAMIM.  The second (7:28-31) explains that the owner of the korban SHELAMIM must give the "chazeh' and "shok" to the kohen. Note how both of these digressions are directed to the entire congregation (and not just to the kohanim/ see 7:22&28) for everyone is required to know these related laws. 

Priestly Reward

With these digressions in mind, and after reviewing the outline we may additionally conclude that one of the primary considerations of Parshat Tzav is the compensation that the kohen receives for offering the korban. In contrast to Parshat Vayikra, which does not at all raise this issue, Parshat Tzav tells us that the kohen receives the hides of the Olah offering, the leftovers of the Mincha offering, most of the meat of the "chatat" and "asham" and the "chazeh" & "shok" of the "shelamim".

The summary pasuk in 7:35-36 reinforces the significance of this point in the eyes of Parshat Tzav, as does the introduction in 6:1-2, which directs these laws specifically to Aharon and his sons.

Korbanot Then/Kashrut Today

As we mentioned above, in the middle of the SHELAMIM section in Parshat Tzav we find a special "dibur" to Bnei Yisrael prohibiting them from eating the "chelev" & "dam" (fat and blood) of any animal, even if that animal is not being offered as a "korban"!

This law, and its presentation at this location, suggests that the 'kashrut laws' of "chaylev v'dam" can be viewed as an EXTENSION of the laws of korbanot.  In other words, Chumash purposely includes the laws of "chaylev" and "dam" in Parshat Tzav to teach us that they are forbidden specifically because these parts of the animal, had it been a korban, belong on the mizbeyach!

Ideally, as Sefer Devarim establishes (see 12:20-22), one should eat meat only within the framework of a korban shelamim. Eating "chulin" (meat which is not a korban) is allowed only when bringing a korban shelamim is unfeasible. [In Sefer Devarim this meat is referred to as "basar ta'ava" ('meat of 'desire').]

Nevertheless, even in the realistic, non-ideal condition, when one does eat "chulin," he still may not eat the "chaylev v'dam."  Therefore, whenever a Jew does eat meat, he must remind himself that this animal could (or should) have been a "korban shelamim".

One could suggest that man's desire for meat may reflect an animalistic tendency latent in human behavior.  By offering a korban shelamim, man can channel this desire in a more positive direction - towards the enhancement of his relationship with God.

[Recall from our shiur on Vayikra that the korban shelamim is the ideal "korban NEDAVA" in that it reenacts the covenantal ceremony between God and Bnei Yisrael at Har Sinai.]

Even today (without a Mikdash), by refraining from eating "chelev" and "dam", we can elevate our physical world with "kedusha" and retain a certain level of "kedusha" - even while eating meat.