Parshat Vayikra Tzav
Leviticus 6.1 - 8.36
Understanding The Word Command
Our Parshat is entitled צַו Tzav meaning Command. The first time The Word צַו Tzav is written in The Holy Scriptures is in Parshat Tzav. Do we realize how significant this is? We Teach there are 613 מַצּוֹת Mitzvot in Ha Torah. We Teach the Word מַצּוֹת Mitzvot means Commands. מַצּוֹת Mitzvot is plural for מְצַוָּה MiTzavh. מְצַוָּה MiTzavh means Command. There are many forms where צַו Tzav is written before Leviticus 6.2. צַו Tzav is written within The Word וַיְצַו Vah Yih Tzav meaning And He Commanded. צַו Tzav is written with The Letters ו Vav and י Yud in front. וַיְצַו Vah Yih Tzav. The Word צַו Tzav is in the center of The Word מצוה MiTzavh. The Word צַו Tzav is the center of The Word מצות Mitzvot. It is important to note that The Word מַצָּה Matzah meaning unleavened bread is spelled מַצּוֹת Mazot which is the plural for מַצָּה Matzah. The Words מַצּוֹת Mitzvot meaning Commands and מַצּוֹת Mazot meaning unleavened bread are spelled the same in the plural format. The difference is in the vowels נִקוּד Niqqud meaning dots or vowels. The Letters of ספרי תורה Sifrei Torah, i.e. The hand scribed scroll of Ha Torah do not have vowels so The Words מַצּוֹת Mitzvot and מַצּוֹת Matzot would appear the same מצות even though their meanings are different. Both Words have The Word צַו Tzav is the center Letters of both Words. The Center of Command, Commands, and Matzot is a Precept. The Word יְצַוֶּה Yih Tzveh meaning He will Command, לָצוּד Law Tzood meaning to captivate to capture, וַיְצַוֵּהוּ Vah Yih Yzah Vay Hoo meaning And He Commanded Him, לְצַוֹּת Lih Tzah Voht meaning to Command and אֲצַוֶּךָּ Ah Tzah Veh Caw meaning You Shall Command. What is the point? We MUST clearly understand The Word צַו Tzav. צַו Tzav means Command, Order, Need, Law and Precept. In most of the instances throughout Ha Torah we translated The Word צַו Tzav as COMMAND. We, unfortunately, support the concept of commanding or ordering others when in fact the more accurate translation is to Teach The Precept. Does it make sense to Order or Command when The Precept has not first been taught? Our Sages Teach, The Seven Observances, were Given to Adam and Eve in Genesis 2.16. When I first read Genesis 2.16, I sat there staring at The Holy Scripture thinking, where are The Seven Observances. I examined Genesis 2.16 in just about every version and translation of The Bible I owned. There was no mention of The Seven Observances. Later, I purchased Beresheit Volumes A and B of The ArtScroll Tanach Series which listed and briefly explained The Seven Observances. There is a point; Genesis 2.16 lists The Seven Observances - Some Teach Six Observances, yet, without offering any explanation. These are The Observances that govern our entire world. Every person, every city, every country are governed by These Seven Observances. How is it there is little or no reference or explanation made to The Laws that govern our Universe? This brings us to the point. The Word ַו Tzav primary interpretation must mean, To Teach The Precept.
וַיְצַו יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהִים עַל־הָאָדָם לֵאמֹר מִכֹּל עֵץ־הַגָּן אָכֹל תֹּאכֵל:ס
וּמֵעֵץ הַדַּעַת טוֹב וָרָע לֹא תֹאכַל מִמֶּנּוּ כִּי בְּיוֹם אֲכָלְךָ מִמֶּנּוּ מוֹת תָּמוּת:ס
And The Lord God Commanded, the man, Saying, 'Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it; for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.'
And He, The Lord God Taught Precepts to Adam and Eve, 'Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it; for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.'
I list and discuss The Seven Laws, i.e. The Seven Observances / Precepts in several Books We Teach that The Torah is The Written Will of HaShem, i.e. תּוֹרָה שֶׁבִּכתָב Torah Shebichtav and The Torah which is The Spoken Will of HaShem, i.e. תּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה Torah Shebe'al Peh. We Observe תּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה Torah Shebe'al Peh in the Creation of all the universe. Our Sages Teach, With Ten Utterances, the world was Created. We read The Ten Utterances Between Genesis 1.1 - Genesis 1.31. The Ten Commandments are actually עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדְּבָרִים The Ten Words. The Ten Words are actually Ten Precepts that have much greater meaning and, therefore, must be taught.
וַיְהִי־שָׁם עִם־יְהֹוָה אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם וְאַרְבָּעִים לַיְלָה לֶחֶם לֹא אָכַל וּמַיִם לֹא שָׁתָה וַיִּכְתֹּב עַל־הַלֻּחֹת אֵת דִּבְרֵי הַבְּרִית עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדְּבָרִים :ס
We Observe that there are many times in Ha Torah where One Word requires greater explanation, i.e. Sayings / Teachings. Genesis 2.16 is one of these places. The Eleven Words Scribed in Genesis 2.16 represents Seven Precepts that require greater explanation. Now we return to the center point of our discussion, Understanding The Word Command.
Dear Reader, the message in The Word צַו Tzav is to teach precepts NOT to Command or to Order one's spouse or neighbor. As a baal teshuva, I remember moving into one of Denver's Orthodox Communities. There were about 100 Jewish families. This was a tight-knit community. Everyone was acquainted. There were dozens, and dozens of Rabbium and Rebbetzins in the community. Just about every detail was noticed. The Community was loving and kind and VERY INSTRUCTIVE! On Sabbath morning before morning prayers, the Rabbi next door would tap on my window. 'Akiva! Akiva, it's time for morning prayers. I'm waiting outside.' A Rabbi would inquire, 'Where were you for morning prayers on Thursday? You were not at Yeshiva or Congregation Zera Israel etc.' I was provided the opportunity to learn with a great Beit Midrash Rabbi to learn with for about thirty minutes each morning after prayers and before breakfast. This was by choice. It was wonderful! We learned together for years. After living in the community for a while, for some reason, I dyed my beard black. Whoo! Did I receive some direction... There were other times. I was encouraged to change my phone message several times because it was deemed inappropriate. Another time I was persuaded to remove objectionable political bumper stickers from my vehicle. Then there was the time when I was standing in a long register line. The sign at each register said they would open a new register if more than three people were in line. Most of the lines had, at least, six individuals waiting. I think the number was more like ten. I asked an employee to call the manager. I was agitated! When the manager arrived, I pointed to the sign and inquired what was going on. The register to the right was closed. The manager said that we could go to that register, and he would check me out. I said, 'Thank you!' Then in a loud voice and announcement came, This is the store manager, get in this line. About twelve individuals got in line. Later a Rabbi who I respected called me into his office about this incident. He said, 'We don't do things like this! He was kind! He was sincere! He was compassionate! He shared Musar with me! He explained that, HaShem Has a code we are supposed to live by. I knew this. He reminded me that I was a member of our community. Everyone can see you are an Orthodox Jew. Our actions reflect on all Jews. We must live righteously. We must be examples of patience, kindness, understanding and gracious, etc. The sign that said, they would open a new line if three people were waiting did not matter.
Dear Reader, some would say I was commanded and ordered and directed at every turn. To a degree this was true. However, it is also true that many individuals took the time to offer an explanation of A Torah Precept with loving guidance. Which do you think is the more effective route?
I sat in the home of a dear Rabbi, who cared greatly for me. The Rebbetzin offered me some hot tea on Sabbath. I began to place the tea bag in the cup and to pour hot water. My friend placed his hand on top of mine to stop me. He then explained that on Sabbath we first pour the water into the cup then add the tea bag. Why? When the tea bag is in the cup and hot water is pouring on it this is a form of cooking. However, when the hot water is poured into a cup and allowed to sit for a short time, there is no heat source. The water is cooling instead of boiling. When the water is cooling it is not cooking. It is alright to place the tea bag in the water. When a Precept is explained, it is much better! This is the correct approach that we should follow most of the time.
It is so important how a husband / father / leader approaches a situation. It was Erev Shabbat. I entered the congregation and sat at the Chassidic Table for evening prayers. A number of men were starring at me. The Congregation Gabbie came over to me. He teased me a little about my face being darker. He was smiling. He was soft spoken. He was kind. He explained The Precept. Men should not mark their body in any fashion. He explained that my gray hair was an honor from HaShem.
In High School I was part of the ROTC Training Program for four years. I was trained to follow orders / commands without question. I was also trained to require my subordinates to follow my orders / commands without question. I enlisted. In boot camp, I was trained to follow orders / commands without question. I served two tours in Vietnam. I am a disabled war veteran. After leaving the military, I was greatly conflicted. A huge part of my life was about receiving and obeying orders. I was required to give orders and to require that these orders be followed. In the world outside of the military it's supposed to be different. Husbands are not to be drill sergeants. Husbands are not supposed to bark out orders for their wife, children neighbors, etc. I had a very difficult time fitting in to the world outside of the military. Commanding and ordering others was like a badge of honor to me. I did not understand how my actions felt to others because I was taught to suck it up and follow orders, etc. I expected others to do the same. My mentality was skewed! I lived this way for many many years. I needed help! I lived in denial. To make things worse, I spoke in a loud commanding voice. Why? I thought it was because I was a teacher, lecturer, etc., but it was because I was nearly deaf in one ear. I remember the day my hearing was tested. Using a hearing aid for the first time was amazing! I heard sounds, until now, unnoticed sounds. Wow! It was a different world. Immediately it was obvious that I was speaking loud. I began speaking with a softer tone, then others had difficulty hearing me. This was a dramatic change. My deafness contributed to speaking with a loud voice. Having a military background contributed to my stern, forceful demeanor, i.e. the orders I barked out. Not working enough on my midot allowed a number of issues to continue unabated. All of this is unfortunate!!
There is a right way to approach everyday concerns. Approaching serious issues requires skillfulness that some of us may lack.
Then there was when I was younger and lived like loose canon. I drank and used vile language. I was resentful and angry. Issues like these are difficult to subdue. One must be constantly vigilent. Often it is necessary to seek the assistance of individuals who have special skills with disfunctional people. Even then there are still many struggles to face, and overcome. We should be able to see from this discussion that there may be potential issues with many RED FLAGS? When we identify a potential issue it is necessary to acknowledge that issue. I lived in denial for many years. It is difficult to discuss my failings. Unfortunately, There are many. I have worked and am still working to overcome my short comings. This is what HaShem Requires. HaShem wants each of us to IMPROVE! Inprovement in some areas may come quickly and it other areas improvement takes a lifetime. It can be discouraging when one tries so much then slips up. It happens! We try to get up. Dust ourselves off and return to the Path of Observance.
Remember, 'The steps of A Righteous Individual are ordered by The Lord; and He Delights in his way. Though [the Righteous Individual] falls, he / she shall not be utterly cast down; for The Lord Supports his / her hand.'
Musar, self refinement, improvement has many deep levels that we must learn and begin to disicipline ourselves. Most of us cannot reach the highest level of improvement in one lifetime.
Commands / Mitzvot / Observances / Precepts of Ha Torah require patient explanation over and over again and again. Eventually a firm foundation will be reached where growth will result.
Dear Reader, we do not have the clear understanding for each Torah Precept nor the depth of Moses our Teacher. Moses was an exceptional human Who HaShem Communicated in deep ways we cannot imigine or perceive. There is greater depth with every Torah Precept than we will know. Only HaShem Knows the extent and depth. Moses fasted continually for about 123 days. Who can rise to such a level?
For these reasons and others we MUST realize that sometimes we lack the skill to communicate A Torah Precept. Dear Reader, in past I have shared about the impact of when HaShem confused language and words. Having shared this we must come to the understanding that we need to explain Precepts many times and only order or command a few times. The Gematria of The Word צַו Tzav is 96. The Gematria of The Word וְיָדְעוּ Vih Yaw Dih Voo meaning And you shall know is also 96.
צ90 ו6 = 96
Vih Yaw Dih Voo / And You shall know
ו6 י10 ד4 ע70 ו6 = 96
My Our Creator Bless each who study, learn and Observe Ha Torah.
Dr. Akiva Gamliel Belk
Dr. Akiva Gamliel and Rebbetzin Revi - Brachah Rivkah Belk
Dr. Akiva Gamliel Belk
Dean of Jewish Studies
B’nai Noach Torah Institute, LLC
Author of Many Books
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