Tzav: Receiving a Command: From Who, For What?

This week we read the portion know as “Tzav”, which begins in Leviticus 6 with God speaking to Moses saying “Command Aaron and his sons…” (Leviticus 6:1,2) The portion’s major content rests with instructions on various sacrifices. We are deep now into the path of laws and instructions to the priestly class. Let’s, however, look at that little word “tzav”. Command may mean to give an order in an authoritative manner. Certainly this is the sense of the text. Command, read differently, can also mean being in a position of security so that you can acquire something.
I often have the discussion with my Torah study students that you can read the Torah as political science. Certainly, and there are scholars who do this, we can see these passages as texts that underwrite the power of the priesthood. They wish to be in a position to “command” respect and insure their control. Placing the “command” to oversee sacrifices in the hands of the priests underscores that power.
How do we, as we get a little older secure that sense of control? How do we command our position in life as, so often, we see this positions changing. Our jobs change, or we leave them. Our bodies begin to change and often, relationships change. Maybe one of the ways of looking at this “tzav” is to turn it on its self. Who is commanding us? Many of us struggle now with this. Our children are grown. Our grandchildren, if we have them, give us pleasure, but they are not “ours”. We have a growing sense of time passing, usually much too quickly. So, we seek to re-evaluate that “still small voice” that rests within each of us and, perhaps, redefine who we are and what now will give us a sense of meaning and purpose. The beauty of this is that voice is always calling us, challenging us to take “command” of our own life and soul, for no-one else can do that to us or for us.
Shabbat shalom
Rabbi Richard F Address

About Rabbi Richard Address 695 Articles
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.


  1. I really like your summary at the end. Taking control and responsibility for our own lives. Recently did a d’var on the animal being sacrificed representing a part of ourselves that we need to let go of to draw closer to God. (a bull meaning we have anger and bullish behaviors to heal with ourselves and let go of. a sheep meaning we need to stop blindly follow others and take responsibility for our actions and decisions–not making excuses.) Thanks for the article.

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