Passover is a holiday filled with learning — friends and family gather to recount the story of the Jewish people’s journey from slavery to freedom and to ask questions throughout the process. Following the Passover seder, the learning continues through the reading of the Torah portion of the week, Parshat Tzav (Leviticus 6-8). In this Parsha, Aaron and his sons receive instructions from Moses—as commanded by G-d—with regards to their responsibilities and obligations as priests, presiding over the Jewish people.
Jewish priests, also known as Kohanim, are a revered community of individuals. In the years during which the holy Tabernacle was in existence, the Kohanim were responsible for bringing sacrificial animal offerings to the Holy Temple. Jews often brought animals to the Kohanim in times of guilt and thanksgiving. In all of these instances, it was the duty of the Kohan — a holy man eligible to enter the Tabernacle — to appropriately prepare the offering and put it in the temple’s incessantly flaming fire.
In reading the Parsha, one also learns that the holy burnt offering must be eaten by the Kohanim except when a peace offering is brought, when he who has brought the offering eats a portion, as well.
It is important to note that the process of initiating Aaron’s sons into the priesthood took seven days, thus evincing the exhaustive nature of a priest’s duties within the Jewish community and the significance of sacrifice in Judaism. While sacrificial offerings have long since been replaced by prayer, Kohanim still often lead prayer services and bear a sense of holiness among the Jewish community. This week, let us reflect on the history of the Kohanim and come to appreciate their significant role both in Parshat Tzav and within the story of our people.
The following Taste of Torah is based on the information provided by Chabad’s “Tzav in a Nutshell.”