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צַו – Ts!aW (Command)

Ascension Offering, Striving to Contain Exhaustion

Parashat Tsaw begins with the phrase: זאת תורת העלה “This is the Torah of the ascension offering.” This phrase: “This is the Torah of” is repeated five times in this parashah. The word Torah (תורה) comes from the root YaRaH (ירה) meaning to throw into the light, shoot, and penetrate. From the hiphil form meaning to teach or show, Torah is usually translated as “a teaching.” However, in the five uses in this parashah it is best translated as “the instructions regarding.” Like the previous parashah, parashat Tsaw discusses five general categories of offerings: the ascension offering, the meal offering, the sin offerings, the guilt offering and the peace offerings. While in wayiqra, the particular offerings and the location of relevant slaughter are elaborated upon; in Tsaw, other instructions are offered. Additionally, interposed can be found another minchah offering for the day of anointing Aharon. Finally, the second half of the parashah details the procedure and offerings for the anointing of Aharon, his sons and the mishkan.

Allegorically, Aharon is an archetype for a person’s mental faculty that brings things to light.1 His sons represent subsidiary behaviors associated with this activity. The behaviors that they represent are the product of his archetypal behavior and that of his wife, (אלישבע – Elisheva\), meaning “one’s advancing forward with initiative toward things bubbling up in experience.”2Although not mentioned by name in this parashah, the sons of Aharon were: one’s devoting attention to an aspect of a scene (נדב – Nadav)3and one’s taking notice of what exists (אביהוא - Avihoo);4 but also one’s advancing forward with initiative toward the things that are around (אלעזר - El’azar)5 and one’s indicating what opportunity to avail oneself of in standing firmly in wonderment (איתמר – Itamar).6 Nadav and Avihoo represent more of a gestalt reading of a scene; while El’azar and Itamar represent more focused behaviors. This comes into play later in the Torah when the former are killed for bringing a strange fire and when the latter are given their particular responsibilities.

Since Aharon and his sons represent a person’s bringing things to light and its associated behaviors, they are responsible for bringing Qarbanot, offerings whose purpose is to bring a person closer to God’s bringing forth of existence (Y-H-W-H).7Each offering represents a different way for a person to engage with God’s bringing forth of existence or experience. The word \oLaH (עולה ascension) comes from one of a group of related roots (מעל עלל עלה) that mean “to go around or about.” Whereas the other words (מעל עלל) function on the horizontal plane, the word \oLaH (עולה ascension) has the same meaning, yet it functions on the vertical plane – a thing above goes around or about something that is beneath it. However, allegorically, the word \oLaH (עולה) represents a person’s meandering around and about a scene so as to mentally busy oneself with the various things encountered.8 This is to be distinguished from a minchah offering (מנחה) that represents a person’s (tepidly) leaning in toward different things9 encountered in experience or a peace offering which represents a person’s yielding to things encountered in experience.10This parashah also gives instructions for sin offerings and guilt offerings, but a careful reading reveals that both of these offerings are made “in the place that the \oLaH shall be slaughtered” and “in the place that they shall slaughter the \oLah” respectively. From an allegorical perspective, this makes the sin and guilt offerings functional variants of the \oLaH, in that the fundamental way of encountering experience with these two other offerings is by “meandering around and about a scene so as to mentally busy oneself with the various things encountered (as the \oLah).” The three offerings initially mentioned here: the ascension, minchah and peace offerings; allegorically represent three levels of enthusiasm when engaging with God’s bringing forth of existence – actively going about, (tepidly) leaning in, and (merely) yielding to things.

Although extremely subtle, this distinction can also be seen when reviewing which archetype is primarily involved with a given type of offering. Only the Kohaen, a person performing with precise and mindful intention,11 is mentioned in connection to the \oLaH. Allegorically, the kohaen represents the highest level of engaging with experience. Nevertheless, although not exclusively, the word kohaen is often mentioned in connection to other offerings. This is because while the other offerings might be approached less vigorously than the Olah, ultimately to truly engage experience, mindful intention is required. In contrast, the sons of Aharon initially bring in the minchah offering. So with a minchah offering or an act of leaning in, the person is not making as much of an effort with what is encountered in experience. Finally, the word for spirit or soul, NePheSh (נפש), is mentioned only in connection to the peace offering. Since the root NePheSh literally means expanding and spreading out, as well as desire and appetite in other Semitic languages, allegorically it represents a person’s unbridled spirit.12As such, the NePheSh can be more easily distracted – eighty percent of the statements regarding Koraet, being cut off from the people, include the word NePheSh. Allegorically, the word for people, \aM (עם), represents a person’s being mindful of the many things crowding in from experience.13 An unbridled spirit is more likely to be cut off from its ability to be mindful of the many things crowding in.

The ascension offering is an offering of various types of animals that were entirely burnt on the altar. From the perspective of its simple meaning, it was probably so named because, upon being burnt, all of the offering ascended. The instructions given can be divided into three component categories: the burning of the offering, the burning of the wood and the treatment of its ashes, and the priest's changes of clothing involved in the process. Here is the text and its English (p'shat) translation:

זֹאת תּוֹרַת הָעֹלָה הִוא הָעֹלָה עַל מוֹקְדָה עַל-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ כָּל-הַלַּיְלָה עַד-הַבֹּקֶר וְאֵשׁ הַמִּזְבֵּחַ תּוּקַד בּוֹ: ג וְלָבַשׁ הַכֹּהֵן מִדּוֹ בַד וּמִכְנְסֵי-בַד יִלְבַּשׁ עַל-בְּשָֹרוֹ וְהֵרִים אֶת-הַדֶּשֶׁן אֲשֶׁר תֹּאכַל הָאֵשׁ אֶת-הָעֹלָה עַל-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ וְשָֹמוֹ אֵצֶל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ: ד וּפָשַׁט אֶת-בְּגָדָיו וְלָבַשׁ בְּגָדִים אֲחֵרִים וְהוֹצִיא אֶת-הַדֶּשֶׁן אֶל-מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה אֶל-מָקוֹם טָהוֹר: ה וְהָאֵשׁ עַל-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ תּוּקַד-בּוֹ לֹא תִכְבֶּה וּבִעֵר עָלֶיהָ הַכֹּהֵן עֵצִים בַּבֹּקֶר בַּבֹּקֶר וְעָרַךְ עָלֶיהָ הָעֹלָה וְהִקְטִיר עָלֶיהָ חֶלְבֵי הַשְּׁלָמִים: ו אֵשׁ תָּמִיד תּוּקַד עַל-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ לֹא תִכְבֶּה:

This is the instruction of the Olah – it is the Olah upon the burning-pyre, upon the altar, all night unto the morning. And the fire of the altar shall be burning in it. And the priest will layer on his garment of linen and his breaches of linen, he shall layer upon his flesh. And then he will lift off the ashes - that the fire was consuming the Olah upon the altar – and he will put it along-side the altar. And then he will remove his clothes and he will layer on other clothes. And he will bring out the ashes to outside with respect to the camp, to a clean place. And the fire upon the altar shall be burning in it, it shall not snuff out. And the kohaen will burn upon it the woods - in the morning, in the morning. And he will arrange upon it the Olah and he will incinerate upon it the fats of the peace-offerings. A continuous fire shall burn upon the altar, it shall not snuff out.

Allegorically, the Olah represents a person’s actively and energetically engaging with the many things found in experience. It is a statement of encouragement and an inspiration to combat weariness. There are a few different words here representing the burning fire, each with subtly different connotations. The verb YaQaD (יקד) from which the text gets the noun MoQ’DaH (מוקדה) and the verb TuQaD (תוקד) also means “to be fired up and ardent” in Syriac, Arabic and Akkadian. Additionally, the word for altar, MiZBae’aHh (מזבח), literally means “the place of flowing forth” and allegorically represents a person’s flowing forth of oneself in experience.14 Although literally meaning “persistent existence,” the word for fire, /aeSh (אש), is most often used to mean “being mentally persistent” allegorically.15 Finally, although the word KoL (כל) means “all” it is related to the verb KaLaH (כלה) to contain and restrain.16Additionally, the word for night (לילה laylah) literally means “the time of languishing or exhaustion,”17 while the word for morning, BoQaeR (בוקר), literally means “the time of making an investigation.”18Therefore, allegorically, the phrase “all night”(כל הלילה KoL haLayLaH), can also mean “containing the languishing.” Thus allegorically the first sentence is: “It is the act of meandering about so as to mentally busy oneself with things, upon the being fired up and burning ardently, upon the act of flowing forth of oneself, containing the languishing exhaustion, unto the making of an investigation. And the being mentally persistent of the act of flowing forth of oneself shall ardently burn with it.”

The next part describes what the kohaen wears initially to remove the ashes from the altar and then how those clothes are later changed. However, although one might assume that the clothing is changed for the sake of cleanliness, that is inconsistent with the text - for the change occurs right in the middle of the two steps dealing with the removal of the ashes. This is because the linen, the ashes, and the clothing all represent things engaged in experience. The word for linen, BaD (בד), also means “what is unique.” It comes from the verb BaDaD (בדד) meaning “to extract something and make separate.”19 “The kohaen, the person giving a situation precise and mindful attention, layers upon himself his measuring (מדו MiDo)20 of what is unique and the things drawn in of uniqueness, upon his confidently driving into experience (his flesh).”21 Since the word for ash, DeSheN (דשן), literally means “what is raked over again and again,”22 it represents the mental processing of these unique things, that after being processed are placed aside. The text says: “And he will lift off what is raked over again and again, it being confirmed that the being mentally persistent (fire) was embracing the act of meandering about so as to mentally busy oneself with things (Olah), upon the flowing forth of oneself, and then he will place it to the periphery of the act of flowing forth of oneself.”

By placing the ashes to the side of the altar, allegorically the text is indicating that he is done mentally processing the things initially taken up. By coincidence, the word for clothing, BeGeD (בגד), also means to deliver up basic facts and information.23So he will remove the information initially processed (his clothing) and will layer upon himself24 other clothing, representing other basic facts delivered up from experience. The ashes being lifted up and brought outside the camp represent the mental processing of this second set of basic facts. Just like the word for camp, MaHhaNeH (מחנה), represents an area of physical presence, allegorically it represents an area of mental presence.25 However, the camp – a place of eating, sleeping and hanging out - also represents what is common and prosaic. In order to really give these new basic facts a thorough examination, the person’s mind must be outside of the prosaic, outside of the camp. Therefore, the things (of experience) being mentally raked over again and again are brought out to a place of (mental) purity (clarity).

The text segues, returning us to the altar without transition or explanation. However, allegorically, we remain in that place of mental clarity where the fire of mental persistence continues to ardently burn, upon the act of flowing forth of oneself (altar), without snuffing out. Now another word for burn is used, Ba\aeR (בער). Initially used to clear a field either through burning or the use of cattle, the word Ba\aeR (בער) literally means “to go clear through and to clear out.”26This is very propitious for the word for woods, \aeTsim (עצים), also means “things that are elusive” in Arabic.27Here in the place of mental clarity, the ardent fire of mental persistence burns through whatever things remain elusive by making a thorough investigation (in the morning, in the morning).

Apparently, this fire is not only used for the Olah, ascension offering, but also for the fats of the peace offerings. The second to last sentence states: And he will arrange upon it the Olah and will incinerate upon it the fats of the peace offerings.” The word for arrange, \aRaKh (ערך), also means to evaluate. Hence it is in this time of making a thorough investigation (morning) that thethings about which a person is meandering and being mentally occupied (Olah) is being evaluated. In Amharic, the root used for incinerate, QaTaR (קטר), also means “to engage, inspect and consider.” In Arabic the word cognate with fat, ChaeLeBh (חלב), means “what is captivating.” So upon this act of flowing forth of oneself, upon which burns an ardent fire of being mentally persistent, the things in experience that are captivating (to which we yield, peace offering) are engaged, inspected and considered. “A continuous act of being mentally persistent shall ardently burn upon the act of flowing forth of oneself – it shall not snuff out.”

Here is the (uninterrupted) allegorical translation:

This is the teaching-instruction of the act of meandering about so as to mentally busy oneself with things. It is the act of meandering about so as to mentally busy oneself with things, upon the being fired up and burning ardently, upon the act of flowing forth of oneself, containing the languishing exhaustion, unto the making of an investigation. And the being mentally persistent of the act of flowing forth of oneself shall be fired up and ardently burn with it. And the act ofgiving something protracted, precise and mindful attention will layer upon his measuring of a scenethat which is unique. And the many things drawing in of what is unique, he shall layer on, upon his driving in with confidence. And he will take up that whichis raked over and over, in that the act ofbeing mentally persistentembraces the act of meandering about so as to mentally busy oneself with things, upon theact of flowing forth of oneself. And then he will put it off to the periphery of the act of flowing forth of oneself. Such that he will strip off the basic facts and information that had surfaced to him. And then he will layer on other basic facts and information that break through to the surface. Then he will strive to bring out that which is raked over and over to the place wedged off from the realm of one’s usualattention (the prosaic), advancing toward a firm establishment of mental clarity. And the act of being mentally persistent that is upon the act of flowing forth of oneself shall be fired up and burn ardently with it. This shall not snuff out. And upon it, the act ofgiving something protracted, precise and mindful attention will burn through many elusive things, by making a thorough investigation. He shall evaluate upon it the act of meandering about so as to mentally busy oneself with things. And upon it, he will engage, inspect and consider the things that are captivating as a result of the many acts of yielding to things (found in experience). An act of constant mental persistence shall be fired up and burn ardently, upon the act of flowing forth of oneself. It shall not snuff out.


1 – Aharon (אהרן) “the mental faculty bringing things to light;” from the verb HaRaH (הרה – to conceive), but like the related verb HaRHaeR (הרהר), it refers to one’s ability to conceive of something in mind (not in the womb). Also related to these words is the noun HaR (mountain – הר) which literally means “the place of bringing things to light,” a place where one can see and conceive of what is coming due to its elevated perspective.

2 – Elisheva\ (אלישבע) one’s advancing forward toward things bubbling up in experience; from El(אל) G-d, meaning one advancing forward with initiative such as in el (אל) to, toward; ayil (איל) ram forward; Ya/aL (יאל) to endeavor to advance forward allegorically can be used to mean “what advances forward” and “one’s advancing forward.” + Sheva/ (שבע) - Although with a shin, this word appears to have been derived from the similar root with a letter sin, SaBha\ meaning as satiated, it derives from either NaBha\ (נבע – to swell or well up) or Ba\aH (בעה - to bubble up, boil). Perhaps it means the number seven because it fulfills a period of one week, although this too is not completely clear. Metaphorically, from context and this etymology it means “being satiated by what bubbles up” or just “a bubbling up of something.

3 – Nadav(נדב) one’s devoting attention to an aspect of a scene; from (נדב) in Hebrew: to give willingly or volunteer, in Arabic apply / devote o.s, be willing, stand ready.

4 – Avihoo(אביהוא) one’s taking notice of what exists; from/aBhaH (אבה) which in Hebrew means “to be willing to give forth of oneself,” whereas in Arabic it means “to take notice of.”+ Hu/ (הוא) derived from HaYaH (היה – to be, exist).

5 – El’azar (אלעזר) one’sadvancing toward the things that are around; from El(אל) G-d, meaning one advancing forward with initiative such as in el (אל) to, toward; ayil (איל) ram forward; Ya/aL (יאל) to endeavor to advance forward allegorically can be used to mean “what advances forward” and “one’s advancing forward.” + \aZaR (עזר) surround, around.

6 – Itamar (איתמר) one’s indicating whatopportunity to avail oneself of in standing firmly in wonderment; from(אי – where) derived from (אוה – to point, indicate) see (piel) to point out, designate (Ps132:13) and consider /oT (אות sign, indicator) + TaMaR (תמר) meaning “to stand still and upright,” which evolved from the root TaMaH (תמה) meaning “to stand still in amazement, to wonder, to be stunned and undecided.” However, in Arabic TaMaR also means “to bear fruit, make a profit, utilize, and avail oneself of an opportunity.” So allegorically Tamar means “one’sstanding firmly in wonderment, yetable to avail oneself of an opportunity.”

7 – QaRBaN (קרבן) Roots based on the biliteral root Q.R. (קר) essentially mean “to get in very close”: KaRaH(קרה to come upon, happen occur); QaRa/ (קרא to call closer, call out to, meet, call and read); QaRaBh(קרב to approach); QaRaM (קרם to cover closely, membrane, encrust, plate); QaRaN (קרן horn, to project); QaRa\(קרע (get closely into) to tear into, to put on eye liner); QaRaSh (קרש to contract, gnash, bite into); QaRaS (קרס to stoop, clasp); QaRaTs(קרץ to pinch off, squint, purse); NaQaR(נקר to gouge, chisel); ShaQaR (שקר to gouge > deceive, lie).

8 – ascension offering (עולה - \oLaH) Allegorically: an act of meandering about mentally busying oneself with things. From \aLaL (עלל) to meander about, to busy oneself, even though the peshat is from \aLaH (עלה) to be about > above > to ascend.

9 – meal or MinHhaH offering (מנחה MiNHhaH) etymologicallycomes from the verb MaNaHh (מנח) Ugaritic: “to deliver; delivery, contribution, tribute; offering” & Arabic “to grant, give, accord, bestow, confer; gift, present, grant, and donation.” MaNaHh (מנח) evolved from NaHhaH (נחה), has a sense of leaning in or inclining toward something. Cognate with NaHhaH (נחה) is the Arabic (נחא – to wend one's way, go, move, walk, turn toward > follow, imitate; BUT Also (incline >) lean, push aside, remove, yield, withdraw), Also from NaHhaH (נחה) is NaHhaL (נחל (to push toward) inherit) and NaHhaT (נחתּ to take down, put at the disposal of, bring, reach for ((Ugaritic)).

10 – peace offerings (שלמים) Allegorically:yielding to or submiting oneself to things; from the root ShaLaM (שלם suspend, complete, submit, make peace, make restitution). The most roots Sh.L.literally mean “to suspend, dangle.” For example, שולים – skirt, train, abdomen; שלה - to be lax, relax; שלל to let fall; שלח – to let loose (Syr - slough off) > send forth > שלך to cast; שלם – to suspend > complete, submit to > peace, compensate. The verb ZaBhaHh (זבח – make an offering, sacrifice) evolved from ZaBhaH (זבה – to flow), perhaps due to the flowing of blood that occurs with ritual offering. Allegorically: one’s flowing forth of oneself (to something in experience).

11 – priest (כהן –KoHaeN). Allegorically: performing with protracted, precise and mindful intention; giving something protracted, precise, mindful attention. Related to the noun KaWaNaH (כונה – mindful intention); used as a verb not related to priestly duties (piel) to set / fix in place precisely (Is61:10).

12 – spirit, soul (נפש NePheSh) Allegorically: an untamed spirit. The word evolved from NaPhaH (נפה to fan, winnow), which itself evolved from PeH (פה mouth (implying a moving back and forth of air)). Like NaPhaHh (נפח to blow), NaPhaSh (נפש) means to breathe in Syriac, Akkadian and Arabic, while in Hebrew the passive means “to be refreshed.” Because breathing involves chest expansion, in Akkadian it also means “be / become / make wide, spread, be abundant,” whike a non-cognate but related root in Arabic means “puff up, swell out, ruffle, comb, card, tease wool.” For this reason, the root PuSh (פוש spread out) evolved by dropping the nun. The Ugaritic and Arabic cognates also mean: “force, appetite, desire.” In Hebrew NePheSh is also used to refer to a dead body, not just a living spirit.

13 – people (עם – \aM) allegorically means “being ever presently (mindful) of what crowds in.” It comes from the related roots \aMaH – \aMaM (עמה - עמם) literally meaning to be ever present with. However, when something is ever present with something else, it can be close or too close. Therefore, the words derived from this root reflect closeness: with (עם - \iM), people-crowd(עם - \aM), and connecting (עמה - \uMaH); and those representing being too close: covered over, suppress, ignorant, dim, dark, and blind. In ancient Hebrew and in those Semitic languages retaining the ghayin variant of ayin, the latter wordsare spelled with ghayin, but are nevertheless etymologically related.

14 – altar (מזבח – miZBae’aHh) Allegorically refers to the way in which a person flows forth. The verb ZaBhaHh (זבח – make an offering, sacrifice) evolved from ZaBhaH (זבה – to flow), perhaps due to the flowing of blood that occurs with ritual offering.

15 – Fire /aeSh (אש, fire, persistent existence) from /uSh (אוש – to make persistent, to go on and on, be lengthy, make a steady noise (Jastro))

16 – all, each (כול KoL). Allegorically: containing, restraining of. This verb evolved from HhoL (חול sand, common (literally meaning “what is thrown about > goes on and on.”) From there, it evolved to KaLaH (כלה to contain, restrain, complete)

17 – night (לילה – LaiLaH) etymologically probably from a doubling of either La/aH (לאה – to be exhausted, to labor exhaustively) or LaHaH (להה - (exhausted) to languish, be tired)

18 – morning (בוקר – BoQaeR, time of investigation). From the root BaQaR (בקר) meaning “to investigate, search.”

19 – linen(בד BaD) Allegorically: “what is unique.” It comes from the verb BaDaD (בדד) meaning “to extract something and make separate.” The roots derived from BaDaH (בדה) evolved from BaZaH (בזה to plunder), but literally meaning to dig into and throw out > rifle through. Therefore, BaDaH (בדה invent, fabricate, concoct) literally means “to throw out an idea,” and the related BaD (בד fabrications, boastings). BaDaL (בדל piece, a thing separated > to separate); Likewise BaD (בד) also means “piece” and therefore branch (a piece torn off), but also from the related BaDaD (בדד), alone. From there /aBaD (אבד lost) is one who is alone.

20 – clothing (מד MaD) means both measure and clothing, from MaDaD (מדד to measure)

21 – flesh (בשר – BaSaR). The word almost always means flesh, but literally “what is driven into with confidence,” probably alluding to removing meat from a bone. The Arabic cognate means “to peel, scrape / shave off, grate, shred, come in contact, sexual intercourse, apply oneself.” Also note probable mis-translation of (Ec2:3) תרתי בלבי למשוך ביין את בשרי Conventionally translated as: I sought in my heart to draw out with wine, my flesh. But more correctly translated as: I sought in my heart to draw out with wine, my confidence.

22 – ash (דשן DeSheN), literally means “what is raked over again and again.” From DuSh (דוש to rake, thresh, tread)

23 – clothing (בגד BeGeD) Allegorically: to deliver up basic facts and information. From the (probably unrelated) root BaGaD (בגד) meaning “root, source, what is real, basic fact in Arabic; to betray, give up information, be a traitor, unfaithful, faithless, in Hebrew.

24 – to wear, layer clothing (לבש - LaBhaSh) A comparison of related words indicate that this root means to layer out and stratify things such as , LaBhaBh (to layer a cake – לבב), ShaLaBh (to join layers, rungs of a ladder – שלב), HhaLaBh (milk, what layers out – חלב) and L’BhoNah (frankincense, what layers out – לבונה)

25 – camp (חנה – HhaNaH), essentially meaning “to establish a presence” and allegorically “a mental presence.”It evolved from HoN (הון – substantial > wealth) and its hiphil (ההין to make/be present, make/be ready; (Dt1:41)), HaeN (חן – here) and HiNaeH (הנה – see here (be present)). Evolved from (חנה – HhaNaH) is HhaNaN (חנן – presence > grace).

26 –Most of the roots with BaR (בר) literally mean to make a clearing, to clear away, or to go clear through, hence בור (clearing > pit), באר (clearing > well, to clearly elucidate), בער (to clear away > clear a field, burn), ברר (to clear away > sift), ברא (to clear away > to sculpt, create, carve, cut down), ברח (to go clear through > escape, bar), ברך (to go clear through > to excel, be / declare excellent; to make a clearing > kneel, pool), ברק (to go clear through > lightening). שבר (break, literally means “to go clear through”)

27 – tree (עץ - \aeTs) derived from the root \uTs (עוץ) which derived from /uTs (אוץ) literally means “to hasten, force, push through” but is used to mean “to advise, give counsel.” Allegorically, it is used to mean “one’s striving, one’s urges or things that are difficult or elusive – the later from the Arabic cognate and context.

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Judaic Classics by David Kantrowitz version 3.4, 1991 – 2009. Institute for computers in Jewish Life. Davka Corp and /or Judaica Press Inc.

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