For the town in Armenia, see Tsav, Armenia.

Tzav, Tsav, Zav, or Sav (צו — Hebrew for "command,” the sixth word, and the first distinctive word, in the parshah) is the 25th weekly Torah portion (parshah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the second in the book of Leviticus. It constitutes Leviticus 6.1–8:36. Jews in the Diaspora read it the 24th or 25th Sabbath after Simchat Torah, generally in March or early April.

The parshah teaches how the priests performed the sacrifices and describes the ordination of Aaron and his sons.

Tabernacle Camp

The Tabernacle and the Camp



the Tabernacle (illustration from Philip Y. Pendleton. Standard Eclectic Commentary. Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Co., 1901.)


God told Moses to command Aaron and the priests about the rituals of the sacrifices (korbanot in Hebrew). (Leviticus 6:1.)

The burnt offering ('olah) was to burn on the altar until morning, when the priest was to clear the ashes to a place outside the camp. (Leviticus 6:2–4.) The priests were to keep the fire burning, every morning feeding it wood. (Leviticus 6:5–6.)

The meal offering (mincha) was to be presented before the altar, a handful of it burned on the altar, and the balance eaten by the priests as unleavened cakes in the Tent of Meeting. (Leviticus 6:7–11.) On the occasion of the High Priest’s anointment, the meal offering was to be prepared with oil on a griddle and then entirely burned on the altar. (Leviticus 6:12–16.)

The sin offering (chattat) was to be slaughtered at the same place as the burnt offering, and the priest who offered it was to eat it in the Tent of Meeting. (Leviticus 6:17–22.) If blood of the sin offering was brought into the Tent of Meeting for expiation, the entire offering was to be burned on the altar. (Leviticus 6:23.)

The guilt offering (asham) was to be slaughtered at the same place as the burnt offering, the priest was to dash its blood on the altar, burn its fat, broad tail, kidneys, and protuberance on the liver on the altar, and the priest who offered it was to eat the balance of its meat in the Tent of Meeting. (Leviticus 7:1–7.)

The priest who offered a burnt offering kept the skin. (Leviticus 7:8.) The priest who offered it was to eat any baked or grilled meal offering, but every other meal offering was to be shared among all the priests. (Leviticus 7:9–10.)

The peace offering (shelamim), if offered for thanksgiving, was to be offered with unleavened cakes or wafers with oil, which would go to the priest who dashed the blood of the peace offering. (Leviticus 7:11–14.) All the meat of the peace offering had to be eaten on the day that it was offered. (Leviticus 7:15.) If offered as a votive or a freewill offering, it could be eaten for two days, and what was then left on the third day was to be burned. (Leviticus 7:16–18.)

Meat that touched anything unclean could not be eaten; it had to be burned. (Leviticus 7:19.) And only a person who was clean could eat meat from peace offerings, at pain of exile. (Leviticus 7:20–21.) One could eat no fat or blood, at pain of exile. (Leviticus 7:22–27.)

The person offering the peace offering had to present the offering and its fat himself, the priest would burn the fat on the altar, the breast would go to the priests, and the right thigh would go to the priest who offered the sacrifice. (Leviticus 7:28–34.)


The High Priest


God instructed Moses to assemble the whole community at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting for the priests’ ordination. (Leviticus 8:1–5.) Moses brought Aaron and his sons forward, washed them, and dressed Aaron in his vestments. (Leviticus 8:6–9.) Moses anointed and consecrated the Tabernacle and all that was in it, and then anointed and consecrated Aaron and his sons. (Leviticus 8:10–13.)

Moses led forward a bull for a sin offering, Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the bull’s head, and it was slaughtered. (Leviticus 8:14–15.) Moses put the bull’s blood on the horns and the base of the altar, burned the fat, the protuberance of the liver, and the kidneys on the altar, and burned the rest of the bull outside the camp. (Leviticus 8:15–17.)

Moses then brought forward a ram for a burnt offering, Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the ram’s head, and it was slaughtered. (Leviticus 8:18–19.) Moses dashed the blood against the altar and burned all of the ram on the altar. (Leviticus 8:19–21.)

Moses then brought forward a second ram for ordination, Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the ram’s head, and it was slaughtered. (Leviticus 8:22–23.) Moses put some of its blood on Aaron and his sons, on the ridges of their right ears, on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the big toes of their right feet. (Leviticus 8:23–24.) Moses then burned the animal's fat, broad tail, protuberance of the liver, kidneys, and right thigh on the altar with a cake of unleavened bread, a cake of oil bread, and a wafer as an ordination offering. (Leviticus 8:25–28.) Moses raised the breast before God and then took it as his portion. (Leviticus 8:29.) Moses sprinkled oil and blood on Aaron and his sons and their vestments. (Leviticus 8:30.) And Moses told Aaron and his sons to boil the meat at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting and eat it there, and remain at the Tent of Meeting for seven days to complete their ordination, and they did all the things that God had commanded through Moses. (Leviticus 8:31–36.)

In classical rabbinic interpretation

Leviticus chapter 6

Tractate Zevachim in the Mishnah, Tosefta, and Talmud interpreted the law of animal sacrifices in Leviticus 6–7. (Mishnah Zevachim 1:1–14:10; Tosefta Zevachim 1:1–13:20; Babylonian Talmud Zevachim 2a–120b.) Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai taught that, generally speaking, the Torah required a burnt offering only as expiation for sinful meditation of the heart. (Leviticus Rabbah 7:3.) And a midrash taught that if people repent, it is accounted as if they had gone up to Jerusalem, built the Temple and the altars, and offered all the sacrifices ordained in the Torah. (Leviticus Rabbah 7:2.) And Rabbi Aha said in the name of Rabbi Hanina ben Pappa that God accounts studying the sacrifices as equal to offering them. (Leviticus Rabbah 7:3.)

Rabbi Mani of Sheab and Rabbi Joshua of Siknin in the name of Rabbi Levi explained the origin of Leviticus 6:1. Moses prayed on Aaron’s behalf, noting that the beginning of Leviticus repeatedly referred to Aaron’s sons (in Leviticus 1:5, 7, 8, 11; 2:2; 3:2, 5, 8, 13), barely mentioning Aaron himself. Moses asked whether God could love well water but hate the well. Moses noted that God honored the olive tree and the vine for the sake of their offspring, teaching (in Mishnah Tamid 2:3; Babylonian Talmud Tamid 29a) that the priests could use all trees’ wood for the altar fire except that of the olive and vine. Moses thus asked God whether God might honor Aaron for the sake of his sons, and God replied that God would reinstate Aaron and honor him above his sons. And thus God said to Moses the words of Leviticus 6:1, “Command Aaron and his sons.” (Leviticus Rabbah 7:1.)


the altar of the tabernacle (illustration from Philip Y. Pendleton. Standard Eclectic Commentary.)

Rabbi Abin deduced from Leviticus 6:1 that burnt offerings were wholly given over to the flames. (Leviticus Rabbah 7:4.)

The Rabbis taught a story reflecting the importance of the regular offering required by Leviticus 6:2: When the Hasmonean brothers Hyrcanus and Aristobulus were contending with one another, and one was within Jerusalem’s city wall and the other was outside, those within would let down a basket of money to their besiegers every day, and in return the besiegers would send up kosher animals for the regular sacrifices. But an old man among the besiegers argued that as long as those within were allowed to continue to perform sacrifices, they could not be defeated. So on the next day, when those inside sent down the basket of money, the besiegers sent up a pig. When the pig reached the center of the wall, it stuck its hooves into the wall, and an earthquake shook the entire Land of Israel. On that occasion, the Rabbis proclaimed a curse on those who bred pigs. (Babylonian Talmud Bava Kamma 82b.)

It was taught in the name of Rabbi Nehemiah that in obedience to Leviticus 6:2, the Israelites kept the fire burning in the altar for about 116 years, yet the wood of the altar did not burn, and the brass of the altar did not melt, even though it was taught in the name of Rabbi Hoshaiah that the metal was only as thick as a coin. (Leviticus Rabbah 7:5.)

Rabbi Levi read Leviticus 6:2 homiletically to mean: “This is the law regarding a person striving to be high: It is that it goes up on its burning-place.” Thus Rabbi Levi read the verse to teach that a person who behaves boastfully should be punished by fire. (Leviticus Rabbah 7:6.)

A midrash deduced the importance of peace from the way that the listing of the individual sacrifices in Leviticus 6–7 concludes with the peace offering. Leviticus 6:2–6 gives “the law of the burnt-offering,” Leviticus 6:7–11 gives “the law of the meal-offering,” Leviticus 6:18–23 gives “the law of the sin-offering,” Leviticus 7:1–7 gives “the law of the guilt-offering,” and Leviticus 7:11–21 gives “the law of the sacrifice of peace-offerings.” Similarly, the midrash found evidence for the importance of peace in the summary of Leviticus 7:37, which concludes with “the sacrifice of the peace-offering.” (Leviticus Rabbah 9:9.)


“The Adoration of the Golden Calf” (painting by Nicolas Poussin)

A Baraita interpreted the term “his fitted linen garment” (מִדּוֹ) in Leviticus 6:3 to teach that the each priestly garment in Exodus 28 had to be fitted to the particular priest, and had to be neither too short nor too long. (Babylonian Talmud Zevachim 35a.)

Tractate Menachot in the Mishnah, Tosefta, and Babylonian Talmud interpreted the law of meal offerings in Leviticus 6:7–16. (Mishnah Menachot 1:1–13:11; Tosefta Menachot 1:1–13:23; Babylonian Talmud Menachot 2a–110a.)

The Rabbis taught that through the word “this,” Aaron became degraded, as it is said in Exodus 32:22–24, “And Aaron said: ‘. . . I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf,’” and through the word “this,” Aaron was also elevated, as it is said in Leviticus 6:13,This is the offering of Aaron and of his sons, which they shall offer to the Lord on the day when he is anointed” to become High Priest. (Leviticus Rabbah 8:1.)

And noting the similarity of language between “This is the sacrifice of Aaron” in Leviticus 6:13 and “This is the sacrifice of Nahshon the son of Amminadab” and each of the other princes of the 12 tribes in Numbers 7:17–83, the Rabbis concluded that Aaron’s sacrifice was as beloved to God as the sacrifices of the princes of the 12 tribes. (Leviticus Rabbah 8:3.)

A midrash noted that the commandment of Leviticus 6:13 that Aaron offer sacrifices paralleled Samson’s riddle “out of the eater came forth food” (Judges 14:14), for Aaron was to eat the sacrifices, and by virtue of Leviticus 6:13, a sacrifice was to come from him. (Leviticus Rabbah 8:2.)

Leviticus chapter 7

A midrash read Psalm 50:23 to teach that the thanksgiving offerings of Leviticus 7:12 honored God more than sin offerings or guilt offerings. (Leviticus Rabbah 9:1.) Similarly, Rabbi Phinehas compared the thanksgiving offerings of Leviticus 7:12 to the case of a king whose tenants and intimates came to pay him honor. From his tenants and entourage, the king merely collected their tribute. But when another who was neither a tenant nor a member of the king’s entourage came to offer him homage, the king offered him a seat. Thus Rabbi Phinehas read Leviticus 7:12 homiletically to mean: “If it be for a thanks giving, He [God] will bring him [the offerer] near [to God].” (Leviticus Rabbah 9:4.)

In reading the requirement of Leviticus 7:12 for the loaves of the thanksgiving sacrifice, the Mishnah interpreted that if one made them for oneself, then they were exempt from the requirement to separate challah, but if one made them to sell in the market, then they were subject to the requirement to separate challah. (Mishnah Challah 1:6.)

Rabbi Aha compared the listing of Leviticus 7:37 to a ruler who entered a province escorting many bands of robbers as captives. Upon seeing the scene, one citizen expressed his fear of the ruler. A second citizen answered that as long as their conduct was good, they had no reason to fear. Similarly, when the Israelites heard the section of the Torah dealing with sacrifices, they became afraid. But Moses told them not to be afraid; if they occupied themselves with the Torah, they would have no reason to fear. (Leviticus Rabbah 9:8.)

A midrash asked why Leviticus 7:37 mentions peace-offerings last in its list of sacrifices, and suggested that it was because there are many kinds of peace-offerings. Rabbi Simon said that assorted desserts always come last, because they consist of many kinds of things. (Leviticus Rabbah 9:8.)

Noting that Leviticus 7:37–38 says that “This is the law . . . that the Lord commanded Moses in mount Sinai,” Rabbi Judah ben Bathyra counted Leviticus 7:38 among 13 limiting phrases recorded in the Torah to inform us that God spoke not to Aaron but to Moses with instruction that he should tell Aaron. Rabbi Judah ben Bathyra taught that these 13 limiting phrases correspond to and limit 13 Divine communications recorded in the Torah as having been made to both Moses and Aaron. (Numbers Rabbah 14:19.)

Leviticus chapter 8

Rabbi Jose noted that even though Exodus 27:18 reported that the Tabernacle’s courtyard was just 100 cubits by 50 cubits (about 150 feet by 75 feet), a little space held a lot, as Leviticus 8:3 implied that the space miraculously held the entire Israelite people. (Genesis Rabbah 5:7.)

The Tosefta deduced from the congregation’s placement in Leviticus 8:4 that in a synagogue, as well, the people face toward the sanctuary. (Tosefta Megillah 3:21.)


According Sefer ha-Chinuch, there are 9 positive and 9 negative commandments in the parshah:

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 064

Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem (painting by Rembrandt)

(Sefer HaHinnuch: The Book of [Mitzvah] Education. Translated by Charles Wengrov, 2:73–131. Jerusalem: Feldheim Pub., 1984. ISBN 0-87306-296-5.)


The haftarah for the parshah is Jeremiah 7:21–8:3 & 9:22–23. Both the parshah and the haftarah refer to the burnt offering (‘olah) and sacrifice (zevach). (Leviticus 6:1–6; 7:11–18; Jeremiah 7:21.) In the haftarah, Jeremiah spoke of the priority of obedience to God’s law over ritual sacrifice alone. (Jeremiah 7:22–23.)

On Shabbat HaGadol

When the parshah coincides with Shabbat HaGadol (the special Sabbath immediately before Passover — as it does in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2017), the haftarah is Malachi 3:4–24. Shabbat HaGadol means “the Great Sabbath,” and the haftarah for the special Sabbath refers to a great day that God is preparing. (Malachi 3:17–19.)

File:Gustave dore morte Agag.jpg

On Shabbat Zachor

When the parshah coincides with Shabbat Zachor (the special Sabbath immediately preceding Purim — as it does in 2011 and 2014), the haftarah is:

On Shabbat Zachor, the Sabbath just before Purim, Jews read Deuteronomy 25:17–19, which instructs Jews: “Remember (zachor) what Amalek did” in attacking the Israelites. (Deuteronomy 25:17.) The haftarah for Shabbat Zachor, 1Samuel 15:2–34 or 1–34, describes Saul’s encounter with Amalek and Saul’s and Samuel’s tretament of the Amalekite king Agag. Purim, in turn, commemorates the story of Esther and the Jewish people’s victory over Haman’s plan to kill the Jews, told in the Book of Esther. (Esther 1:1–10:3.) Esther 3:1 identifies Haman as an Agagite, and thus a descendant of Amalek. Numbers 24:7 identifies the Agagites with the Amalekites. Alternatively, a Midrash tells the story that between King Agag’s capture by Saul and his killing by Samuel, Agag fathered a child, from whom Haman in turn descended. (Seder Eliyahu Rabbah ch. 20; Targum Sheni to Esther 4:13.)

In the liturgy

The role of Moses as a priest in Leviticus 8:14–30 is reflected in Psalm 99:6, which is in turn one of the six Psalms recited at the beginning of the Kabbalat Shabbat prayer service. (Reuven Hammer. Or Hadash: A Commentary on Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals, 19. New York: The Rabbinical Assembly, 2003. ISBN 0-916219-20-8.)

Further reading

The parshah has parallels or is discussed in these sources:




Early nonrabbinic



Classical rabbinic

  • Mishnah: Challah 1:6; Orlah 2:16–17; Bikkurim 2:7–10; Shekalim 1:4, 7:6; Zevachim 1:1–14:10; Menachot 1:1–13:11; Chullin 7:1, 10:1; Keritot 1:1. Land of Israel, circa 200 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 149, 164, 171, 252, 263, 699–765, 779, 784, 836. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-300-05022-4.
  • Tosefta: Demai 2:7-8; Challah 2:7-8; Pisha (Pesachim) 8:9; Megillah 3:21; Sotah 13:7; Bava Kamma 10:13; Shevuot 2:10; 3:1, 6; Zevachim 1:1–13:20; Menachot 1:1–13:23; Oktzin 3:3. Land of Israel, circa 300 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., The Tosefta: Translated from the Hebrew, with a New Introduction. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 1:85-86, 339, 511, 650, 886; 2:1012, 1227, 1229, 1231, 1307-70, 1407-68, 1925. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Pub., 2002. ISBN 1-56563-642-2.
  • Sifra 70:1–98:9. Land of Israel, 4th Century C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., Sifra: An Analytical Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 2:1–119. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988. ISBN 1-55540-206-2.
  • Jerusalem Talmud: Bikkurim 12b, 25a; Sukkah 14a. Land of Israel, circa 400 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Yerushalmi. Edited by Chaim Malinowitz, Yisroel Simcha Schorr, and Mordechai Marcus, vols. 12, 22. Brooklyn: Mesorah Pubs., 2007–2009.
  • Leviticus Rabbah 7:1–10:9. Land of Israel, 5th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Leviticus. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, 4:89–134. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
First page of the first tractate of the Talmud (Daf Beis of Maseches Brachos)


  • Babylonian Talmud: Shabbat 111a, 114a, 132a; Pesachim 3a, 16a–b, 19a, 23a–24b, 26a, 27b, 35a, 37a, 38b, 43b, 45a, 58a–59b, 63b, 65b, 71b, 79a, 82a–83a, 95b–96a; Yoma 2a–b, 4a, 5a–b, 7a, 12b, 20a, 21a, 23b–24a, 25a, 28a, 33a–34a, 45a–b, 46b–47a, 59b–60a, 74a–b; Sukkah 43a, 47b, 55b–56a; Beitzah 19b, 21a; Rosh Hashanah 5b–6a; Taanit 11b; Megillah 9b, 20b, 23b; Moed Katan 9a, 15b; Chagigah 7b, 10b, 24a, 26b; Yevamot 7a, 39b–40a, 68b, 72b, 74b, 81a, 82a, 87a, 100a; Ketubot 5b, 25a, 106b; Nedarim 10b, 12a–b, 25a, 36a; Nazir 37b–38a; Sotah 14b–15a, 19a, 23a–b, 29a–b; Kiddushin 30a, 36b, 51a, 53a, 55b; Bava Kamma 5a, 13a, 41a, 82b, 110b, 111a; Bava Metzia 3b, 55a; Bava Batra 106b; Sanhedrin 34a, 42b, 61b; Makkot 13a, 14b, 17a–b, 18b; Shevuot 6b–7a, 11a, 15a–b, 29a, 38a; Avodah Zarah 34a–b, 76a; Horayot 3a, 9a, 11b–12a; Zevachim 2a–120b; Menachot 2a–110a; Chullin 22a, 23b, 36b–37a, 39a, 45a, 74b–75a, 81b, 99a, 101a, 117a–b, 120a, 130a, 131b, 132b–33b, 134b; Bekhorot 15a, 30b, 33b, 39a; Arakhin 3b–4a; Temurah 14a, 18a–b, 23a, 32b; Keritot 2a, 4a–b, 5a–6a, 20b–21b, 22b, 23b, 27a; Meilah 2a, 5a–6b, 9a, 10a, 11b–12a; Tamid 28a–29a, 30a; Niddah 6b, 40a–41a. Babylonia, 6th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Bavli. Edited by Yisroel Simcha Schorr, Chaim Malinowitz, and Mordechai Marcus, 72 vols. Brooklyn: Mesorah Pubs., 2006.
Rashi woodcut



  • Rashi. Commentary. Leviticus 6–8. Troyes, France, late 11th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Rashi. The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary Translated, Annotated, and Elucidated. Translated and annotated by Yisrael Isser Zvi Herczeg, 3:59–92. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1994. ISBN 0-89906-028-5.
  • Judah Halevi. Kuzari. 2:80. Toledo, Spain, 1130–1140. Reprinted in, e.g., Jehuda Halevi. Kuzari: An Argument for the Faith of Israel. Intro. by Henry Slonimsky, 133. New York: Schocken, 1964. ISBN 0-8052-0075-4.
  • Zohar 2:236b, 238b; 3:27a–35b, 37a, 87a, 107b, 213a. Spain, late 13th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., The Zohar. Translated by Harry Sperling and Maurice Simon. 5 vols. London: Soncino Press, 1934.
Thomas Hobbes (portrait)



External links

yi:פרשת צו

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