This week’s Parsha is Parshas Tzav. The Parsha begins with Hashem telling Moses Tzav – Command Aaron and his sons regarding the Olah Sacrifice – the Sacrifice that was fully burnt. Why is the word Tzav used for this commandment? It is not the usual term that is given for us to relay the instructions or mitzvohs?
Our Sages teach us that Tzav is the word used to give extra encouragement to someone in doing a mitzvah when there is a financial loss involved. Here, the Olah sacrifice had no part that was eaten by the priest. It was entirely burnt. Therefore, Hashem wanted to give extra encouragement to Aaron and his sons regarding this sacrifice.
When we talk about buying tefillin or a mezuzah, we are talking about the need to spend money to buy a kosher pair of tefillin, or a mezuzah. Kosher food costs more than non-kosher food. There we are dealing with a real financial loss, and it is understood that a person needs encouragement to spend the money and to do the mitzvah. When we deal with the olah sacrifice, we are dealing with a whole different level. There is no financial loss to the Priest offering the sacrifice. He is not paying for it. Why do the Sages say that this needs encouragement?
The commentaries point out that this in There are two types of mitzvohs: There are those that we have physical pleasure while we do them: For example, eating matzah, enjoying Shabbos, ... These mitzvohs don’t need extra encouragement to do them. The physical pleasure that we have when we do them alone is our encouragement.
On the other hand there are mitzvohs that have no physical pleasure to them. They are done simply because they are a mitzvah. For example, putting on Teffillin, putting up a mezuzah, keeping kosher,… Here one needs encouragement to do the mitzvah properly. The Sages are pointing out a simple fact in human nature we do something our first question to ourselves often is, “what’s in it for me? What will I gain out of this?” The Torah is offering encouragement and instruction to do the olah sacrifice, when there is nothing in it for me. The lesson is clear: We must do a mitzvah because it’s the right thing to do, not because we will have any gain from it. Whether we will make money, have physical pleasure, or have no benefit, whatsoever, the mitzvohs must be performed properly, in the right time, and right way. Even if we are not the priest, the lesson of the olah offering applies to all of us.