This week’s Torah portion, Parshat Tzav, continues with the instructions for the various different sacrifices that would be brought in the Mishkan. And, though, the discussions about the Sacrifices might seem irrelevant to our modern-day lives, there are, in fact, many lessons to be learned from these Torah portions is we delve just a little bit beneath the surface.
All the Sacrifices that we are reading about, essentially fit into one of three categories. The first category is the Sin-offering, brought for a specific transgression one might have committed (this includes both the categories known as the Chatas as well as the Asham). The second is the Elevation offering, known as theOlah, which is brought both as part of the daily service in the Mishkan as well as voluntarily. This Sacrifice atones for a missed opportunity to perform a positive commandment as well as impure thoughts that a person is having. The third category is referred to as the Peace-offering, the Shelamim, which does not atone for anything, rather it is brought as a symbol of appreciation to Hashem.
When we take a close look at the instructions for how to bring these sacrifices, it becomes evident that the Torah is informing us of an important tool for self-improvement. When informing us of the location on the Altar where the Olah Elevation-Offering is brought, the Torah says “Slaughter it at the side of the Altar, to the North”. However, when letting us know the location to bring the Chatas Sin-Offering, the Torah says “in the place where you slaughter the Olah, you shall slaughter the Chatas”. And the question arises, why link the Chatas to the Olah? Why not just tell us the location? And what might this have to do with us?
The relationship between the Chatas and the Olah teaches us about the relationship between our actions and our thoughts. It is human nature to focus heavily on action and performance, and to somewhat overlook our thinking patterns. When we plan our day, we plan on what we have to do. When we reflect on the day, we think about what we did. When we try to improve, we focus on what we can do better.
What we often forget is that just as important as whether our actions are positive or negative, is whether our mode of thinking is positive or negative. In fact, masters of Jewish self-improvement teach us that real character development is actually more about how we think and feel. If we carry inside of our us angry thoughts, bitter thoughts, sad thoughts, or any other kind of negativity, those thoughts can consume us, zap us of our energy and happiness and ultimately spillover to how we live our lives.
We are supposed to begin our day making sure that we are in the right state of mind to live up to our potential for that day. At the end of the day, we need to think back as to what kind of negative voices we might have picked up over the day. And when we focus on improving, we need to think about what are the thoughts inside our head that are holding us back from living life to the fullest.
With this we can understand why the Torah links the Sin-offering to the Elevation offering. The Torah is telling you that a person who is not working on elevating his thoughts and learning how to think positively, will ultimately find himself faulting in his actions as well. But a person who learns to think positively, will see an automatic difference in his behavior as well.