Tzav: Don’t Embarrass Me

Protecting Unintentional Sinners

In Torah portion, Tzav, God tells Moses to command Aaron and his sons – the priestly caste – to offer various types of animal sacrifices in the Tabernacle and Temple. The most common kind of sacrifice is the burnt offering, which expresses a desire to submit to God’s will and come close to Him. Another type of sacrifice is the sin offering, to atone for and purge an unintentional sin caused by carelessness. The burnt offering is burnt entirely on the altar but the sin offering is not.

Although the burnt offering and the sin offering are brought for different reasons and serve different purposes, they are slaughtered in the same place. Our Sages explain that this is to protect one who brings a sin offering from embarrassment as it won’t be apparent to onlookers which type he is bringing. 

In Judaism, embarrassing somebody in public is a grave sin comparable to murder. The Sages of the Talmud teach that it would be better for a person to allow himself to be tossed into a furnace than to willingly embarrass another. Hillel famously summed up the Torah in one line: Do not do unto others what is hateful to you. Public humiliation is hateful to all of us, so let’s avoid doing it to others. And if you (God forbid) are shamed in front of others, keeping quiet rather than striking back is considered an exceptionally righteous act that will be rewarded!

Dedicated by Olga Balderama

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