Kenneth Cohen

The role of the Kohein

Parshat Tzav focuses on the sacrifices that were offered by the Kohanim as part of their Temple service.

It is no coincidence that the word Tzav (צו) is explained as a word of alacrity. The Kohanim are called “זריזים,” which means that their very nature is one where they act with great enthusiasm.

It is their task to wake up the people from their tendency towards laziness. The Book of Mishlei, Proverbs, has a verse that says, “Laziness causes one to fall into a deep slumber.”

The Kohanim were generally not very wealthy, as they were not given a portion of land in Eretz Yisrael. The Keli Yakar said that poor people tend to be much more spiritual than the wealthy. Because of their poverty, they are always crying out to G-d.

Aside from their Temple service assignment, the Kohanim were expected to be involved with the nation. They would bless the people every day, and they would try to lift their spirits.

The rabbis said that the real test to see if one possessed this characteristic of Zerizut, or alacrity, is the way that he performed the mitzvot that involved loss of money.

People have a tendency to be insecure about their finances. If, despite this insecurity, one does mitzvot such as giving charity, or spending extra to welcome guests, it is a sign that he loves fulfilling the Torah. He is not concerned at all about loss of money but sees the gain of fulfilling a commandment.

Parshat Tzav is meant to create an awareness of the dangers of laziness and complacency. One must never lose his enthusiasm and excitement in performing mitzvot and serving Hashem.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at