The Tzitz

Zevachim (8:12) | Yehuda Gottlieb | 14 years ago

The last Mishnah in the eighth perek of Zevachim mentions the unique qualities of the tzitz (‘crown’ of the Kohen Gadol):

The tzitz affects acceptance for the tamei, but does not affect acceptance for that which has been taken out of the courtyard (or any other invalidation)

To explain, the Torah states (Shmot 28:38) concerning the tzitz: “It shall be on Aharon’s forehead – so that Aharon shall bear a sin of the sacred offerings”. The Gemara in Zevachim (23a-b) and Pesachim (16b) interpret this to mean that although it is forbidden to do the Avodah of a private offering whose blood or whose meat and sacrificial parts became tamei. If the blood or the meat and sacrificial parts of an offering became tamei and the avodah was nevertheless performed, the tzitz has the ability to ‘lift’ the sin of tumah and renders the offering acceptable. The Mishnah here teaches that the tzitz has no effect on any invalidation except for tumah.

Interestingly, the Rashbam writes that according to its simple meaning, the above pasuk is not referring to an offering which became tamei. The Rashbam holds that this pasuk applies to all korbanot, whether they are an Olah or Chatat or Asham. He maintains that the function of the tzitz is to partner with the korban in order to affect atonement for the individual bringing the offering. It is the tzitz that facilitates the korban’s acceptance by making it a ‘remembrance’ before Hashem and therefore, allows acceptance.

Whichever way the pasuk is interpreted, it is clear that the tzitz is a powerful and crucial component of the Avodah. What is it about the tzitz specifically that accounts for its importance?

Rabbi Michael Rosensweig suggests that the significance of the tzitz is specifically because of its simplicity. The tzitz is inscribed with a simple phrase – “Kodesh L’Hashem”. In dealing with the korbanot it is very possible to be absorbed on the minutiae of the halachot and complex details that go into bringing a korban. A person buried in this detail, may lose his focus of the basic truth and purpose of the korban – to sanctify G-d’s name. The Ramchal in his introduction to Mesilat Yesharim states that it is often the most basic truths that we ignore and abuse, precisely because we presume their ‘self evidence’. Therefore, when it comes to the Avodah and its importance in serving Hashem, the Torah does not allow the self evident to go unnoticed. Rather, there is a specific ornament, a crown that must constantly be placed on the forehead of the Kohen Gadol to remind us that even while bringing a korban. We must not lose focus of what we are bringing it for, and that ultimately, we should be doing the avodah ‘L’Hashem’ - to sanctify Hashem’s name.

This idea can be extended further to explain how the tzitz has the ability to affect acceptance for those korbanot which have been declared tamei. It is precisely because of its simplicity that it provides the flexibility to counteract the potential obstacle of tumah. As long as the ideal – the Kodesh L’Hashem - has not been breached, the korban in this case will still be accepted. Thus, the simple yet powerful theme of Kodesh L’Hashem facilitates the bringing of korbanot that are tamei.

This is also the reason why the tzitz does not affect acceptance for korbanot that have been affected with the p’sulim of pigul, notar and yotzei. These transgressions always reflect improper input or initiative, ulterior motivations and disrespect for the overall theme of Kadosh L’Hashem. When one causes one of these p’sulim to affect a korban, he is showing that he is not interested in the overall idea of bringing a korban for the sake of Heaven. His transgressions are an indication that he has no respect for the overall Divine will. Therefore, the tzitz which is the representation of this ideal can have no remedy for such a situation.


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