Tetzaveh: The Centrality of Consistency

Ayelet Persey

At the end of the section of the Parasha that talks about the preparation of the Mishkan, the Torah mentions the Korban Tamid as a sacrifice that is given twice every day. Rav Meir Spiegelman points out that this commandment is out of context, as it applies to the everyday goings on in the Mishkan rather than its building and sanctification; moreover, the Korban is also described in Bamidbar as “a continual burnt offering that was brought at Har Sinai”, so does not need to be repeated here. In Bamidmar, Rashi suggests that this mention of ‘Har Sinai’ refers to the giving of the Korban Tamid as part of the dedication process of the Mishkan. This implies that it is a mitzvah that only applies at that time and is not noheg ldorot, as Rambam notes that mitzvot that are limited to a specific time period should not be included in the list of the 613 mitzvot. It is only in Bamidbar that Bnei Yisrael were commanded to bring a Korban Tamid l’dorot.

However, Ramban points out that in Tetzaveh, it says “a constant burnt offering for generations”, i.e. not just for the dedication as Rashi had suggested. Rashi can be defended using his own words in Devarim, saying “On this day, Hashem commanded’ – on every day you should consider them as new, as if on that day they you were commanded” (Devarim 26:16). Even the Korban Tamid, which by its very name implies routine, is not just a representation of consistency but is also a constant reminder of the miracle of Har Sinai and of the constant miracle of God dwelling among us.

The importance of this message is emphasised by the Midrash quoted by the Ein Yaakov, discussing the most central pasuk in the Torah:

Ben Zoma said: We found a pasuk which is all inclusive, “Shema Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Ekhad.” (Devarim 6:4). Ben Nannas said: We found a pasuk which is all inclusive, “v’Ahavta l’Reakha k’Mokha.” (Vayikra 19:18). Ben Pazai said: We found a pasuk which is all inclusive: “And the first sheep you shall offer in the morning . . . , referring to the Korban Tamid.

The Maharal explains why the third pasuk, describing the Korban Tamid, could be considered by anyone more important than the  ‘Avodat Hashem’ aspect of Judaism (Ben Zoma’s opinion), and the ‘Moral Code’ aspect of Judaism (Ben Nannas’ opinion). He explains in his Netivot Olam, that consistency and routine are the most essential aspects of both religion and a fulfilling life. In Judaism, we can clearly see the focus on consistency and routine, with prayers three times a day, and rituals and customs to keep us on the straight and narrow. Jewish life is not about spontaneity and change, but tradition. In the words of Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof, “Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years… and because of our traditions… Every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do.”

It is not difficult to transfer these ideas to everyday life. Despite the increase in modern Western values where the focus is on change, individualism and #yolo, Judaism carries with it the value of the emphasis it places on routine. Routine can be a source of comfort and serenity; a way of finding a purpose in life and carrying it through. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” We are all at a stage of creating habits, and of taking comfort in the routines that will begin to shape our lives – both within our Judaism and in our everyday existence.

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