The Korban Tamid and consistent spiritual growth: Thoughts on Parshat Tetzaveh 5774

This week’s Torah portion continues its technical description of the Mishkan, and relates the commandment of the Korban Tamid, the daily offering. The verses write, “And this is what you shall offer upon the altar: lambs in their first year, two a day, continually…”(Shemot 29:38). The Abrarbanel, a classic 15th Century Biblical commentator, points out that the placement of this verse in our Torah portion is something of an anomaly. The seemingly appropriate place to discuss the Korban Tamid would be in the beginning of the book of Vayikra or in the Torah portion of Pinchas in Bamidmar—where the text discusses the various sacrificial system as a whole. Why, then, is the Korban Tamid mentioned here in Parshat Tetzaveh and what is the message that we can learn from its placement within this specific Torah portion?

Rabbi Aaron Lichtenstein, the Dean of Yeshivat Har Etzion, offers a beautiful insight which not only sheds light unto the Biblical text but also teaches us a profound and meaningful lesson of the importance of consistent spiritual growth and Divine service in our daily lives. He writes, “From the fact that the Korban Tamid is mentioned in our Torah portion which otherwise deals exclusively with the building of the Mishkan, is telling us that the Tamid is not just another part of the regular functioning of the Mishkan, but rather it is an integral part of the building of the Mishkan itself. Like all the other details of the construction, the Tamid is mentioned here because it is as much a part of the Mishkan’s structure as the beams of wood and the roof.”(The Daily Sacrifice – “A Great Principle of the Torah”1997) The placement of the commandment of the Korban Tamid here in Parshat Tetzaveh is signifying that the daily offering was not simply a service, but was first and foremost a natural and defining part of the structure of the Mishkan itself. That is the reason, explains Rav Lichtenstein, why the Korban Tamid is specifically mentioned here during the dedication of the Mishkan.

Though the textual difficulty has been resolved, a new question arises: what is it about the Korban Tamid that is so important? Why is it considered to be an integral part of the Mishkan? Surely there is more to the service of the daily offering than meets the eye.

Rav Lichtenstein explains that it is the underlying message of the Korban Tamid that makes it so fundamental to the structure of the Mishkan. The concept of the Korban Tamid is in fact integral for long-lasting and continued spiritual growth. “Other religions and belief systems focus almost entirely on spiritual peaks – on those exceptional bursts of up-liftment, enlightenment and elevation, on the once-a-year celebration. We too have our celebrations, our pinnacles and peaks, but these are not the essence of our spiritual growth. Judaism focuses particularly on the everyday, the common, regular, mundane activities which comprise the bulk of our lives…From the very beginning of the Tabernacle’s function and every day thereafter, a new foundation is laid – a foundation consisting of the most regular, the most plain, daily sacrifice. In order to build any building, to create any framework, one needs to focus not on the one-time opening ceremony, but rather on the daily routine, the ordinary, gray unnoticed things which form the framework’s basis. It is these things which define the context and matrix in which all actions, all thoughts and all other development take place.” (The Daily Sacrifice – “A Great Principle of the Torah”1997) And herein lies the essential and integral message that the Torah is relating to the Jewish people in this week’s portion: though the construction and the dedication of the Mishkan was a uniquely awesome spiritual event, we must take care not to be all consumed by the experience. Rather, it is incumbent upon us make that inspiration last and bring it into the world of the day-to-day, as illustrated by the daily offering of the Korban Tamid. The Korban Tamid therefore is an important an integral part of the Mishkan because without taking its message to heart of daily service the inspiration of the spiritual peaks would end, as quickly as they began. There is no greater proof of this principle then the Sin of the Golden Calf, which occurred as the Jewish people remained encamped at the foot of Mount Sinai where they had just received the Torah.

The Torah offers us not only the message, but also the method by which to facilitate the process of perpetuating inspiration and continuing service in our daily lives. The Torah is a book of inspiration, while at the same time it is also a book of practical law. The 613 Commandments and their accompanied Rabbinical commentary form the basis for the Halachik system as we know it today, which acts as the foundation on which true and lasting spiritual growth is built.

Rabbi Chaim Navon, in a lecture “Philosophy of Halacha,” elucidates on the necessity for a daily regiment, similar to the Korban Tamid, to bring about a true and lasting service of God. He explains that though intimate feelings and flashes of inspiration are important factors when approaching Divine service, if not channeled correctly, they can lead to a very dangerous pitfall. He writes, “Feelings by themselves are incapable of molding a personality that will remain constant in its devotion to the service of God for an extended period of time. Love of God, the desire to draw near to Him… all these are conditioned upon a mental state and dependent upon time, atmosphere, and individual personality…The longing for God, which moves the God-loving person and stirs his soul, is certainly very impressive and has great intensity. Unfortunately, however, it is all too often fleeting, leaving no mark…That which spontaneous feeling and excitement are incapable of doing, fixed law can accomplish. Only fixed laws, packed with details, solid and binding, can dictate the desired path of conduct for an extended period of time.” Today we no longer have a Mishkan or the Korban Tamid service, however the Halachik system continues in the path of the Korban Tamid and has created the opportunity for the Jewish people to reach spiritual growth and contentment, not only during the elevated spiritual peaks but also during the more common and everyday experiences of life.

On this idea of the importance of Halacha, Rav Chaim Navon quotes the famous Jewish poet Chayyim Nachman Bialik, who wrote of the relationship between Halakha (the Law) and Aggada (the Non-Legalistic Literature):

“A kind of voluntary Judaism is being created. People call out in the name of nationalism, rebirth, literature, art, Hebrew education, Hebrew thought, Hebrew labor. All these things hang by the hair of some love: love of the land, love of the language, love of literature. What is the price of airy love?

Love [chibba]? – But where is the obligation [chova]? Where does it come from? Upon what does it draw? From the Aggada? By its very nature, Aggada relates to the optional; it is weak in saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’…

Aspiration of the heart, good will, excitement of the spirit, internal love – all these are good and beneficial when they lead to action, action that is hard as iron, cruel obligation …

Come give us mitzvot!” (“Halakha Ve-aggada”)

May we merit the strength and fortitude to appreciate both the beauty of the Mishkan and the Korban Tamid — the immeasurable spiritual peaks and the day-to-day experience of Divine service. In that way, we will truly be able to bring continuous spiritual growth into our lives.

About the Author
The Author is a Jerusalem based Rabbi and Jewish Educator. He is a Lieutenant in the IDF reserves where he serves as a battalion Rabbi, and is the author of the book "A People, A Country, A Heritage-Torah Inspiration from the Land of Israel."
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