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Judaism: Paradigm of Jewish Constancy

The fires in the Tabernacle teach us about maintaining a consistency between enthusiasm and constancy.
Published: Friday, March 14, 2014 2:00 PM


In our Torah reading the Parsha, Tzav is Moshe’s command from Hashem to Aaron HaKohen and his sons to take up and clothe themselves in their Vestments, their garments of service in the Mishkan, and to begin their daily Avodah (service and offerings in the Mishkan).

For seven days, Moshe taught Aaron HaKohen and his sons the laws of their Avodah in the Mishkan. (You might say that they were given, as one could term it in the US, OJT from Shemayim.) On the eighth day, Aaron and his sons began their Avodah.

We are taught in our Parsha about the two flames which burn continuously; the flickering light of the Menorah and the powerful flame of the Mizbeiyach (the altar where the various offerings to Hashem were brought). These two flames which burned constantly teach us that a balance must exist between strength and power and modesty and humility. These fires teach us about maintaining a consistency between enthusiasm and constancy. (L’lmod Ul’Lamed, Rabbi Mordechai Katz, Parsha Tzav, page 103-104) 

Rabbi Pliskin writes in the Sefer “Growth Through Torah” on our Parsha that one should “view each new day as the first day of your life.” (Growth Through Torah, page 242-243) We later learn that Aaron HaKohen approached his daily avodah over his entire lifetime with a level of enthusiasm as if it were his first day of service in the Mishkan.

In illustrating the point of "...each new day as the first day...", R' Pliskin cites a commentary of R' Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, z'l on Vayikra (Perek 6, posuk 4):

"...Carry forth the ashes out of the camp..."

Every trace of yesterday's sacrifice is to be removed from the hearth of the Altar, so that the service of the new day can be started on completely fresh ground.  Given these considerations, we can understand the law which prescribes the wearing of worn-out garments when one is occupied with the achievements of the previous day.   The past is not to be forgotten.  But it is to be retired to the background, and is not to invest us with pride before the fresh task to which each day calls us.  

Rebbetzin Shira Smiles, in her book "Torah Tapestries," (Sefer Vayikra, page 23-24, 28, 38) cites a Sefas Emes (page 25) which quotes Rashi in contrasting these two flames:

He [The  Sefas Emes]  interprets... Rashi as alluding to two different kinds of fire: a fire that provides light and a fire that burns. From here, one can suggest that the aish tamid represents two kinds of fire within us. On one hand, we have an aish me’irah - an enlightening fire that is the light of knowledge. This fire is fueled by the intellect. The second fire is one that generates heat and energy and is fueled by emotions; aish sorefes – burning – is the fire of passion and enthusiasm..... This dual symbolism... the aish tamid... find[s] relevant lessons for our lives.

Let us explore the connection between the aish tamid, eternal flame and the burnt offering, korban olah. A korban olah was burned completely; nothing remained for a person to consume, unlike other kinds of korbanos, which were at least partially eaten. One of the transgressions that necessitated a korban olah was sinful thoughts. (Midrash Says, page 61)  If a person realized that his mind was occupied with thoughts of forbidden matters, he could mitigate this problem by bringing a korban olah, an offering that is given over completely to Hashem.

The aish tamid within our minds needs to be constantly attached to Torah to prevent forbidden thoughts. But does this answer imply that we are held accountable for our sinful thoughts simply because we weren’t engaged in enough Torah study?

...The aish tamid is discussed in context with the korban olah: the korban was offered as a tikkun (corrective measure) by a person who wished to purify his thoughts, i.e. his intellectual aspect. We also understand why the chatas seems to be secondary to the korban olah. A korban chatas comes to correct sinful actions, which are of secondary importance as compared to our sinful thoughts, for which a korban olah should be brought.

We have seen how our aish tamid – our fire for Hashem – must be in our minds and in our hearts. The intellect and the emotions compliment each other. The fire of the mind is one of discipline and training. While this steadfast quality is valuable for establishing healthy thinking habits, any repetition can become rote and dry.  The fire of emotions within us binds us in a deeper relationship with Hashem.

However, flames have different levels of intensity and at times they can burn irrationally and out of control. Held in balance, together, these two fires combine into central qualities necessary to help us grow closer to Hashem.

With these understandings of the significances of the two flames, R' Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, z'l in the new Hirsch Chumash (published by Feldheim in 2005 and translated to English by Rabbi Daniel Haberman) comments on Parsha Tzav's second posuk in which Moshe commands Aaron and his sons regarding their service in the Mishkan (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 6, posuk 2, page 194):

...Hashem has granted man a share of the infinite outpouring of His Intellect, a share of His holy free Will, a share of His creative Power which dominates the world.  Thus Hashem has raised man beyond the bounds of the physical world, set him upright, and made him master over the world -- in order that he serve Hashem in it.  In the very carrying out of a day's work, man fulfills the Will of Hashem.

In the heathen perception, the day is a struggle of mortals against the power of the gods.  To the Jew, day means serving Hashem, and through his work, he brings Hashem satisfaction.

Physical nature is not an intermediary between the Jews and Hashem.  For the man of Israel stands above physical nature; he stands directly before Hashem.

But many among our Jewish brethren have let their guard down, have eased off into complacency, or have turned totally away from their Jewishness.  Many of our brethren deny Hashem’s control of the world and/or seek to tailor Torah and their Jewishness to fit the ways of the nations; to assimilate, to melt rather than accepting Hashem’s reishut (command) over the world. There are those of our brethren who live by a huge misconception, who think that tailor-fitting their Jewishness to fit in with the nations, that assimilation — melting, that accepting Superpower dictates rather than Divine law, will somehow endear and ingratiate them to the non-Jew, to the Gentile nations. 

And of those who have clung to Jewish faith and traditions, many seem to have sunk into a complacency of rote, of habit, of expediency and who seem to have lost touch with the deeper meanings and intent of Halachot, of their prayers, their service, their chesed and traditions.

So, rather than the "tailored" Jew ingratiating himself, and those like him, to the Gentile, the Gentile nations instead view us with contempt, as hypocrites, as lacking principles when Jews and Jewish Israeli political leaders are repeatedly seen openly desecrating Shabbos, openly eating trief (non-kosher food), etc.  R' Hirsch gives particular meaning to this point when he wrote in the sixth of his "Nineteen Letters" (as 
translated and with commentary on each of the letters by Rabbi Joseph Elias, pages 106-107):

...This people [the Jews] came to constitute the cornerstone on which humanity could be reconstructed.  Recognition of Hashem and of man's calling found a refuge in this nation and would be taught to all through its fate and its way of life, which were to serve as a manifest example, a warning, an education.

For the sake of this mission, however, Yisrael could not join in the doings of the rest of the nations....  It has to remain separate until the day on which all mankind will have absorbed the lessons of its [Yisrael's] experiences and the example of of this nation, and will united turn toward Hashem.  Joining with Yisrael at that time, mankind will then acknowledge Hashem as the sole basis for its existence, and "as 
Hashem is one, the recognition of his name will be one."

Hmmm, doesn't this last phrase of the above citing, "as Hashem is one, the recognition of his name will be one", sound very much like a phrase from Aleinu (It is Our Duty) which most of the K'hal blows off in it's rush to say kaddish and its collective mad dash out of Shul after each davening???

For those Jews who say Dayenu: enough -- this will suffice -- regarding their Jewishness, it’s an imperative to revisit the lessons of the Mitzri memory (or lack thereof) of Yosef, as well as the dialogue between Haman Y’machsh’mo and Achashveirosh — Haman’s top 10 reasons for seeking the annihilation of the Jews as found in gemura Megillat Esther Daf Yud Gimmel (page13), amud (side) Bet, and the contemporary Nuremberg Laws of Nazi Germany. Neither Pharaoh, Haman nor Hitler Y’machsh’mom, made any distinction among kinds of Jews or between the Religious or Secular Jew.  Perhaps, only blatant anti-semitism, harrassment or persecution are sufficient impetus to awaken the pintele yid from Jewish lethargy and indifference.

There is a message here to be taken from Purim, and on to Pesach, into the Seder; A Jew is a Jew is a Jew, period. You might change your name, compromise your principles, morals and integrity, try to adopt some other religion, intermarry or have a liberal or leftist outlook toward those seeking your destruction. But, in the end, you can’t run and you can’t hide from from the fact that YOU are a Jew. So we, in our generations -- from Israeli political leadership down to the masses, might as well start being, internalizing and acting Jewish? 

And so, while we’re at it, we in the religious sectors ought to draw lessons from, and emulate Aaron HaKohen’s consistent lifetime level of enthusiasm for and diligence with his service as Kohen Godol. We should apply the lessons derived from Aaron HaKohen to our own indvidual tefillot, i.e. reversing the often shotgun-like six minute by-rote Shemonah Esrei and speed-of-light sub-one minute Aleinu, as well as renewing our enthusiasm for our Avodah as Jews and for our Mitzvot.  Laxity, rushed expedience in tefillot and Mitzvot are the mark of rote, mere habit, complacency and ultimately, insensitivity.  No less than Rabbi Reichman of Yeshiva University discussed the need for Teshuvah regarding prayers, tefillot, in a video shiur designed to be viewed during the ten days of Repentance.


May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. 

May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication.