The Daily Offering

  • Harav Aharon Lichtenstein

Sicha for Shabbat from the Roshei Yeshiva
Yeshivat Har Etzion




The Daily Offering

Summarized by Dov Karoll


"'Love your fellow as yourself,' R. Akiva says: This is the guiding principle of the Torah" (Sifra Vayikra 19:18). The Midrash quotes another opinion: "'This is the record of the genealogy of Man, when God created him' (Bereishit 5:1) — this is an even greater principle." The Maharal's version of the midrash presents yet a third opinion: the ultimate guiding principle is "Et ha-keves echad ta'aseh va-boker, ve-et ha-keves ha-sheni ta'aseh bein ha-arbayim" - "You shall offer the one lamb in the morning and the other in the afternoon" (Shemot 29:39 and Bamidbar 28:4).

What about the korban tamid (daily sacrifice) makes it THE guiding principle? The answer lies in the dual purpose of the korban tamid. The Torah relates the laws of the korban tamid once in Parashat Tetzaveh, as part of its account of the blueprint of the Mishkan (tabernacle) and its vessels, the mitzvot of its initiation and upkeep. It then repeats the very same laws, almost verbatim, in Parashat Pinchas, in the context of listing the other korbanot, specifically the various korbanot ha-mussafin (supplementary sacrifices on Shabbat and holidays). This repetition is no mistake. The Torah portrays two distinct roles the tamid plays.

Throughout Parashat Tetzaveh, we find reference to specific parts of the avoda (service) in the Mishkan which are important not only in and of themselves but also as part of the very fabric of the Mishkan, facilitating its continued status a dwelling for the Shekhina (divine presence). Parashat Teruma tells us mainly of the building of the physical Mishkan - the walls, the curtains, etc. Parashat Tetzaveh adds what is, so to speak, the functional framework of the Mishkan, without which it would cease to be a home for the Shekhina. (Of course, everything we say here regarding the Mishkan - the temporary tabernacle - applies to the Mikdash - the permanent temple - as well.)

The opening pesukim of the parasha speak of the upkeep of a "ner tamid," a perpetually kindled lamp. The gemara (Menachot 98b) describes how the western candle of the menora miraculously stayed lit twenty four hours a day, and from it the kohen would light the other candles. This echoes the theme of perpetuity mentioned only once in Parashat Teruma (25:30), with regard to the shulchan (table) and the lechem ha-panim (display bread): "And on the table, you shall set the bread of display, to be before Me ALWAYS (tamid)." The gemara (Menachot 66a) describes in detail the process of removing the previous week's lechem ha-panim and replacing it with the new week's in such a way that the shulchan did not remain bare for even a moment. Both the "ner tamid" and the "lechem ha-tamid" are not only part of the routine; they are a part of the basic structure of the Mishkan. The Mishkan would not be complete without them.

At the end of Tetzaveh, after the section dealing with the korban tamid, we find a discussion of the ketoret (incense). It serves the same function - "ketoret TAMID lifnei Hashem" (30:8), a perpetual incense before God. (This understanding of the role of the ketoret - not as only another element of the avoda but as part of the very fabric of the Mishkan - explains the strange placement of the section describing the mizbe'ach ha-ketoret [incense altar]. While the other vessels of the Mishkan are described at the beginning of Parashat Teruma, the mizbeach ha-ketoret appears in Tetzaveh, together with the ner tamid and the korban tamid, making up the functional framework of the Mishkan.)

The placement of the korban tamid - by its very definition a perpetual element - now becomes understandable. As with the other "perpetual" avodot, were it not for the korban tamid, offered daily, morning and afternoon, the Mishkan or Mikdash would cease to be a dwelling for the Shekhina, the same way a Mikdash without walls is no Mikdash. Normally, we look at the Mikdash as a place to offer sacrifices. The Mikdash serves the needs of the korbanot (sacrifices). Ironically, with regard to the korban tamid, in its first aspect, it is the offering of the sacrifice which serves the needs of the Mikdash. Indeed even more - it makes the Mikdash what it is.

The korban tamid, however, serves a second purpose as well. It is a sacrifice like any of the other sacrifices. Through it, as through any other offering, we worship God, bringing ourselves closer to the Shekhina. Rashi (Menachot 33b s.v. Af al gav) explains that the korban tamid atones just for the same sins as any other korban ola (wholly-burnt sacrifice). The same laws that apply to the offering of other korbanot apply to the offering of the tamid as well.

We now understand the repetition of parashat ha-tamid. The tamid as described in Parashat Tetzaveh facilitates the Mikdash, while the tamid as described in Parashat Pinchas is facilitated by the Mikdash. It first appears together with the ner ha-tamid, the lechem ha-tamid, and the ketoret ha-tamid, and later appears as the introduction to the korbanot ha-mussafin. In Pinchas, as in Tetzaveh, the element of constancy and routine is stressed. The korban tamid precedes the korbanot ha-mussafin, korbanot for special occasions, for it represents the service of God which is constant, day in, day out, "ba-boker ... bein ha-arbayim."

Another explanation of the placement of the parashat ha-tamid in Tetzaveh builds off of the preceding verse, which commands that the altar be ordained for seven days before the inception of its regular use. The laws of the daily offering appear directly after this verse to teach that the altar is to be ordained specifically through seven days of offering the korban tamid. (See Malbim 29:1.)

This interpretation in no way contradicts our previous understanding; in fact, it strengthens it. Part of the nature of tamid in its function as part and parcel of the Mikdash is the special role it plays at Mishkan's inception. If the Mishkan's maintenance is serviced through the offering of the tamid, how much more so its creation. Fittingly, the mishna (Menachot 49a) lists four vessels which required special initiation - the mizbe'ach ha-ola (altar of sacrifices), where the tamid was offered, the mizbeach ha-zahav (golden altar), where the incense was offered, the menora, and the shulchan.

Although the defining characteristic of continuity is relevant to both functions of the tamid, it takes on added significance when we regard the tamid as facilitator and initiator of the Mikdash. The mishna (þMenachot 50a) states that were the morning tamid skipped intentionally, the afternoon tamid could not be offered either. The gemara (50a) qualifies this law: it applies only during the seven days of initiation. Why the difference? After the seven day initiation, the PRIMARY function of the tamid is the worship involved in the offering, not the upkeep of the Mikdash. When regarded as an expression of worship, each offering has value in and of itself. If one korban is missed, why should that affect the next? But when we are dealing with the tamid of the seven days of initiation, in which the primary purpose is "building" the Mikdash, if one brick is missing then the whole structure falls. At this critical formative stage, the need for consistency and constancy cannot be stressed enough.

This understanding of the tamid helps explain the version of the Sifra quoted by the Maharal. Why is the "one lamb in the morning and the other in the afternoon" a "fundamental principle of the Torah?" For its symbolic significance. "Bi-levavi Mishkan evneh:" in my heart I will build a sanctuary. Just as the tamid serves a dual role in the Mikdash, so too do Torah and mitzvot serve a dual function in a person's worship of God. On the one hand, they build the person - molding his personality, inculcating values, transformflesh and blood into a receptacle for spirituality. On the other hand, every mitzva individually represents its own mode of worship, with its own unique purpose.

At the earlier stages in one's life, of course, much of the focus should be on creating the receptacle, forming a spiritual personality. This requires several solid years of absolute devotion to working on oneself as a person, specifically through Torah study. And, as with the tamid of seven days of initiation, consistency and continuity are of the essence. But, when engaging intensively in Torah and mitzvot during one's formative years, one cannot focus solely on taking without giving. One must always bear in mind that even as he builds himself, he is concomitantly serving the greater good as well. Moreover, if one's ultimate goal is to attain better service of God, then this will also entail better service to one's fellow man.

In one's adult years, the focus turns more toward the second element within the korban tamid - the worship of God through a life of divine service and of giving of oneself to others. Of course, this role, too, demands of us consistency and devotion. The korban is called "tamid" - perpetual - in both its roles. Even more, we must remember that the first function - that of creating the receptacle for spirituality - never ceases. The tamid of Parashat Tetzaveh is NOT limited to the seven days of ordination. It is a "a regular burnt offering, for all generations" (Shemot 29:42). Of course, in Parashat Tetzaveh the primary focus is more on maintenance and less on building. But maintenance, like building, requires ever-renewed commitment. A balance of service and growth is, indeed, the guiding principle of the Torah. "Et ha-keves echad ta'aseh va-boker ve-et ha-keves ha-sheni ta'aseh ben ha-arbayim."

(Originally delivered at Se'uda Shelishit, Shabbat Parashat Tetzaveh 5757.)



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