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Tzav

Tzav

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Staying on Top

Some people are bulldozers. They move mountains, conquer countries, achieve the seemingly impossible. But then when there are no more mountains to climb, they falter. Routines, maintenance and sustainability are not their strong points. They respond to excitement and challenge, not to the uneventful, monotonous daily grind.

The title word of this week's Parshah, Tzav, means "Command." It introduces G‑d's call to Moses to instruct the Kohanim (priests) about the laws of the burnt offerings in the Sanctuary. Rashi points out that the word Tzav, "Command" - rather than the more familiar and softer "Speak" or "Tell" - is generally reserved for instructions which require a sense of zealousness. These are things which need to be performed "immediately as well as for posterity."

Would G‑d have doubted the commitment of Aaron and his sons? Was there concern that they would do anything other than what they were instructed to regarding the sacred services? After all, they were the most saintly and dedicated of men. Was there really anything to worry about? Why employ a word implying such urgency?

Says Rashi: it's not only the need for immediacy but also the insistence that the services carry on throughout the generations in the very same way. It is one thing to be committed and excited now when the mitzvah is still fresh and new, but what will happen in future? Will that same commitment still be there down the line, or will the enthusiasm have waned?

In the sporting arena there are athletes, and even teams, who make wonderful starts but then fade before the finish. Others go great guns throughout a contest, but then "choke" at the very end. One cannot achieve greatness by erratic bursts of energy. Concentration and consistency are needed to carry us through until the final moment of the match.

So too in life. People in Hollywood find it pretty easy to get married to one another. But how many stay married? And it is no different in Judaism. Lots of Jews are excellent at Yom Kippur. But what happens all year round? Many have moments of inspiration, but it is allowed to become a passing phase.

King David in Psalm 24 asks, "Who may ascend the mountain of G‑d, and who may stand in His holy place?" It is one thing to climb the mountain but quite another to be able to stay on the summit. There are outstanding trailblazers who struggle with the everyday maintenance of the very programs they themselves initiated. In an ideal world pioneers would do the initiating and ordinary folk would carry on the routine. But it doesn't always work that way. We cannot necessarily afford the luxury of focusing only on the parts of life we enjoy and are stimulated by. More often than not life is a grind. Moments of excitement and discovery are rare. Charting new courses are not everyday experiences. And our creations need long term, consistent maintenance, otherwise they collapse.

The command to the Kohanim echoes down the ages to each of us. If it is important, do it now. And if it is sacred, carry on doing it forever.

 

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