Torah Portion: Tzav
Nisan 11 (Leviticus 6 – 8)
The New Old Path
Essentially, the priest began his day by literally shovelling all the ash from the previous day off the altar and placing it outside of the Sanctuary (Rashi ad loc). It would seem this tedious task was below such venerable individuals, and that someone else should be dispatched to carry it out. Why is it necessary for the person who spends his day immersed in lofty and holy endeavours to carry out this mundane chore?
Indeed, this idea is so important that it is taught through the first task of the priest’s day, which remains the first part of the ‘sacrifices’ section read in Shacharit, the morning prayer service, and thus establishes our perspective on spirituality for the entire day. This approach to achieving holiness through the elevation and sanctification of the mundane generates a significantly wider array of possibilities for achieving spirituality than the approach that requires separation from the ordinary in order to become holy.
Celebrities in almost every arena are often put on pedestals by other humans. For this reason, we do not think of famous movie stars, rabbis and politicians as engaging in basic everyday errands such as washing the dishes or sweeping the floor. This, in turn, can very easily affect the self-image of those individuals, who begin to believe that they are above being involved in the everyday trivialities of life. This law requiring the priests to sweep up the previous day’s ash, equalizes all humans in relation to God and serves as a reminder of the humanity of the saintly priests despite their elevated status. That said, the question still stands as to why the priest should begin his day with it. Why does it come before all the other tasks?
This powerful lesson has long outlived the Temples and, as mentioned, is still positioned right at the start of the daily morning prayers. Perhaps, hidden beneath the surface of this fascinating requirement for the priests to clean up yesterday’s mess before starting their daily Temple service, is a metaphor for us all in the way we are meant to start each day.
Every day, the first prayer we say upon waking up is Modeh Ani, a prayer of thanks to God for restoring our souls to our bodies and offering us the gift of a new day. ‘I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great’ (Rabbi Moshe Ben Machir, Seder Hayom). If God with His ultimate faith in His beings, can restore our souls to us each morning, granting us the gift of a new day, it is incumbent upon us, before even starting our day, to set aside the ‘ashes’ of the previous day, to clear our slate, to set aside grievances and to start each day with a renewed and fresh perspective.
“Command Aharon and his sons [by] saying, this is the teaching of the olah, it is the olah on its fire on the altar the whole night, and the fire of the altar will burn in it (Vayikra 6:2).”
Ziruz is that external push that helps propel us towards our goals without supplanting the actual motivation of our actions. That is why it is not inappropriate that monetary gain acts as a ziruz in the realm of Torah and mitzvos. One may wonder why there are many monetary incentives involved with various learning programs and endeavors, whether in the Kollel system or otherwise. Based on the above, though, it should become perfectly clear that there is, in fact, nothing negative about this whatsoever. On the contrary, we see that using monetary incentives as a ziruz is actually a positive thing to do. Those that are engaged in serious learning are clearly not doing so for the sake of money, God forbid. They are motivated to learn for the sake of carrying out the loftiest endeavor that Hashem charges us with. The paltry bits and pieces of monetary incentives that they receive here and there are merely a ziruz. And ziruz, as we have learned, is a very positive thing!
The truth is that it doesn’t really matter what particular form the ziruz takes, as long as it will have a beneficial, positive effect given the situation. So, for others and for oneself, find the one that works.
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK
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