Rabbi Benjamin Krausz
Former Rosh Kollel in Perth (2008-2012) Ra”m in Yeshivat Kfar Haroeh
This week’s Parasha, Tetzaveh, seems to us as the natural continuation of the previous Parasha, Terumah. We see these two Parashot as interconnected to each other, each dealing with different aspects of building the Mishkan: Terumah – dealing with the structure of the Mishkan and the vessels that were used in it, and Tetzaveh dealing with the clothes of the Kohanim. The Torah does not deal yet with the “running” of the Mishkan generally and of the vessels more specifically. That will happen later on, mainly in the book of Vayikra.
But, when looking at our Parashah, we can see that there is a paragraph that seems not to be in its natural location. It is not just a paragraph – it is the opening paragraph of the Parashah. Parashat Tetzaveh opens with the commandment of Hashem to Moshe to take Olive oil for the purpose of kindling lights. This is not one of the “Kelim” – vessels, and it is clearly not one of the garments of the Kohen- so why is it located here between the constructing of the yard of the Mishkan and the garments of the Kohen? Is there not a more appropriate location for this commandment? Maybe in Parashat BeHa’alotcha (in the book of BaMidbar) where the commandment of the kindling of the lights of the Menorah is mentioned?
It is even clearer that the Torah is not referring here to the actual usage of the Menorah, which was mentioned previously when it was being constructed. It could have been at least a partial explanation for bringing here this commandment of the preparation of the Olive oil – as the usage of the Menorah. But the Torah does not mention the Menorah here at all! The Torah refers to the location of the Menorah – “outside the dividing curtain” and we can only assume that this is the Menorah, but it does not mention it explicitly. Had it been the way to “run” the Menorah, does it not go without saying that the Menorah should be mentioned (as in Parashat BeHa’alotcha as we have mentioned previously)?
I would like to suggest there is a word that appears in this paragraph that can give us a lead to understanding why the Torah decided to “plant” this commandment here – just before the garments of the Kohen. The word “Tamid” appears here in this commandment and also appears twice in the commandments concerning the preparation of the garments. When teaching us of the Choshen (breastplate) and the Tzitz (the showplate on the forehead of the Kohen), the Torah mentions “Tamid” referring to the requirement of these garments being worn by the Kohen to be on him “Tamid”- always.
The word “Tamid” is translated as “always” or “constantly” and when used in conjunction with a light – Ner Tamid, it usually means a candle that is constantly alight (in the same way as the fire on the altar – Esh Tamid means that it never extinguished). But we know that the lights of the Menorah were not alight constantly. They were lit every evening by the Kohen, but the amount of oil was enough just for the night, and they were not alight during the day.
So the lights kindled teach us to understand the term “Tamid” not in its immediate usage of “constantly” but rather in the meaning of “regularly”.
When teaching us about the building of the structure of the Mishkan and of its Kelim (vessels) it is clear that there is constant Kedushah – sanctity and holiness, and retaining it is quite easy. But when coming to the part referring to the human counterpart of the Mishkan – the Kohen, it is much more complicated to require constant holiness. A human being has spiritual aspects within him that are close to Kedusha, but also physical aspects that make it more difficult to constantly retain the level of Kedusha – holiness.
The Torah is teaching us here, that holiness can be achieved and retained by preforming regularly acts of Kedushah, even if as human beings we find it difficult to do so constantly. Regularity shows consistency, and thus expresses the mindset that a person is in. Regularity in acts of Kedushah and Avodat HaShem express and create a frame of mind set in Kedushah and Avodat HaShem. That is why alongside with creativity in our life of Avodat Hashem, Chazal mandate regular activities that create our routine. It is there to give us an opportunity to bring out and to build within us our constant connection to HaShem.
This, to my mind, is an insight and teaching we can derive from the Torah “planting” this paragraph in this location – the way to create a constant Kedushah is by living in a routineof acts of Kedushah, that on the one hand express the state of mind of Kedushah, and on the other hand help create it.