From Where I Stand

By Rabbi Yossy Goldman

Command Aharon and his sons.

–Vayikra 6:2

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 are bulldozers, driven by the pioneering spirit. The day-to-day grind is not for them. They respond to excitement and challenge, not to the uneventful, monotonous daily slog.

The title word of this week’s parashah, Tzav, means “command.” It introduces G‑d’s call to Moshe to instruct the Kohanim 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 that need to be performed not only immediately but for posterity as well.

Would G‑d have doubted the commitment of Aharon 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 the 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 gun throughout a contest, but then “choke” at the very end. It is important to be consistent. 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 seemingly have no difficulty in finding someone to marry. But how many stay married? And in Judaism, lots of Jews are excellent at Yom Kippur. But what happens all year round? Many have moments of inspiration, but they are allowed to become a passing phase.

A fellow came to shul to observe a yahrzeit but, sadly, they were struggling to make a minyan. He vented his anger at not being able to recite Kaddish. One of the men present was less than sympathetic. “And where were you yesterday when someone else had a yahrzeit and needed a minyan?” he retorted.

King David in Psalm 24 asks, “Who may ascend the mountain of G‑d and who may stand in His holy place?” In other words, 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. Our creations need long term, consistent sustainability; 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. v


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