Parshas Pinchas: That Which Is Exciting & Rare

After the opening events of this week’s parsha, Moshe requests of God to appoint the next leader over the Jewish people:

Numbers 27:15-16:

וַיְדַבֵּר מֹשֶׁה אֶל־יְהוָה לֵאמֹר׃ יִפְקֹד יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי הָרוּחֹת לְכָל־בָּשָׂר אִישׁ עַל־הָעֵדָה׃

Moses spoke to the LORD, saying, “Let the LORD, Source of the breath of all flesh, appoint someone over the community

After God singles out Yehoshua to fill this role, the very next section of the Torah immediately switches topics to deal with the laws of the korban tamid:

Numbers 28:2:

צַו אֶת־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם אֶת־קָרְבָּנִי לַחְמִי לְאִשַּׁי רֵיחַ נִיחֹחִי תִּשְׁמְרוּ לְהַקְרִיב לִי בְּמוֹעֲדוֹ׃

Command the Israelite people and say to them: Be punctilious in presenting to Me at stated times the offerings of food due Me, as offerings by fire of pleasing odor to Me.

The obvious question, of course, is why such a switch and juxtaposition? In fact, the Sifrei Bamidbar addresses this question as follows:

Sifrei Bamidbar 142::

וידבר ה' אל משה לאמר צו את בני ישראל את קרבני לחמי - למה נאמר? לפי שהוא אומר אשר יצא לפניהם ואשר יבוא לפניהם; משל למה הדבר דומה? למלך שהיתה אשתו נפטרת מן העולם, והיתה מפקדתו על בניה. אמרה לו: בבקשה ממך הזהר לי בבני. אמר לה: עד שאת מפקדתני על בני - פקדי בני עלי, שלא ימרדו בי ושלא ינהגו בי מנהג בזיון. כך אמר לו הקב"ה: עד שאתה מפקדני על בני - פקוד בני עלי, שלא ינהגו בי מנהג בזיון, ושלא ימירו את כבודי באלהי הנכר! מהו אומר דברים לא כי אביאם אל האדמה, עד שאתה מפקדני על בני - פקוד בני עלי! לכך נאמר צו את בני ישראל:

(Bamidbar 28:1-2) "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Command the children of Israel … My offering, My bread, etc." What is the intent of this? Because Moses said (Ibid. 27:16-17) "Let the Lord appoint" (over Israel) "someone who will go out before them, etc." An analogy: A king had a wife who, before her death, charged him over her sons saying: I pray you, take care of my sons, etc. The king: Before you charge me over my sons, charge them over me, that they not rebel against me and not cheapen me. Thus, the Holy One Blessed be He said to Moses: Before you charge Me over My sons, charge My sons over Me, that they not cheapen Me and that they not exchange My honor for foreign gods. And thus is it written (Numbers 28:2): “Command the Israelite people.”

According to this midrash — which Rashi (28:2) quotes as well — the reason for the juxtaposition is because the korban tamid was actually part of God’s response to Moshe’s request. In as much as Moshe wanted to make sure there would be always be a leader for the nation, God wanted to make sure that the Jewish people would not rebel against Him in the future. Because of this, He gave them the obligation of the korban tamid.

But what is the connection here? And how exactly will the korban tamid make sure that the Jewish people do not rebel?

With the Maharal’s (Nesivos Olam, Nesiv Ahavas Reye 1) explanation of the korban tamid, things begin to make sense. According to the Maharal the korban tamid represents consistency and persistence in avodas HaShem. Just like a servant or guard that constantly tends to his master, so too should be our service of God. The korban tamid is brought every morning and every evening of every day of every year, representing the constant obligation of all mitzvos, and the ideal of consistency and persistence in our service of God. Indeed, this concept of being in a constant state of avodas HaShem is truly fundamental to Judaism. The constant service of God is far more difficult that simply fulfilling the mitzvah that might come up here or there, on occasion. The true test of one’s religiosity is not whether a person fulfills the interesting, unique, and exciting mitzvah that might present itself once in a while, but whether he or she can bring the korban tamid, so to speak, every single day.

Now it is clear why the mitzvah of the korban tamid was part of God’s answer to Moshe’s request; as the consistency and persistence in avodas HaShem that it taught and instilled would surely assist in making sure the Jewish people would never rebel against God, or their next leader. Indeed, it is also this consistency and persistence that would be a character trait of utmost importance in whomever would be the next leader of the nation.

While certainly far easier said than done, all mitzvos — however regular, rote, and common they might be — should ideally be done with a sense of excitement, happiness, and freshness, as if they were being performed for the first time. The highest level of avodas HaShem is to perform that which is constant in the way of that which is exciting and rare.

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