Friday, February 11, 2011

Parashat Tezave. "Tamid" - Always connected!

(NOTE. I particularly enjoyed developing this Devar Torah because its source was the Concordance! By carefully observing instances of a word throughout Torah, I noticed something novel and new. It is amazing how a simple tool like the Concordance - or the Bar Ilan program - can contribute to our understanding of Torah. )

A key feature of the drama of Parshat Tetzave is the notion of "Tamid;" - that the service of God in the Mishkan must be constant, or perpetual.

Let us examine the evidence:

1. The Menora: "To light a perpetual candle (ner TAMID)"

2. and 3. The Breastplate: "Aharon shall carry the names of the Children of Israel… on his heart … before God, at all times (TAMID)."

4. The Tzitz (headplate) "… and it shall be continually (TAMID) upon his forehead…"

5&6. The Daily Sacrifice (Korban Tamid) "…Year-old lambs, two a day, for perpetuity (TAMID) … a Tamid (continual) burnt offering at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting"

7. Incense: "a constant (TAMID) offering of incense."

The theme of "Tamid" resonates throughout the parsha quite clearly, The impression is that the Mishkan service be continual, without a break, constantly serving God. Through the reptition and the consistency, the perpetual motion, we build a sense of Israel's never-ending dedication before God.

Interestingly, many of these activities only take place once or twice a day! The Menora is lit each night (Rashi); the priest's clothes are only worn when the High Priest is engaged in Temple service, but not at night, for instance. The Korban Tamid is each morning and evening, as is the incense. These are not continual acts.

There is a difference between a continual, uninterrupted phenomenon, and one which is periodic, even if regular. Tamid, interestingly, means an action which is not perpetual. But by being a regular, daily, constant rhythm, it engenders the momentum and power of something which is continual, seemingly without interruption.

The clear upshot of all this is that one of the essential elements of Avodat Hashem (worship of God) is indeed that regular, daily action, which is the essential ingredient of "Tamid." Today, the way that we demonstrate this dedication is through our daily prayers which are modeled on the Temple service, and in their constant thrice-daily tempo, they too generate the energy and power of "Tamid."

(In our world, where we find ourselves needing to be "online" at all times, we might have some contemporary reflections to add to this notion of TAMID and the relationship between constant connection and our deeper commitments in life.)


I decided to look up the word "Tamid" and see where it appears in chumash and in which contexts. I was quite surprised to see the results, which to my mind give us something of a "Hiddush."

The word "Tamid" appears 18 times in Humash. 16 of those instances are clearly related to the avodat HaMishkan, the Temple service, indicative, as we have said, of the constant and continual rhythm of the Mishkan service.

However, there are two other instances. The first relates to the pillar of cloud or fire that hovered above the Mishkan from the moment of its construction:

"On the day that the Tabernacle (Mishkan) was set up, the cloud covered the Mishkan, the Tent of the pact; and in the evening it rested …in the likeness of fire until morning. It was always so (Tamid): The cloud covered it, appearing as fire at night." (Bamidbar 9:15-16)

(טו) וּבְיוֹם הָקִים אֶת הַמִּשְׁכָּן כִּסָּה הֶעָנָן אֶת הַמִּשְׁכָּן לְאֹהֶל הָעֵדֻת וּבָעֶרֶב יִהְיֶה עַל הַמִּשְׁכָּן כְּמַרְאֵה אֵשׁ עַד בֹּקֶר:
(טז) כֵּן יִהְיֶה תָמִיד הֶעָנָן יְכַסֶּנּוּ וּמַרְאֵה אֵשׁ לָיְלָה: במדבר פרק ט

Now this is surprising, because the actor, the subject, has shifted. In the 16 other instances of this word, man engages in an act of worship that is in some way, "Tamid." But now, it God who is relating to Israel in a mannaer reflective of "Tamid." And this is exceptionally powerful. It is as if God reciprocates our dedicated "Tamid – perpetual" service, actively demonstrating that His protective presence remains over the Mishkan at ALL TIMES - Tamid! Man's constant presence in the Mishkan, stimulates God's ongoing protective presence over Bnei Yisrael.

Interestingly, it is Israel who create FIRE in a perpetual manner every evening by lighting the Menora (and also continually on the Mizbeach אש תמיד תוקד על המזבח לא תכבה (ויקרא ו').) Israel also generates CLOUD – ענן הקטרת. We can suggest that there is a visual symmetry, a realistic corollary of man's fire and cloud corresponding with God's fire and cloud.


But the second (or 18th) reference is more exciting still. In reference to the Land of Israel, we read:

It is a land upon which the Lord your God seeks; His eyes are constantly (tamid) upon it, from the year's beginning to year's end."(11:12)

אֶרֶץ אֲשֶׁר ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ דֹּרֵשׁ אֹתָהּ תָּמִיד עֵינֵי ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ בָּהּ מֵרֵשִׁית הַשָּׁנָה וְעַד אַחֲרִית שָׁנָה: ס דברים פרק יא פסוק יב

In the Wilderness, God responds to our Tamid – our regular commitment - by concentrating His Presence over the Mishkan at the epicentre of the Israelite camp. But this passuk takes it all to a higher level. In the Land of Israel, God extends His providence and protection to the ENTIRE land, which God watches and protects, TAMID – perpetually. In the Land of Israel, the entire land is under God's protective gaze and nourished by His spiritual proximity.

וכן יהי רצון
שבת שלום!

1 comment:

Tali said...

Really nice Alex, looking forward to going into Shabbat with those thoughts!