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Parashat T’tzaveh (Exodus 27:30-30:10)

“Place it in front of the curtain that is over the Ark of the Pact-
in front of the cover that is over the Pact-where I will meet with you” (Exodus 30:6).

Parashat T’tzaveh opens with instructions for the Israelites to bring olive oil to Moses, to give to Aaron, “…l’haalot ner tamid, to raise a lamp, tamid” (Ex. 27:20). Commentators understand the meaning of the word tamid differently. Rashi (acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, the pre-eminent 11th century Jewish commentator) claims it means daily or regularly: each night, the lamp must be lit anew. Rashi’s interpretation is based on the verse that follows, which describes how Aaron and his sons will set up the lamps to burn, “from evening until morning before the Lord” (Ex. 27:21). Others claim one lamp is designated to burn perpetually, never permitted to go out (Midrash Sifrei B’haalotecha 59). This is the source for the practice of the ner tamid, the eternal light in the synagogue today.

Tamid appears again later in the parasha, or portion, when God commands the sacrifice of two yearling lambs, tamid, each day, in the rituals for consecrating Aaron and his sons as priests (Ex. 29:38). Here, the meaning seems clear: the ritual is to be repeated each day.

But it requires yet another verse for the full implications of tamid to be clarified. T’tzaveh continues (describing the tamid offering), “… For there I will meet with you, and there I will speak with you.” (Ex. 29:42) Every relationship requires sustained effort; life really is lived in the mundane details. The repetition of daily rituals (rather than the unique-in-history high drama of Mt. Sinai) is essential in developing a relationship with God. Parashat T’tzaveh offers proof texts for Woody Allen’s famous line, “Showing up is 80% of life.”

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

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