Last week, we learned about the construction of the Mishkan (the Tabernacle) and the many beautiful objects used there to conduct the holy services, such as the Holy Ark and the Menorah, both made of gold.
This week, in Parashat Tetzaveh, we learn of the role of the Kohanim (Priests), Aaron and his sons. God instructs Moses about the clothing the Kohanim are to wear: A tunic and trousers made of linen, a linen turban, and a sash. Aaron, as Kohen Gadol (High Priest) is to wear very special items: The Efod, an apron made of beautiful, bright colors; the Choshen, a breastplate with twelve precious stones, each representing one of the tribes of Israel; the Me’il, a blue cloak with gold bells and pomegranates on the hem; and the Tzitz, a strip of gold worn on the forehead.
After describing these beautiful ceremonial clothes, God instructs Moses on the week-long ceremony that he is to conduct to begin the holy services in the Mishkan, including many details regarding the offerings that are to made.
There is an interesting midrash (a story handed down from our Sages) in which several of the Sages are discussing which verse gives us the most basic principle of the Torah. Ben Zoma said it is the opening statement of the Shema: “Hear O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is One.” (Deuteronomy 6:4) Ben Nanas said it is “You should love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18) Ben Pazi said it is the sentence that follows the description of the inauguration ceremony in our parasha: “You shall offer the one sheep in the morning, and the second sheep you shall offer in the afternoon.” (Exodus 29:39) Rav Ploni arose and stated that the law follows the teaching of Ben Pazi.
This midrash teaches us that the act of faithfully carrying out an important task – in this case, the mitzvah of the holy offerings – is the essence of the Torah. Even though the Kohanim were to undergo an impressive ceremony starting their careers as priests, and had beautiful clothes to wear, the important part of their priesthood was regularly carrying out a task in which they represented the Children of Israel.
This is true in our lives, as well, both in the ordinary and the special. You probably have important things to do at home, like feeding the dog, taking out the trash or gathering dirty clothes to be washed. These jobs are not glamorous or exciting, but your family is counting on you to do them. When you do your job, things get done that help the family.
You may also have more interesting things you do regularly, like visit an elderly neighbor, or help one of the new Scouts learn his knots at every meeting, or keep yourself fit by participating in a sport a couple of times a week or mentally fit by checking out a new book from the library every Friday to enjoy over the weekend.
It’s not always the great feat of strength or heroic act of service that counts, but the regular things we do for others and ourselves that shape both our character and our relationships with others. Look for good things you can do every day, or every week, to “To help other people at all times. To keep myself physically fit, mentally awake, and morally straight.”