Parshat Tzav:Routine or Rejuvenation during Shlichut?
Rabbi Avichai Apel is a Straus-Amiel shaliach who serves as the Rabbi of Frankfurt and Chair of the Conference of Orthodox Rabbis in Germany
Every so often, or maybe even regularly, we have to face the question posed above – routine or rejuvenation? – and do some soul-searching. Is what we are doing as shlichim really important to us? How much are we willing to give of ourselves? What are our priorities?
Every person knows himself best and must prioritize in every aspect of his life in accordance with his abilities and strengths. Not everything can take center stage. However, there are some things that become meaningless if not prioritized.
There is nothing more permanent than the temporary. This phrase turns the default into the desirable. Not because of an informed decision, or the desire to fulfill an aspiration. Rather, there is always a pulling towards routine, even in situations that are temporary by definition. How did this happen? Perhaps it is the understanding that one has the need to feel connected to something. People naturally feel that the things that seem to be marginal and trivial, those requiring little attention, are ultimately the most important and cherished, physically or even emotionally, and become the most permanent and stable components of our daily routine.
It is the regular and the routine that leave a long-lasting impression. Any experience which is part and parcel of a routine becomes engraved in one’s consciousness for longer. It goes without saying that even that which is fixed for now, will one day cease to be. Distractions are ever so human; hence, even permanence is prone to be absent at certain points in time. Notwithstanding the above, the impression left by any form of routine or stability helps one endure periods of instability. Even when one’s sense of routine is somewhat blurred or weakened, it is still permanently ingrained within, at all times.
The concept of permanence or regularity has a number of definitions, to which one can attach varying implications and meanings. Routine may turn into habit, which denotes actions that are repeated regularly, almost absentmindedly. In such case, actions turned into habit may become somewhat bland and dull. Much like food eaten regularly which often loses its special flavor and becomes almost tasteless. We keep eating the same food again and again, not because of its taste, but because of our need for nourishment. It becomes an action done out of necessity rather than desire.
The positive aspect of routine is that it becomes a central component of our lives, something we can always fall back on. It is, therefore, only natural that we constantly attempt to rejuvenate our routine by adding hues and colors to it, thus making it more attractive and appealing. The routine component of our lives is important to us; we invest in it because it is an integral part of who we are.
After the preparations for the erection of the Mishkan come to an end, all the vessels and priestly garments completed, and after having received all the commandments pertaining to the sacrifices and their particulars – come the days of the miluim, the seven-day inauguration ceremony of the kohanim and the altar. These days began on the 23rd of the month of Adar and continued until the first of the month of Nissan, during which time Moshe erected and dismantled the Mishkan each day anew. Furthermore, during the course of these days the kohanim were trained for their sacred service, avodat hakodesh, and they sacrificed the ram of the miluim, the ram of consecration (see Shemot 22).
Ahead of these days of consecration, the kohanim were given a unique commandment: “And you shall not go out from the door of the Tent of Meeting seven days, until the days of your consecration be fulfilled; for He shall consecrate you seven days” (Vayikra 8:33). Is it possible that the kohanim sat inside the Tent of the Meeting all these days without emerging at all? What was the purpose of this?
The sacred service which takes place in the Beit HaMikdash is a central component of the Temple’s routine. This avodat kodesh requires the kohanim‘s full attention and they are therefore not permitted to leave the premises. Although the commandment of the avodat hakodesh was given for all generations, says the Ramban (Vayikra 5:35), the days of miluim were exceptional and happened once only. During these days the kohanim had their “practicum” in preparation of the avodah and were not allowed to leave the Mishkan during the day hours, only at night, unless it was for their personal bodily needs. However, never during the sacred service itself (Ibn Ezra on Vayikra 8:33).
These days of miluim play a very important spiritual role in preparing the kohanim for the avodat hakodesh, their sacred service. To ensure that the kohanim are indeed worthy in character to enter the sanctuary regularly and serve the People by offering sacrifices and preforming other acts of atonement, it is vital to instill in them a sense of integral connection to the House of God and a constant desire to be one with God. Different verses teach us of this aspiration. For example, the verse “Happy are they who dwell in Thy house” (Tehillim 84:5) is an eternal call of praise to those who engage in the study of Torah and the worship of God, and is meant to inspire all of us to do the same.
Another verse from Tehillim (27:4) – “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life” – may be misinterpreted as the extreme aspiration to live a life of asceticism. However, in light of what was said earlier, this verse must be seen as the positive desire to be close to God at all times. Hence the verse goes on to say – “to behold the graciousness of the Lord, and to visit early in His temple” (ibid.). Similarly, the kohanim‘s residing in the Tent of the Meeting for a period of seven days was meant to achieve the following: the kohanim absorbed a great abundance of spiritual insight which impacted both their consciousness as well as their desires, and this took place by their sitting inside the sanctuary in the Tent of the Meeting. The essence of the sacred service was preserving these very insights and this lofty consciousness. By sitting at the entrance to Ohel Mo’ed, the kohanim prepared themselves for this sacred service.” (Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch on Vayikra 8:35)
These noble aspirations are equally relevant to the life of every individual. For also the individual must “enter the Tent”, as it were, and transform Torah study, prayer and acts of kindness into routine, turning these into the central axis of one’s life. “A righteous person must never leave Ohel Mo’ed, i.e., must always be in a mindset of avodat Hashem.” Avodat Hashem, the worship of God, must become the most permanent thing in our lives. Not a permanence turned into tasteless habit; rather, a blessed routine that always aspires to rejuvenate itself, the constant desire for personal growth. So much so, that when a person completes his “seven days of miluim” – which may symbolize the seven decades of one’s adult life during which time one paves for himself the road upon which one treads – God will be able to attest to the fact that this person had never left His ways (Torat Moshe – the Chatam Sofer).
The life of an emissary is filled with constant renewal and rejuvenation. Every day presents new opportunities such as making new acquaintances or bonding with new people. Each such opportunity should be exploited to the fullest, because one never knows if such opportunities will recur. It is the role of the shaliach to be in a permanent state of shlichut. To be filled with ceaseless energy so that he might reach out to each and every Jew, no matter the circumstances, and escort them into the House of God. So deeply ingrained must this desire be, that the permanent mindset is one of “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life”.
The Jewish community of Frankfurt boasts a tradition of Torah learning and Torah scholars of more than a millennium – which came to an abrupt end during the devastating Holocaust. Great Torah figures like the Yalkut Shimoni, the Shelah HaKadosh, the Ba’al Hafla’a, the Pnei Yehoshua, the Chatam Sofer, Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch and many others learned and taught Torah in Frankfurt, and headed their respective communities in this city.
The Jews of Frankfurt contributed greatly to the development of the city, both economically as well as academically. The Rothschild family, Erich Fromm, Franz Rosenzweig, to name but a few, were among the many Jewish Frankfurters who had left their mark. Anne Frank, who had a great impact on Holocaust awareness around the world, is also a native of the city.
After the Holocaust, a new Jewish community started forming, and currently comprises about 7000 Jews who are active in both the public and private sectors. There are five different synagogues in the city, an elementary and high school (first grade through 12th grade), two kindergartens, retirement homes for seniors and many activities aimed at the local Jewish public as well as Jews visiting from out of town.