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ALL WORK AND NO PLAY

by Michael Alterman    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

The Torah does something very strange towards the end of this week's Torah portion.

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The Torah does something very strange towards the end of this week's Torah portion. After a lengthy discussion of the melu'im service (the consecration of the mishkan), the Torah immediately describes the karban tamid, the sacrifice which was to be brought in the mishkan (and in the subsequent Temples) twice a day for as long as it existed. The two sections are separated by only a few blank spaces in the Torah scroll, (this type of break being called a Stumah, represented by the Hebrew letter Samech in the Chumash/Pentateuch) after Exodus 29:37. One can imagine Moses and the Children of Israel saying to Hashem, "Give us a break already. We just consecrated the mishkan and You already want us to start serving You in it! How about giving us a two week vacation first?"

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, a leader of German Jewry in the 19th century, explains that the Torah's decision to juxtapose the consecration service to the daily karban tamid was no accident. Hashem was teaching us a crucial lesson for all eternity. Hashem had promised the Jewish people in last week's Torah portion, "Make for me a sanctuary, and I will dwell amongst you" (Exodus 25:8). Any Jew could have easily assumed that simply building the structure was the goal and ultimate accomplishment. Hashem had promised to dwell amongst the Children of Israel if they built Him a sanctuary -- end of story. After one had contributed to the building fund, helped collect the supplies, and maybe even hammered in some nails, he would think that he could go home, completely satisfied with what he had accomplished to the point that he had no desire to participate any further. He had built Hashem's sanctuary as Hashem had requested.

To prevent people from making such a grave error, the Torah therefore places the commandment to perform the daily karban tamid immediately following the initial consecration of the structure itself. Hashem was telling us that the construction of the mishkan was not the end, but rather the means to serve Him to our utmost capabilities. We can not go home, satisfied that the Kohanim and Levites will perform our duties in the sanctuary, just as we cannot refrain from participating and attending services in our respective synagogues, satisfied that the rabbis will fulfill our requirement.

Judaism is a participatory religion with actions and mitzvot designed to bring the morals and ethics alive, not a spectator sport. It is only after the commandment of the karban tamid, when we begin to participate in Hashem's service on a daily basis, that Hashem reiterates His promise to be our G-d, participating in our daily lives directly (see the commentary of the Sforno on the following verse). As Hashem says in Exodus 29:45 after describing the karban tamid, "I will dwell amongst the Children of Israel, and I will be for them a G-d."

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Michael Alterman, who hails from Atlanta, is currently a sophomore at Yeshiva University in New York.

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