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DON'T GO HOME WITHOUT IT

by Michael Alterman    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

The Torah does something rather surprising towards the end of this week's Torah portion.

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The Torah does something rather surprising towards the end of this week's Torah portion. After a lengthy discussion of the melu'im, the consecration service of the newly constructed Mishkan (Tabernacle), the Torah immediately describes the karban tamid, the offering which was to be brought in the Mishkan twice every day, morning and afternoon, for the extent of the Mishkan's and Temple's existence. The two sections are separated by only a few blank spaces in the Torah scroll. Why is the climactic completion of the Mishkan, the product of months of hard work, juxtaposed so abruptly with the command to bring this offering? Couldn't the karban tamid wait until the book of Leviticus where all of the other offerings are described?

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, the great 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, "They shall make a sanctuary for Me and I will dwell among them" (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 contributing to the building fund, collecting the supplies, and maybe even hammering in some nails, one could think that he had fulfilled his obligation and 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 places the commandment to perform the daily karban tamid immediately following the initial consecration of the structure itself. Hashem is telling us that the construction of the Mishkan is not the end, but rather the means to serve Him to our utmost capability. We cannot go home and leave the Kohanim (priests) to 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; it is 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 forge a meaningful relationship with His people, participating in our daily lives directly. As Hashem declares at the end of the Torah portion, after describing the karban tamid, "I shall rest My presence among the Children of Israel, and I shall be their G-d" (Exodus 29:45).

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Michael Alterman, who hails from Atlanta, is enrolled in a joint program with Ner Israel Rabbinical College and Johns Hopkins University, both in Baltimore.

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