Friday, July 11, 2014

Pinchas 5774

The perpetual burnt offering, which was made at Mount Sinai for a pleasant aroma, a fire offering to the L-rd.” (Bamidbar/Numbers 28:6)

This week’s Torah portion includes a list of sacrifices brought on various occasions to the Holy Temple. The first sacrifice mentioned is korban tamid (literally, perpetual sacrifice, or daily sacrifice). It is brought to the Temple every day, in the morning and in the evening, even on Shabbat and Yom Kippur. 

Why is Mount Sinai mentioned when Torah gives the mitzvah (commandment) of korban tamid?

Rabbi Yissocher Frand provides an explanation on

The very first korban tamid was offered at Mount Sinai. As with all first-time events, it was done with enthusiasm and excitement. G-d then commanded in Torah that this sacrifice should be made every day, twice a day. How much enthusiasm and excitement could such a sacrifice generate, when it no longer is a novelty but an everyday event? By recalling the Sinai experience, Torah reminds us that we should never perform mitzvot (commandments) by rote, no matter how often we perform them. Torah urges us to find inspiration, even when the novelty has worn off.  

In Tehillim (Psalms) 27:4, Dovid haMelech (King David) says, “I asked one thing from G-d…to dwell in the House of G-d all the days of my life, and to visit His Palace.” The requests seem mutually exclusive. How can Dovid have it both ways, be a resident as well as a visitor? He wants a permanent residence in G-d’s House, but he also wants to feel like he is only temporarily visiting so that the experience will feel special and retain its novelty. This should be our approach when we perform mitzvot we have done so many times before, such as donning tefillin or taking challah. We should be “at home” with the familiar mitzvah, but “visit” it so it feels fresh and inspiring.

As parents, we are enthusiastic and excited when the oldest of our children has a first. We eagerly document all the milestones -- first tooth, first word, first step, first day of school. With the second child we are slightly less enthusiastic and our excitement tends to decrease, though we try not to let it show. With subsequent children, it becomes harder and harder to muster up enthusiasm for these firsts. However, no matter how many times we have witnessed our other children’s firsts, we must approach our younger children’s milestones with the same enthusiasm we conveyed when our older children experienced the same firsts.

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