\By Rabbi Ari EnkinThis week’s Living Torah commentary explains the importance of getting out of one’s routine and adding excitement not only to ritual observance, but to life itself!
This week’s Torah portion is Tzav (Leviticus 6:1–8:36), meaning “to command” and refers to the continuation of commandments related to the offering of sacrifices in the Holy Temple.
As readers may be aware, sacrifice was a primary component of all religious worship in ancient times, and not just among Jews. This was because animals – the primary items offered as sacrifices – represented a person’s wealth.
In those days, checks, credit cards, bitcoin and paypal were not yet available methods to make a donation (i.e., sacrifice) to the Temple; a person’s animal inventory was the ruler with which wealth was measured. Animal sacrifices represented offering a piece of one’s wealth for a Higher Cause.
Famous Torah commentator Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi) discusses the name of this week’s reading, Tzav, at length. He points out that although the word actually translates as “to command,” it also means “to excite” or “to generate enthusiasm” in terms of serving God, getting closer to Him and being good people.
As mentioned above, the offering of a sacrifice meant giving up some of one’s wealth. That is not always an easy thing to do. In order to willingly take a financial loss, there needs to be some kind of trigger, some kind of excitement and enthusiasm.
It is easy to help an elderly lady cross the street or a lost child to phone home; it doesn’t cost anything, and we feel good about ourselves. But to write a check or – as in the context of this week’s Torah portion – to give away our best sheep, cows and goats is much harder.
Rashi teaches that we must generate a sense of enthusiasm, not just within ourselves, but within our children and, by extension, future generations. This is true not only regarding monetary contributions; it is urgently applicable to the performance of any mitzvah (commandment).
Similarly, we must not allow religious observance to become routine, stale and boring. I would even add that we should not let life get stale and boring!
LIVING TORAH MEANS ADDING EXCITEMENT
For how long have you been using the same toothpaste day in and day out? Give the Colgate a break and try Crest or Aquafresh for a change! Doing the same jog or exercise routine over and over again? Try doing it backwards! Tired of the same menu for lunch each day? Head out to a new café or restaurant for a change!
Change breeds excitement! Routine is great, but don’t let it turn you into a robot.
Religion is exactly the same. Do we go to the synagogue because we want to go, or because we feel that we have to go? Do we recite the same prayers over and over again, day after day? Is it still heartfelt or is it robotic?
We must add excitement, vigor and even change. It’s easy to fall into the trap of reciting our daily prayers in “zombie fashion” due to the constant routine and repetition. I confess that I, too, am guilty of this at times.
Perhaps consider emphasizing a different word or verse from time to time or try praying at a different speed than usual. You’ll see – it works!
This is Rashi’s message on the word Tzav and the name of our Torah portion. Sure, we have many “commandments” that we are required to perform, but we must always try to do them with excitement and enthusiasm. We are not robots; we are servants of the King of the Universe.
Author: Rabbi Ari Enkin
Rabbinic Director, UWI
Date: Mar. 13, 2014