Mikdash Habits

“Meaningful change does not require radical change. Small habits can make a meaningful difference…” -James Clear

There is one word which stands out at the beginning and end of parshat Tetzaveh: “tamid” (continual). The parsha begins with the command to keep the ner tamid burning continually. After describing the priestly garments, it concludes with the mitzvah of continual daily sacrifice – the korban tamid. The mention of the korban tamid is especially curious here, since the Torah lists all of the different types of korbanot in the book of Bamidbar. What is the significance of framing parshat Tetzaveh with the 2 mitzvot which are considered “tamid”?

Rashi interprets both appearances of the word “tamid” as being daily rituals. Rashi defines “tamid” of the ner tamid as lighting “each and every night.” Regarding the korban tamid, Rashi comments – מיום אל יום – from day to day, without missing a day of sacrifice in between. There is great value placed here on daily practices. The midrash further develops this when it compares the continual lighting of the lamp to daily Torah study, which guides people toward mitzvot, acts of lovingkindness and a life of meaning and shields them from stumbling in the dark, leading to transgressions. 

These interpretations all emphasize that it is the small yet daily practices and rituals – uninterrupted and with continual commitment – which have a big effect on building positive behaviors and spiritual growth. This is also the point made by several modern authors on the advantages of establishing daily habits.

Perhaps, this is the theme which frames parshat Tetzaveh, which precedes the sin of the golden calf. Whether it comes to pre-empt or as the antidote to this great stumbling of the Jewish people, this placement suggests that it is the small yet meaningful daily habits and mitzvot which have the greatest effect on how we live our lives. Shabbat Shalom – Karen Miller Jackson

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