Parshat Tzav, and Vayikra in general, contains many details about the korbanot and daily service in the mishkan. It is not always immediately apparent what relevance these details can have in our lives today. Yet, the biblical interpreters provide insights into these descriptions which have relevance within and well beyond the boundaries of the mikdash.
One of the themes of parshat Tzav is “zerizut,” acting with urgency and enthusiasm. This is seen in a number of ways in the parsha. First, the opening verse: “Command (tzav) Aaron and his sons…” Rashi comments that when this language “tzav” is used it connotes “zerizut,” and should be carried out without delay. Amidst the description of this important service, there is a command to the priests to clean the ashes on the altar each morning before beginning again each day. Many ask why the kohanim, who do such holy work, also need to sweep up the ashes, a seemingly lowly job?! Nechama Leibowitz quotes Rabbi S.R. Hirsch who compares us all to the kohanim: The ashes from the previous day are removed to convey that we have an opportunity each day to approach mitzvot with “new zest.”
Similarly, the parsha also describes the korban of thanksgiving, which was brought after a dangerous experience. Today, this is expressed through the recitation of the “hagomel” blessing. Rav Kook explains that after a traumatic experience one is given a new perspective on life and feels an urgency to express gratitude. Also, the Shulchan Aruch teaches that it should ideally be said as soon as possible (within 3 days), indicating it should not be delayed unnecessarily. Here too, there is built into the service in the mishkan and our tefillot today, an element of “zerizut.”
Mindfulness about starting each day anew and the recitation of birkat hagomel are today’s way of carrying on the “tzav,” to approach mitzvot or express gratitude without delay and with enthusiasm. Shabbat Shalom -Karen Miller Jackson