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Tetzaveh 5762-2002

“The Korban Tamid–a Lesson in Consistency “

by Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald

In this coming week’s parasha, parashat Tetzaveh, after a lengthy discussion of the priestly vestments and a description of the inauguration ceremony of Aaron and his sons, the Torah, in Exodus 29:38-46, describes the details of the Tamid offering.

The Tamid, the perpetual offering, was brought every morning and afternoon of every day of the year. Offered by the priest on the altar of the Tabernacle, the Tamid consisted of a single unblemished sheep, and a Mincha offering of 1/10 of an ephah of pure wheat, mixed with a quarter of a hin of pure oil and wine. In Exodus 29:43 the Torah says, “V’no’ah’d’tee shah’mah liv’nay Yisrael, v’nik’dash bich’vo’dee,” As a consequence of the Tamid offering, G-d says: I shall set My meeting there [in the Tabernacle] with the children of Israel, and it shall be sanctified with My glory. G-d will sanctify the Tabernacle, the altar, and the sons of Aaron, and G-d will dwell among the Jewish people, and He will be their G-d.

There’s something special about the word Tamid. Tamid means always or regular or perpetual. It is a positive word that the Almighty obviously favors. It is an important word in our social and psychological dictionary. It means to be reliable, to always be there–for our mates, for our friends, for humanity. Who can complain about someone or something that is reliable? Look how exceedingly admiring we are of the stream of boiling hot water that shoots out of the earth on a regular schedule in Wyoming. In fact, we call that geyser “Old Faithful,” implying that it is like an old friend who never lets us down.

As much as we complain, G-d is always there for us. The concept of fixed prayer–morning, afternoon and evening, underscores that G-d is always there for us, as we should always be there for G-d. In 1992 after my mother passed away, I tried to express this notion in writing. The essay was entitled Saying “Thank You” for the Good, and I’d like to share a part of it with you.

More than a year has passed since my mother, of blessed memory, passed away. Of course, it was not an easy year, but it flew by rapidly.

Many of the laws and customs of aveylut (mourning) had a deep impact on me. But, the requirement to say Kaddish with a minyan every morning and evening had a particularly profound impact, throwing my already tumultuous life into even greater turmoil. There were times when I was delayed on trains and planes, and I was certain that I would miss Kaddish. But somehow, I never missed reciting the Kaddish, not even once during the entire year — which is quite a tribute–particularly to the New York subway system! Often it required something little short of a miracle, but I made it. And now I can finally take a deep breath, and plod on.

I must admit that saying Kaddish for me was not a terrible inconvenience, since, even before I became a mourner, I regularly attended Shacharit and Mincha services daily, and tried as often as I could to attend Maariv services. I can’t fathom how difficult this new routine must be for those who do not attend minyan regularly. The tensions I experienced, as someone who was used to going to services, were enormous. How overwhelming it must be for someone who is suddenly thrust into this awesome regimen.

What really amazed me was how casual my attitude toward synagogue attendance became immediately after the first Yahrtzeit. It took less than three weeks for me to miss my first minyan, and while I am sincerely trying not to miss too often, it is very likely that I am going to miss far more frequently than I did during my year of mourning.

Yes, I recognize the irony. Now, thank G-d, that everyone is OK, my 88 year-old father is doing well [my father passed away a few months after this article was written], my wife and children are healthy, my work is fulfilling — now that everything is hunky-dory — I somehow can’t manage to get to synagogue as regularly as I did during my mourning. When mother was ill, and after she passed away, I never missed. And now, when I have so much for which to be grateful, I am back to being casual about it! And then when, G-d forbid, tragedy strikes, as it will inevitably, we call out, “O G-d, O G-d, why have you forsaken me!”

“Where were you, Buchwald, when everything was OK?”, He may justifiably ask. “You couldn’t find the time to say ‘Thank you’?”

Now that the Temple is no longer, we do not have a Korban Tamid, the perpetual offering. All we have is prayer. As the prophet Hoshea says (14:3): “U’n’shal’ma fah’rim s’fah’tay’noo,” Let us render our sacrifices, which we can no longer bring, with our lips. Let us show consistency and faithfulness to G-d, and G-d will show His consistency and faithfulness to us. What could be better for G-d, than to have a people upon whom He can always rely? And what could be better for the Jewish people, than to have a G-d who we really know is “Old Faithful.”

May you be blessed.