Weekly Cycle

Monday, March 14, 2011

In Service: Elements of a Spiritual Work Out and the Torah Portion of Tzav

The Torah portion of this week continue to speak about the different kinds of sacrifices to be brought in the Tabernacle (Mishkan), as well as the induction of Aharon and his children into the priestly service. Here too, we find a combination of the Sefirot of Netzach and Hod, represented by Moshe and Aharon.

1. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2. Take Aaron and his sons with him, and the garments, and the anointing oil, and the sin offering bull, and the two rams, and the basket of unleavened bread,

ב. קַח אֶת אַהֲרֹן וְאֶת בָּנָיו אִתּוֹ וְאֵת הַבְּגָדִים וְאֵת שֶׁמֶן הַמִּשְׁחָה וְאֵת | פַּר הַחַטָּאת וְאֵת שְׁנֵי הָאֵילִים וְאֵת סַל הַמַּצּוֹת:

Rashi - Take Aaron: Take him over with [persuasive] words and attract him. — [Torath Kohanim 8:165]

Again, we see how Moshe's use of words, his ability to inspire, was a key aspect of his leadership.

We also see from the above verse that one of the main aspects of the induction/inauguration is the anointing oil. This oil had several special ingredients (as described in Parashah Ki Tissah), and to understand the role of each ingredient would be a key lesson in and of itself. The way in which Moshe poured the oil on Aharon is also quite fascinating:

12. And he poured some of the anointing oil upon Aaron's head, and he anointed him to sanctify him.

יב. וַיִּצֹק מִשֶּׁמֶן הַמִּשְׁחָה עַל רֹאשׁ אַהֲרֹן וַיִּמְשַׁח אֹתוֹ לְקַדְּשׁוֹ:

Rashi -  And he poured…and anointed [him]: At first, he [Moses] poured [the oil] on his [Aaron’s] head, and afterwards, he placed it between his eyelids, and drew it with his finger, from one [eyelid] to the other. — [Ker. 5b]

ויצק, וימשח: בתחלה יוצק על ראשו, ואחר כך נותן בין ריסי עיניו ומושך באצבעו מזה לזה:

Why is the focus on Aharon's head and his eyelids?

Oil is very much connected to the Kohanim, as we see from the story of Chanukah. It well known that oil represents both wisdom as well as purity. Wisdom is symbolized by Aharon's head, while the eyelids represent purity. This is not very much emphasized in today's society, but one of the main ways (if not the main way) to attain to purity is to guard one's eyes.

Psalm 133 also describes the anointing of Aharon. There also it speaks of the oil being poured on Aharon's head, but then the focus changes from eyelids to Aharon's beard and the "mouth of his clothing" (lit. Middot).

1. A song of ascents of David. Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers also to dwell together! 2. As the good oil on the head runs down upon the beard, the beard of Aaron, which runs down on the mouth of his garments.

ב. כַּשֶּׁמֶן הַטּוֹב | עַל הָרֹאשׁ יֹרֵד עַל הַזָּקָן זְקַן אַהֲרֹן שֶׁיֹּרֵד עַל פִּי מִדּוֹתָיו:

Rashi - As the good oil: with which Aaron the priest was anointed.

Zakan, beard, is spelled the same as Zaken (elder), which stands for Zeh She Kanah Chochmah, "one who has acquired wisdom." The beard also represents the Thirteen Attributes (Middot) of Mercy. Perhaps one can say that these attributes are expressed primarily through the mouth, both in our prayers to G-d as well as in how we address others - our use of words, as mentioned above regarding Moshe.

There also appears to be another aspect of oil, besides from wisdom, purity, and mercy, which is related to how oil is described in the Torah portion of Tetzaveh. Tetzaveh, which shares the same root as Tzav, is usually read exactly at this time of the year (when it is not a leap year), immediately before Purim. Additionally, in Rashi's commentary on Tzav, he makes various references back to his comments regarding Tetzaveh.

Tetzaveh's opening verse relates to the olive oil to be used for the Menorah:

20. And you shall command the children of Israel, and they shall take to you pure olive oil, crushed for lighting, to kindle the lamps continually.

כ. וְאַתָּה תְּצַוֶּה | אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ שֶׁמֶן זַיִת זָךְ כָּתִית לַמָּאוֹר לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר תָּמִיד:

The oil is a product of the olives' being "crushed for lighting." This is related to the idea of working hard with great self-sacrifice (Mesirat Nefesh), as explained by the Rebbe in the very last discourse he distributed. 

Perhaps the idea of pouring oil on one's head is referring to what happens when we work so hard that we are physically (and mentally) crushed, exhausted: we sweat.

19. With the sweat of your face you shall eat bread...

יט. בְּזֵעַת אַפֶּיךָ תֹּאכַל לֶחֶם:

Rashi - With the sweat of your face: After you toil with it very much. — [Mid. Tadshei, Otzar Midrashim]

This is a reference not just to material bread, but to spiritual bread as well.

I was once told the following guiding principle in life: "The Baal Shem Tov tells us what we need to know. The Letter of the Law tells us what we need to do. [All that is left is to] get wet in the head."

The Rebbe explains that there is a higher level of working hard and "feeling crushed," which is not as a result of an oppressor's decree, but rather when we have abundance, both physical and spiritual. We feel crushed simply because of the fact that we our still in exile; because of our thirst for G-dly revelation, which will come into fruition only with the coming of Mashiach and the rebuilding of the Temple. May it be soon, and may each of us do our part, in the same way as Moshe and Aharon, with much wisdom and purity, mercy and self-sacrifice.

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