Letter and Spirit

For the week ending 20 July 2019 / 17 Tammuz 5779

Parshat Pinchas

by Rabbi Yosef Hershman
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Safeguarding the National Vow

The national Tamid offering, the foundation of all offerings, offered twice a day — in the morning and in the afternoon — gives expression to our basic commitment to G-d and His Torah. The entire nation is instructed: You shall take care to offer to Me at its appointed time.

Whereas the singular form is used to instruct theactual offering of the Tamid [ta’aseh], the plural is used to instruct the nation to watch over this offering and ensure its performance with due care [tishmiru]. For the Tamid to be properly performed, it is not sufficient for the single act of the offering to be performed each day on the heights of the national center. Rather, it is necessary that the people throughout the national sphere direct their minds to this offering. Our Sages explain that for an offering to be effectively brought on behalf of someone, he must be there either in person or in spirit. Thus, both ta’aseh by the Kohen and tishmiru by the people were required.

To effectuate tishmiru, the early prophets divided the people into twenty-four “mishmarot” (segments), corresponding to the twenty-four shifts of Kohanim who would serve alternate weeks in the Temple. Each of these population segments contained some members who resided in Jerusalem, and who would serve as the deputies for the entire group by being present for the Tamid during their week. At the same time, the other members of the mishmar would gather as a ma’amad (literally, “standing) in their cities, and, by reading the Torah and fasting, would attend the Tamid in spirit. In this way they would take to heart that the purpose of all the offerings is the purification of the mind and of conduct.

Thereby, a twofold conviction took root in the people’s hearts. First, every Jew recognized that the spiritual root of his existence, thoughts and deeds is in the Sanctuary of Torah, the center of gravity of the nation. Second, the national vow, which comes to expression through the Tamid offering, concerns every member of the nation. The nation vows every day to strive upward to G-d and remain faithful to the Torah — but the fulfillment of this vow can only be by the individual members of the people, whether they reside in close proximity to the Temple or in the far corners of the Land.

Thousands of years have passed since our prophets instituted mishmarot. Now, Jews all over the world — in Israel and in the Diaspora — have become one maamad. We stand together morning and evening, at the time the Tamid was offered, in prayers that join the nation and stir our hearts, directed at Jerusalem. Through this legacy — marked by our morning and afternoon prayers — we connect ourselves to G-d and to all our fellow Jews

  • Sources: Commentary, Bamidbar 28:2

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