The name of this week’s Parshah, “Tzav,” means “command”, and continues the theme of the book of Leviticus / Vayikra with instructions from HaShem to Moses regarding the duties of the Temple. Aaron and his sons are the Kohanim (priests) and remain within the Sanctuary compound for seven days, during which time Moses initiates them into the priesthood. The 7 branched Menorah is the outer temple, and is to be kept burning at all times. The fire on the altar in the inner temple must also be kept burning at all times for sacrifices. It remains a tradition to have a Ner Tamid (eternal light) above the ark in most Shuls to remind us of the eternal fires in the temple. In modern days our Shuls are our temples, and for now our place of worship, while we pray for Moshiach and the 3rd Temple.
It is said that the smoke generated from the temple always rose straight up to the sky – irrelevant of the direction or strength of the prevailing wind. This is said to be one of the Ten miracles of the temple (Pirkei Avos 5:5).
This word Tsav (command) is the root of the word ‘Mitzvah’. We talk about the 613 ‘Mitzvot’ in the Torah and often the 10 ‘Commandments’ within. It is often hard to translate a Hebrew word without losing meaning. The word Mitzvah can also mean ‘connection’ (from the Aramaic word Tzava meaning to attach or join). Spiritually we connect to HaShem by following the rules and laws set down in the Torah – whether we understand them or not. The Sages teach that by following the ‘commandments’ / Mitzvot we elevate ourselves – even if we are unsure why we are obeying a rule. In fact some teach that those who follow a Mitzvah begrudgingly or without accepting the reasons are on a higher level – because they are following rules from a higher order against their own natural instincts. Perhaps there is an analogy here to the ‘fires’ burning in the ‘outer’ and ‘inner’ courtyards of the original Temple?