The Ritual of Routine

February 18, 2024

In the Torah portion of Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20-30:10), we are introduced to the concept of the korban tamid, a daily offering brought twice a day: once in the morning and once in the afternoon. This ritual, a cornerstone of the ancient Temple service, symbolizes the constant and enduring relationship between the Jewish people and the Divine.

The verses about the daily offering play a surprising role in the fascinating debate among the sages about which verse in the Torah could be considered the most essential. The debate centers on which verse encapsulates the essence of Judaism more than any other, a discussion that dives deep into understanding the core values and principles that guide Jewish life.

Rabbi Akiva suggested that the verse “Love your fellow man as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) stands as the foundational principle of the Torah. This powerful statement emphasizes the importance of empathy, kindness, and mutual respect in building a just and compassionate society. It challenges us to treat others with the dignity and love that we desire for ourselves.

The sage known as Ben Azai pointed to another verse, “This is the book of the generations of Adam – on the day that God created man, He made him in His image” (Genesis 5:1), arguing that it represents an even more fundamental principle. By highlighting the divine image inherent in every human being, this verse underscores the sacred worth of every life and the universal dignity that must be afforded to all people.

Ben Zoma brought a different angle to the debate by highlighting the verse Shema Yisrael, “Hear O, Israel” (Deuteronomy 6:4), a declaration of God’s unity and our unwavering commitment to His commandments. This verse, recited daily by Jews around the world, serves as a constant reminder of our total devotion to God and the centrality of this relationship in our lives.

However, it’s Shimon Ben Pazi’s choice that adds a surprising twist to the debate. He selected the verses related to the korban tamid, the daily offering, “You shall offer the one lamb in the morning, and you shall offer the other lamb at twilight” (Exodus 29:39 and Numbers 28:4). At first glance, this selection, focusing on a specific ritual practice, does not seem to fit at all. It is far less encompassing than the grand ethical and theological principles put forth by the other sages. Yet, Ben Pazi’s selection underscores a very important concept: the value of consistent, daily action as the foundation of a spiritual life.

The fact that Rabbi Ploni sided with Shimon Ben Pazi illuminates a profound truth: while grand ethical teachings and theological declarations are crucial, they reach their fullest expression in the regular, day-to-day practices of faith and devotion. The korban tamid serves as a metaphor for this principle, emphasizing that our relationship with God is built and sustained not through occasional grand gestures, but through the steady rhythm of daily commitment and service.

The lesson here is clear: it is the ongoing, everyday actions—our consistent efforts to connect with God, to live by His commandments, and to treat others with love and respect—that truly define and deepen our spiritual lives. Through this lens, we see that the essence of Judaism and a relationship with God is not captured in a single moment of revelation or a lofty ideal, but in the cumulative impact of daily, dedicated practice. It is in these seemingly small, routine acts of devotion and kindness that we find the true heart of our faith and the path to a meaningful relationship with the Divine.

This idea challenges us to see the sacred in the ordinary, and to recognize that every act of kindness, every moment of self-discipline, and every gesture of love, contributes to the fabric of a life well-lived. It teaches us that spiritual growth and ethical development are cumulative, built layer upon layer through our daily choices and actions.

In a world that often seeks instant gratification and dramatic transformations, this message is a reminder of the value of patience, persistence, and quiet dedication to our values and beliefs. It encourages us to commit to our principles not just in moments of inspiration or crisis but as a continuous, living practice. Whether through prayer, meditation, service to others, or simply through the way we conduct our everyday lives, we are invited to make every action count and to infuse our daily routines with intention and purpose.

 

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Shira Schechter

Shira Schechter is the content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. She earned master’s degrees in both Jewish Education and Bible from Yeshiva University. She taught the Hebrew Bible at a high school in New Jersey for eight years before making Aliyah with her family in 2013. Shira joined the Israel365 staff shortly after moving to Israel and contributed significantly to the development and publication of The Israel Bible.

Shira Schechter

Shira Schechter is the content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. She earned master’s degrees in both Jewish Education and Bible from Yeshiva University. She taught the Hebrew Bible at a high school in New Jersey for eight years before making Aliyah with her family in 2013. Shira joined the Israel365 staff shortly after moving to Israel and contributed significantly to the development and publication of The Israel Bible.

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