Tzav – Finding Fervor

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“And for generations,” the Midrash, quoted by Rashi, adds to its assertion: “The word tzav [‘command’] implies ziruz [‘fervor’ or ‘zeal’] immediately…”

The context of the Midrash’s statement are the laws of terumas hadeshen and the olas tamid (the daily removal of a small portion of ashes from the heap on the mizbei’ach and the daily burnt offering). And, indeed, the Chasam Sofer notes, when something is done daily, it can easily devolve into a rote action, hence the need to consciously summon “fervor” – hislahavus, fiery ardor.

But the “for generations” addition implies even a future when there may be no Beis Hamikdash or offerings. And so the late fifteenth century Akeidas Yitzchak applies the exhortation to what takes the place of offerings when there is no Beis Hamikdash: tefillah, prayer.

It’s indeed all too easy to merely “recite” the five minute amidah, the essential tefillah offered thrice daily. For a prayer to be most meaningful, though, ziruz is essential.

Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin, presumably because tzav is a word used by the Torah in a number of contexts, stresses the need for fervor in all mitzvos (which word, of course, is formed from tzav).

He notes further that when Haman slandered the Jews, he said “They sleep through the mitzvos” (Megilla 13b). Not “they neglect the mitzvos,” but rather “they perform them “as if asleep” – i.e. as rote, lacking fervor. 

Indeed, Amalek is the root cause of such spiritual nonchalance. In Parshas Zachor, we read that Amalek karcha baderech, “happened upon you on the road” (Devarim 25:18). The word “happened” can be read to mean “cooled you off” (see Rashi, ibid).

Purim, when we focus on Haman’s defeat, is an ideal time to capture fervor, hislahavus, for the moment and the future.

© 2022 Rabbi Avi Shafran 

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