Parshat Tzav – Blessed routine

Is prayer boring? Surprisingly, no. People who look at the words they said yesterday and the day before, and last week, and last year... find new flavor in these ancient words – every day.

Tallit (prayer shawl) (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Tallit (prayer shawl)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
As we move deeper in to the Book of Leviticus, we wonder to what extent the issues it discusses are relevant to our lives in the 21st century.
This question is bigger if we believe that the issues of the Temple and the sacrifices are specific to them and not practical for the past approximately 2,000 years. But the truth is that these issues represent spirituality in man’s life. When the Temple stood, the worship in it and the sacrifices were the pinnacle of man’s spirituality. Nowadays we can also delve into the Torah and learn lessons from it that are relevant to every person in every generation.
And here, in this week’s Torah portion, we find an interesting message regarding the beauty and significance of routine.
Man’s life is composed of routine and events that are outside our routine. There are those for whom routine is comfortable. They call it “blessed routine.”
When things go according to plan, man lives with a sense of security that makes him calm and serene.
On the other hand, there are those who find routine boring and find interest in those times that are different from their routine. Those are the moments that add flavor and meaning to their dull routine.
Between those two groups, of course, are the majority of people who enjoy both routine and times that veer from routine.
The sacrifices in the Temple, as representative of man’s spiritual life, teach us of the needed balance between routine and extraordinary events outside it.
In the basic list of various sacrifices that we read already last week, there are those that man brings of his own free will; there are those that man must bring following a sin or some incident; there are sacrifices brought to the Temple on festivals and special events.
This week we read about the Korban Tamid, the daily sacrifice, that was to be sacrificed each day at the Temple; two sacrifices called “tamid” (always) – one in the morning and one toward evening. This is the sacrifice that represents unchanging routine.
On weekdays, Shabbat, festivals, on Yom Kippur – there will always be the Tamid. The basic ritual must always (tamid) be kept.
Why? What is so good about regular routines and rituals? Truthfully, if we ask ourselves this question, we assume that the act itself is not of much significance, and therefore we ask why it has to be done daily. But the equation can be turned around to say that “a certain act is so good that it should be done daily.”
Furthermore, every regular ritual and act of routine represents the basic layer of human life. Eating, sleeping, speaking – these are rituals that we do daily without asking “why.” This is because we understand that the basis of life is composed of these actions. The “Tamid” sacrifice represents the basic layer of worshiping God, a layer that cannot be given up.
Even after the destruction of the Temple, there are rituals that remain. Prayer is an example. Observant Jews pray three times a day: morning, noon and evening.
Is prayer boring? Surprisingly, the answer is – no. People who look at the words they said yesterday and the day before, and last week, and last month, and last year... find new flavor in these ancient words – every day.
The writer is rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites.