This week’s parsha opens with the commandment to take pure olive oil in order to light the menorah. The Torah uses the phrase “lehaalot ner tamid” in conjunction with the lighting of the menorah. I would like to focus upon the use of the word “tamid” in the Torah.
I was fascinated to find that the word is used almost exclusively in relation to the mishkan (we will discuss the exceptions later in the shiur). It is used 35 times, which I would like to divide into the following case:
1. The word tamid is used to describe the placement of the “lechem hapanim” on the “shulchan” in last week’s parsha.2. We find it in this week’s parsha in the case of the menorah as mentioned above.
3. Later in the parsha when describing Aharon’s entrance into the mishkan with the “urim vetumim” containing the names of the twelve tribes, it appears again.
4. The mitzvah to bring the two sheep daily, known as the “Korban Tamid” first appears in the middle of our parsha, where the word is used twice.
5. At the end of our parsha we find the mitzvah of the inner altar used for the incense, which is also described as “tamid”.
6. In parshat tzav we find the requirement of aish tamid on the altar.
7. Of course it appears in the end of Pinchas where the list of korbanot for the holidays is given including the Tamid itself and it is mentioned in each and every one the holidays.
There are numerous other times but most fall under the categories above, and even more striking is the lack of the use of the word anywhere else (with one exception).
We find two different meanings to the word “tamid” in the Torah (See the comments of the Malbim on Vayikra 6:6 for an extensive discussion). In some cases it would be best translated as “constantly”- A continuous presence that may not be interrupted. Such is the case with the menorah. We are taught that the Kohen would enter the Mikdash and find only the western candle lit and he would light the rest of the new oil from the existing flame and later would extinguish the western one and replace it with new oil, never leaving the entire menorah void of light- constant.
Rashi at the beginning of our parsha offers an alternative translation to “tamid”. Rashi says it means “regularly”. In his comments on the menorah he writes that it is lit “every evening” and this fulfills the requirement of “tamid”. He brings as proof the usage of the word tamid in context of the Korban Tamid, which was brought every day but not all day.
It appears that this is the basis of the debate in the mishnah in Menachot concerning the “lechem hapanim”. (See Menachot 99b) According to the Tana Kama when the chalot were switched on Shabbat a very precise and synchronized movement was needed to see to it that each millimeter of new chalah was pushed onto the shulchan precisely as a corresponding amount of the old challah was being pulled off the opposite end. This is all to fulfill the requirement of “tamid”. According to this view tamid is constant and even the slightest lapse would render a violation of the mitzvah.
R. Yosi in the same mishnah teaches that it was acceptable for one group of cohanim to remove the old challah and the next group could then put in the new challah and this too would be considered “tamid”. R. Yosi’s relaxed criteria seem to stem from a reading of the word tamid, which should be rendered- regularly, but not necessarily constantly.
This debate finds itself continued in Chagigah 26b, where the Gemara discusses the procedure followed in the mikdash following the chagim. During the chag all kohanim were trusted as to their status of purity however as soon as the chag was over each and every item in the mikdash was purified because of the possibility that one of the kohanim might have been tamei. We are taught in the Gemara that they would warn the kohanim not to touch the shulchan because it could not be removed from the mikdash and taken to the mikveh due to the requirement of “tamid”. The Gemara debates whether or not the same applied to the menorah. Once again we see the importance of either constancy or consistency.
The Torat Kohanim comments on the word “tamid” in both the context of the menorah and lechem hapanim and says “Tamid- even on Shabbat and even while tamei, impure”. In order to fulfill our requirement of “tamid” we are allowed and even obligated to “bend the rules” of purity of the mikdash and even to do acts that qualify as desecrating Shabbat. We see the great importance the Torah places on this idea.
The significance, I believe, is clear: The Mishkan and later the Mikdash are meant to form a permanent and everlasting presence of God amongst Am Yisrael “And I will dwell amongst them”. In turn, our commitment to the service in the Mikdash must be both consistent and constant. The relationship we forge with God cannot be one that is based on our convenience or mood, rather it must embody that which is stated in Tehillim “Shiviti Hashem Lenegdi Tamid” – Hashem is always present before me.
Supposedly there is a Midrash that expresses this very nicely (I say supposedly as I have searched for the Midrash for years without luck and lately I found it quoted by one of the Achronim as a Midrash that he heard but was unable to find). The Midrash is discussing what is to be considered “Klal Gadol” a cardinal rule in Judaism. Three opinions are quoted: The first points to “VeAhavta LeReacha KaMocha” – Love your neighbor as yourself. The second points to the first of the Ten Commandments, and the third quotes “The one sheep in the morning and the second in the evening”. When comparing the three positions the most shocking is the last one. While loving ones fellow Jew and belief in God seem to be better candidates I think that based on our ideas above we can, as well, understand the third opinion. The consistency of avodat Hashem the never ending dedication to the task of serving Hakadosh Baruch Hu is indeed a Klal Gadol- a cardinal rule.
In closing I would like to mention the one exception to the rule, where “tamid” is used not in connection to the Mishkan. In Devarim perek 11 we read “The land that you are entering to inherit…a land that God seeks, His eyes are constantly TAMID focused on it, from the start of the year until its end”.
The only exceptional use of this word is in relation to Eretz Yisrael. When it comes to Eretz Yisrael there is no such thing as times in which Hashem “ignores” us, He is constantly and consistently focused upon us. It is our challenge to make the same permanent commitment to Eretz Yisrael as we must to the Menorah, the Shulchan, the Tzitz, and all of the other elements of the Korbanot. Eretz Yisrael cannot be simply a place to send postcards from when times are good, it is our home and should be treated as such by all members of Am Yisrael.