(Torah Portion Pinchos) Consistency!
The Torah details the communal sacrificial offerings that the Kohanim (priests) offered in the Temple.
The Tamid – the twice-daily offerings – is listed first. The morning Tamid and evening Tamid were identical. A male year-old sheep was slaughtered and offered as a completely burnt offering along with a grain and oil offering, and a wine libation. The Tamid offerings were purchased with the Temple funds. These funds came from the half shekel mandatory contribution, thus each Jew had a share in the Tamid offerings.
Just prior to the destruction of the Temple, the Tamid sacrifices came to a halt, leaving the Temple vulnerable for destruction.
This past Sunday we commemorated the fast of the 17th of Tamuz. One of the sad occurrences of this day was that the Tamid offering came to an abrupt halt during the second Temple era.
The Talmud relates that even as the Romans laid siege around the walls of Jerusalem causing an embargo within the city, still, the Jews would lower two golden coins over the wall and the Romans would hoist two male one year old sheep so that they could offer the Tamid each day. On the 17th of Tamuz, the Jews sent over the two golden coins and the Romans hoisted two pigs. At the mid-point of their ascent of the wall, the pigs dug their hoofs into the wall and it shook violently. That same day the walls of Jerusalem were breached and the Romans fought a three-week battle until they were able to reach the Temple and set it ablaze on the 9th of Av.
Our Sages explain: had our enemies realized how much protection and blessing the Temple and the sacrifices afforded them and all the nations of the world, they would have sent legions of armies to protect it rather than to destroy it.
It was obviously the will of the Almighty that His abode be taken from us due to our sins and our disregard of the laws of the Torah. G-d in His infinite kindness destroyed His own abode, the Temple – the stones and wood, rather than taking his wrath out on His people.
We pray daily that G-d will rebuild the third and final Temple, and that at the time of Redemption, peace – which we so desperately need – will reign across the globe!
The animal sacrifices in the Temple were of three categories: bullocks, rams and sheep.
Certain verses in the Torah connect these animals to our forefathers: Avraham is related to the bull, Yitzchok to the ram, and Yaacov to the sheep.
It is interesting that the wicked prophet Bilaam offered 42 sacrifices trying to manipulate G-d to allow him to curse the Jews. He offered bulls and rams but not sheep. Why? Commentators explain that Bilaam knew that the bull and ram represented Avraham and Yitzchok and each of them produced a wayward child, Yishmael and Aisav. He therefore felt that he had a chance to slip in a curse by offering bulls and rams.
Sheep are associated with Yaacov. The Torah attests that Yaacov’s entire family – the twelve tribes – was totally righteous and pure. Bilaam knew he had no chance to curse the Jews if he offered sheep.
The daily Tamid offering was a sheep and represents Yaacov – the family of Israel.
Shem MeShmuel quotes our Sages who tell us that the nature and temperament of sheep is one of humility, thus making them a good match to the Jews who are complimented by G-d for exercising the quality of humility.
The Hebrew word Tamid that is used to describe the daily sacrifice means consistency. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein o.b.m. points out that even today when we do not have a Temple, the times for our daily prayers are arranged based on the time frame when the Tamid was offered.
Thus, our daily routine of prayers affords us the gift of consistency in our lives. When one’s day begins with prayer, that spiritual energy and Torah values, Mitzvos and ethics help guide a person through their day and navigate him through the course of challenges he may meet.
Any spouse, parent, teacher or employer would attest that one of the best virtues they look and hope for is consistency.
Tamid – consistency, stability and reliability are the wonderful qualities which our loyalty to Torah enables us to attain, maintain and retain!
Wishing you a most enjoyable and uplifting Shabbat!
Rabbi Dovid Saks