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Posted on March 29, 2024 (5784) By Rabbi Label Lam | Series: | Level:

And HASHEM spoke to Moshe, saying, (TZAV) Command Aaron and his sons, saying, “This is the law of the burnt offering: That is the burnt offering which burns on the altar all night until morning, and the fire of the altar shall burn with it.”

Command Aaron: (Hebrew)צַו. The expressionצַו – TZAV always denotes urging for the “now” (present) and also for future generations. Rabbi Shimon taught: Scripture especially needs to urge where monetary loss is involved. – Rashi

What is a Mitzvah? When I went to “Hebrew School” we were taught generically that it was a good deed. I also did some time in the Boy Scouts. There the aphorism, “Do a good deed daily” was a scout motto. I was confused. Is being a Boy Scout the same as being a Bar Mitzvah? What is a Mitzvah? Here the title TZAV צַו is the made up of the two letter root, the essence of the word Mitzvah.

Original Hebrew is a Holy Language. Although western letters and characters are ideographic, that is they are merely signals or triggers for certain sounds, their shapes and the names of letters are arbitrary.

The eastern languages are pictographic. The word for a house is a picture of a house but how to pronounce it is a matter of oral tradition. In Loshon HaKodesh, the Holy Language, each letter has a pronunciation but the names of the letters mean something, and the shapes are telling too. The first time a letter is used not as a prefix in Chumash is also an indication of the meaning of the letter.

The letter VUV is used more often than any other letter at the beginning of a word but it is almost always employed as a prefix. We have to travel to the middle of Shemos and the construction of the Mishkan to find a word that begins with the letter VUV.

There the Torah tells us of the VUV’ey HaAmudim, the hooks that held the curtains in the Temple. The letter VUV” looks like a hook. It means a hook. It is used grammatically to connect ideas and tenses just like a hook.

The Zohar calls it the letter of DAAS – Knowledge because it joins together, just as one who knows a thing, is intimate with that which he knows. The letter TZADI implies a Tzadik, a righteous person. It also means to trap, to bend the will, to exercise self- control. It is comprised of a NUN- which stands for NEFESH – Soul and a VUV. It is representative of a soul which is connected and humbly submitted to a higher will.

Now we’re getting a picture of what the essence of a mitzvah is all about. We are redirecting our appetites and attitudes and connecting them to Hashem. It’s not just a good deed like a Boy Scout and you get a badge on your uniform. The word TZAV means a commandment but it also means to connect and to be in the company of, as in the Aramaic Tzavsa. It makes sense that when, for example, a parent commands his child to do something, they now have an opportunity to connect with that parent and they are actually being invited to be in his or her company.

The Mishne in Pirke Avos tells us that the reward of a Mitzvah is a Mitzvah. Virtue is its own reward. It connects you with HASHEM! That is the reward. It’s not a currency that is later to be cashed in and translated into some other value. That is the value itself. The ultimate value and the most sublime reward is to be that close to and in the company of HASHEM. Rav Kook writes that it is also the deepest desire of the human soul!

Now Rashi peppers in a few other ingredients of a TZAV. It must be done presently and for generations. It is not, “at my earliest convenience”. It is calling for immediate attention. It is also a long-term commitment. We have a natural resistance to both of these factors. They push us way out of our comfort zone. In this particular case, the sacrifice was completely consumed and the Kohen would have no personal benefit from the animal that was to be brought. I have heard it said, “life only begins when you exit your comfort zone.”, and so, these challenges make the action even greater and they deepen the supernal relationship that is forged by doing a Mitzvah.