Parashas Tetzaveh

This week’s parashah deals with the garments of the Kohen Gadol and the ceremony that Moshe was to perform to induct his brother Aharon into the position of Kohen Gadol. The Gemara in Horayos 12a relates that both Moshe and Aharon were worried about embezzling the anointing oil – that is, gaining personal pleasure from the oil. Aharon was worried that feeling personal joy over receiving his lofty position would constitute improper use of the oil. Moshe had a similar worry regarding the joy of inducting his dear brother into this position. But a Heavenly voice declared that both Moshe and Aharon were completely innocent of any impropriety.
The Maggid, in his commentary on the parashah in Ohel Yaakov, analyzes this Gemara at length. He notes that mitzvos can be classified into two categories: those that involve discomfort and those that involve pleasure. The mitzvah of fasting on Yom Kippur involves discomfort; the mitzvah of making Shabbos a day of delight involves pleasure. With a mitzvah that involves discomfort, it is easy to maintain the stance of performing the mitzvah for its own sake. But with a mitzvah that involves pleasure, the ulterior motive of experiencing pleasure naturally creeps in. It is very difficult to set one’s mind solely on the goal of fulfilling Hashem’s will. In fact, the Maggid says, this is the greatest of all the challenges we face in our mission of serving Hashem faithfully. This quandary is what Moshe and Aharon were worried about.
The highest level of righteousness involves completely purging the heart of all desire; to reach the state where, as David HaMelech put it (Tehillim 109:22), “my heart is emptied out within me.” When a person reaches this state, he is no longer influenced by ulterior motives. Moshe and Aharon were at this level. Hence, their use of the anointing oil was completely devoid of any personal interest.
Most of us, however, are not at this high level of purity. How do we deal with the interplay of mitzvah observance and personal pleasure? The Maggid points us to an answer: We can at least make an effort to use our drive for pleasure in the service of mitzvos, rather than use mitzvos to serve our drive for pleasure. The Maggid develops this idea in the context of making Shabbos a delight. He says that during the week we should minimize our indulgence in pleasures, and save the pleasures for Shabbos. We thereby use our drive for pleasure as an instrument to honor Shabbos. The same approach can be followed in other areas as well. In this way, we fulfill Shlomo HaMelech’s directive (Mishlei 3:6): “In all your ways, know Him” – connect with Hashem in everything that you do.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

1 Comment

  1. North Jerusalem Maggid of Dubno Project » Blog Archive » Parashas Tetzaveh:

    […] the week and designating Shabbos as the day for such delights. We discussed these two forms in a previous piece. Finally, there is the scenario where we put ourselves on the line to keep mitzvos in the face of […]

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