Tetzaveh – Commands of the heart

The first words of this week’s Parsha are “And you shall command…”(27:20). It would make sense that everything following would be directions that we can follow practically in our lives, yet what our Parsha consists of are directions for the Cohen Gadol in his service to Hashem. In what way can we find an understanding and a joy that allows us to bring the Avodah of the Cohen Gadol into our personal Avodas Hashem? Simply, how to put our heart into our own personal Avodas Hashem.

We can better understand with a story; Rav Tzvi Hersh of Rimanov was the student and successor of the great Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Rimanov. Often the successor of a Rebbe is someone related or some scholar but Rav Tzvi Hersh grew up not learning Torah till he was 13. Following the yearning in his heart for something more he arrived in Rimanov shortly after his Bar Mitzvah. At the time he was still learning the ropes so when he got to Rimanov he found himself as the Rebbes assistant. He would keep the fire in the Shul burning, make the Rebbes bed, bring the Rebbe food. And every morning as a young man he would wake up early and go sweep the floors of the shul. A few years passed this way and at 16 Rav Tzvi Hersh got married. The wedding was a holy and joyous event, yet the next morning – bright and early before everyone else – Rav Tzvi Hersh was sweeping the floors of the Shul. Rav Menachem Mendels son mentioned to his father that Rav Tzvi Hersh might be having problems if the morning after his wedding he’s sweeping the floor! The Rebbe replied, “Thank God he came to sweep the Shul! I was so worried that he would be too tired and I would be unable to daven today. When Rav Tzvi Hersh sweeps the floor he clears a pathway for all our prayers to ascend to Hashems ears!”

Many years later the Shinover rebbe was on vacation when he walked into the shul in this vacation town and he was appalled at how filthy it was! He was upset and mentioned to the people who live there how he is surprised that they could allow a holy place to become so filthy. The next morning when the Shinover arrived to shul there was someone already there, sweeping the floor. The Shinover went to thank him for coming early to clean. This man told him, “When you asked us to clean the shul it reminded me of a story I’d heard about Rav Tzvi Hersh of Rimanov, how he used to sweep the floor of the shul and clear the path for prayers, even the morning after his wedding. And I thought, ‘I’m not on the level of The Rimanover and I certainly don’t know how to clear the path for prayers to ascend. But I do know how to sweep’, so sweep I did.” The Shinover explained to this Jew how much he had accomplished on a spiritual level with his sweeping and blessed him with a child. After 15 years of marriage this man had his first child on the merit of sweeping with all his heart.

The Gemara in Sanhedrin (106b) tells us “Rachamana Liba Ba’ei – Hashem wants the heart”, we can look at the Avodah of the Cohen Gadol and think that with all its details and intricacies there is not much anyone else can learn from it. But that is far from the truth. Yes, we may not be on his level, but that does not mean that with our heart in the right place we cannot accomplish the same thing or more. Hashem commanded Moshe to command us, all of us, with the Avodah of the Cohen Gadol so that we learn for our personal Avodah to put all our heart into it. To know that we may not be able to “sweep” like all the greater people of the past but we can always “sweep” the way we know how – with our heart. Many times we may not know why, or what for, but in truth all Hashem wants is our heart – and if that is in our Avodah we can accomplish far beyond anything that we could’ve imagined.

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