The New Shul

Parshat T’tzaveh

This week’s parashah, T’tzaveh, explains the procedure by which Aaron and his sons were to be ordained as kohanim, or priests. The Torah’s term for priestly ordination is “miluim” — literally “filling up.” As a verb, the term is “l’malei et yadav — to fill [the kohen’s] hands.”

Why does the Torah speak of priestly ordination as “filling up”? According to Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev, it is to teach us that we find fulfillment in this world only when we serve a higher cause, as the priests did. When we focus on our own needs, we always feel that we are lacking something. We never feel completely full. But when we dedicate ourselves to something greater, our lives become full in the process.

On Shabbat, we step back from our regular routine in order to restore our larger sense of purpose. We remember that, at Sinai, God called upon us to become a “kingdom of priests,” dedicated to making God’s world more whole. That is what makes Shabbat a day of such great fullness, a day on which we feel our blessings overflowing.