Jewish Constancy

Friday, 22 February, 2019 - 11:34 am

One of the marks of devotion is constancy. In Hebrew, the word for constant is Tamid. We were commanded to have a constant fire burning on the altar in the Temple. This was called the Aish Tamid – constant fire. As a reflection of that, many Synagogues have a Ner Tamid – constant flame (or bulb) – burning in front of the Ark. There are six mitzvot that are referred to as Tamid due to their being incumbent upon us constantly. (E.g. The belief in G-d.) There was an offering in the Temple called Tamid that was brought consistently each morning and again each afternoon. It was “Tamid” in the sense that even on Shabbat, holidays, and Yom Kippur, the first and last offering of the day was the Tamid.

Now that we have established the credentials of Tamid, I would like to direct your attention to the Shulchan Aruch – code of Jewish law. The author, Rabbi Yosef Caro, wrote with a Sephardic bent to his Halachic renderings. So an Ashkenazic authority, Rabbi Moshe Isserlish, known as Rema, wrote glosses that were included in the text of the Shulchan Aruch. He opens his glosses to the very first passage of Jewish law, dealing with waking up in the morning, by quoting a verse. Psalms 16:8 states: Shivisi Hashem L’negdi Tamid – I have placed the L-rd before me constantly. He then goes on to explain why this is a fundamental principle of Jewish conduct. When a person has Hashem before them constantly, this reinforces the devotion to Hashem and the Mitzvot of the Torah.

Shulchan Aruch is divided into four major sections. The first deals with the daily and calendar life of a Jew. It covers the daily schedule of prayer, meals, and general conduct. It goes onto the laws of Sabbath, and then festivals. The last set of laws is the section dealing with Purim. The conclusion addresses a leap year when there are two Adars. The Rema ends as follows. “There are those who say that one is obligated to increase in joy and feasting on the 14th of Adar I however this is not the practice. Nonetheless one should increase slightly their joy and feasting in order to fulfill the words of those who are stringent, (Proverbs 15:15) “V’tov Lev Mishteh Tamid” - “A cheerful heart celebrates constantly.”

So the bookends of the laws of life are two “Tamids”. One must constantly be in a state of awareness of Hashem’s presence (being G-d-fearing) and must constantly be in a state of joy. The commentators explain that these are a reflection of the two daily Tamid offerings that came at the outset and conclusion of each day’s service.

One might think that the two “Tamids” are at odds. Yet, Chassidus explains that these two attitudes of constancy are interdependent. Yir’as Shamayim (being G-d-fearing) must be tempered by joy in order for it to be effective in a person’s life. Indeed the Psalmist (100:2) encourages us to “Serve the L-rd with joy.” Joy, on the other hand, must be molded by Yir’as Shamyim in for it to be properly directed. Together the Tamids provide for us a perfectly synthesized approach to life.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


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