Written by 7th grader Zachary Katz for his Bar Mitzvah this Shabbat
As you may know, today is not only Shabbat, but it is also Shabbat Hagadol, the Shabbat before Pesach. While there are different explanations for why the Shabbat before Pesach is called Shabbat HaGadol, for me, it is certainly a big Shabbat. I can only imagine what was going through my parents’ heads just thirteen years ago when I was born right before Pesach. I’m sure they were busy trying to deal with me, getting ready for Pesach, and a Bris. And I bet that when they got through all of that, they sat down and said, “Wow! In thirteen years we’ll get to make a Bar Mitzvah right before Pesach. What fun!”
In the many months leading up to this special day, I spent numerous hours learning how to read this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Tzav. Rabbi Shneur Zalmen of Liadi, the founder of Chabad, once said, “We should live with the times” in reference to the Torah portion of the week. What this means is, that not only should we read and study the Parasha each week, but we should also find ways to apply what we find in the Torah to our daily lives.
Parashat Tzav teaches us about some of the Korbanot, sacrifices, that were brought by the Kohanim. (Hey, my dad’s a Kohein which makes me a Kohein…) The Parasha goes into great detail explaining when the Korbanot should be brought, how they should be brought, what should be used for each type of Korban, where the fires should be lit, what should be done with the ashes and which parts of which Korbanot should be eaten by whom.
As we currently do not have a Mishkan or a Beit Hamikdash, we may wonder how we can apply information about the sacrifices to our everyday lives.
On a very simple level, this week’s Parasha can serve as a reminder to each and every one of us of the importance of Tefillah, prayer. In our times, we have Tefillah, in place of bringing Korbanot. When we read this Parasha, we need to take some time to examine how we pray to Hashem. Each time we daven, we should use the time wisely to properly connect with Hashem and get close to him just like when the Korbanot were brought so many years ago. Today, I read the following words:
“Aish Tamid tukad al hamizbayach, lo tichbeh”, “an everlasting fire should always be burning on the Mizbayach, the altar, it should never be extinguished.”
In the Mishkan, there was a fire on the Mizbayach at all times. This eternal flame can also refer to a burning love for Hashem that we should have in our hearts at all times. We should each strive to keep this burning flame of Judaism and love of Hashem alive and active within ourselves each and every day of our lives. When we do a Mitzvah it should be with a great love for Hashem. This lesson is particularly important for me as I reach this important day in my life. As I celebrate my Bar Mitzvah, I understand that while it is nice for me to have a great big celebration with my family and friends, there is something else that is happening within me as well. As a Bar Mitzvah, I am now responsible for my actions and obligated to fulfill the Torah and Mitzvot.
As I set upon this great task of fulfilling the many Mitzvot, I will try to do them with a great love for Hashem and I ask that each of you try to do the same. Just like it was the Kohein’s job to keep the fire always burning, so too as a Kohein I carry the same responsibility. If we all try to keep this flame burning, we will ultimately make this world a better place. With the freedom of Pesach upon us, we hope and pray that the final freedom will come soon with the coming of Moshiach.