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Various midrashim and commentators address the Torah’s need to tell Aharon to command the Kohanim in the daily service, at the beginning of this week’s parsha. This, as the other sacrifices come without such an extra emphasis. One suggestion given by the rabbis in the Torat Kohanim is that since this sacrifice comes without any gifts for the Kohanim, it requires extra effort to motivate them. This is not out of fear that the Kohanim will not preform their duty, but rather a question of how they will preform their duty.

Indeed, so many of the mitzvot we do come with their own gifts. As we look forward to Pesach, we know how much most of us enjoy the holiday, its meals, its time with family and so on. Even a commandment like Torah study comes with its fringe benefits, giving us the satisfaction of greater understanding and the respect from others that comes with that. In contemporary culture, however, where so many decisions are based around ‘what is good for me,’ Judaism can easily turn into just one more strategy of how best to please ourselves.


It is with this in mind that Rambam warns us that having a festival meal, without making sure that the needy will be taken care of, cannot be considered a fulfillment of the mitzah of ‘simchat yom tov.’ Even though the meal may appear to fulfill all of the other halachot, such an omission shows that we are ultimately not doing it for God, but rather because we enjoy it. Though God makes is more easy to do the mitzvot by making many of them so pleasant, we must always remember that the latter is a fringe benefit and not the main goal.

Hence, the midrash comes to point out, that not only must we do the commandments when they are ‘only for God,’ but we must also do them with the same enthusiasm and effort. In fact, we all know that doing God’s will is the bottom line. But knowing and internalizing are two different things.


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Rabbi Francis Nataf ( is a Jerusalem-based educator and thinker and the author of four books of contemporary Torah commentary. His parshah column appears weekly in The Jewish Press. Rabbi Nataf is also the author of, "Redeeming Relevance in the Book of Leviticus"
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