Sincere Devotion by Reuven Twersky



    The word "Tzav" (ויקרא ו':ב') at the beginning of the Parsha literally means "command."  According to Rashi, however, it is a word that can refer to both the past and the future.  In other words, the commandments of Hashem are as applicable today as they were when they were first given.  The Torah is thus not "old fashioned."  The Mitzvos governing man's behavior and man's devotion to Hashem are timeless.  Consequently, our observance of the Torah should not be identified with tired, listless efforts.  When we daven, we should not stumble and mumble through the Tefillos out of habit.  Rather, we should remember whom we are addressing, and say each word carefully.  The same applies to the observance of Shabbos and to our Torah learning.  They should not be routine, but rather should be sources of inspiration.
         The following story, told by the Chofetz Chaim, illustrates the fallacy of reciting our Tefillos mechanically and by rote, and reminds us that when we daven, we should really mean every word we say.  An announcement was made over a factory's public address system, saying "All employees report to the manager's office."  Soon, all the workers were assembled before the manager to hear their daily instructions.  This procedure had been going on each day for several weeks, ever since the company's owner had left on an important business trip.  He personally had always directed the factory's operations, but now he had appointed a manager to oversee the work of his employees, and to assure that everything functioned smoothly while he was away.  All the employees stood there bored, as the manager read out loud all the instructions left behind by the boss.  He carefully pronounced each word just as the owner had ordered, and did a masterful job of delivering instructions.
    When the boss returned, however, he was shocked to see the condition of his factory.  Machines needed repairs and workers stood around idle.  He angrily called in the manager and asked him for an explanation. "Did you follow the instructions I left behind with you?"  "Of course," the manager defended himself.  "I read them to all the workers every day while you were gone."  "Now I know why there is such a mess," cried the boss.  "you only read these instructions but did not bother to see them carried out.  The lazy workers took advantage of your foolishness and almost ruined my entire business.  Do you think that I left behind these instructions only for reading?  I gave them to you so that you would know how to run the factory in my absence.  Reading them has not achieved the goal."
    The behavior of the manager is similar to that of people who study Torah and daven daily only out of force of habit.  They recite the Tefillos and learn the words of the Torah, but they consider them as some kind of reading material and not as a plan of action.  The Torah and the Tefillos are like the list left by the boss: a set of instructions on how to act practically.  If we do not actually practice what we say, then our words have no meaningful purpose at all.  This is why Chazal tell us in Pirkei Avos (פרק ב' משנה י"ח) to be careful with our Tefillos and not to make them a habit, but to make them an appeal for mercy.

Look Forward to Studying Torah by Yosef Trinz

The Meanings of Tzav by Elisha Olivestone