Dvar Torah: Parshat Shemini (inspired by Rabbi Aryeh Wolbe)
Updated: Mar 21
In this week’s parsha, Parshat Shemini, Moshe Rabbeinu, as well as his brother Aharon and his children, are doing labor in the Temple, when Hashem commands them regarding the Holy Temple . Before this new mitzvah, we see the verse: ”קָרָ֣א משֶׁ֔ה לְאַֽהֲרֹ֖ן וּלְבָנָ֑יו וּלְזִקְנֵ֖י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל.” This expression is translated as “Moses summoned Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel.” The word “summoned” is seemingly odd in this context, as the men were already working together for hours in the Temple, so why would Moshe Rabbeinu have to summon them?
The Sages explain that the Torah uses this terminology because Moshe was not summoning them to come back from somewhere physical, but rather somewhere spiritual. Moshe was summoning their spiritual connection to Hashem so that they could prepare themselves for the new mitzvah. From this, our sages extrapolated that each individual mitzvah requires focus, intention, and kavanah in order to elevate oneself to G-d. In doing so, one is provided with a deep connection to the new mitzvah and is able to find pleasure and reward in it. As the Gemara notes in the tractate of Brachot, when our sages would pray, they would sit for an hour prior to prayer to get into a spiritual headspace, pray for an hour after that, and finally they would sit down for another hour to immerse themselves and reflect on the tefillah they’d just experienced to get the most out of it. Essentially, they spent nine hours a day maximizing their intimacy and involvement with their creator.
The talmudic tractate of Brachot outlines the concept of preparation before the performance of a mitzvah . For instance, when we pray, we should not come to shul and rush the tefillot because one will lack the opportunity to connect to each respective word and understand the purpose of what we’re saying. In other words, one cannot just arrive at a mitzvah and expect to have the full experience. Instead, one should clear themselves of their preoccupations, relax their mind, and focus on their next chapter, what they are about to do, their connection with Hashem.
Evidently, this is precisely why Moshe Rabbeinu had to “summon” Aharon and his sons. Even though they’d been working in the Temple together, they had to shift their focus from the previous mitzvah they’d been involved in so that they could optimize their passion, emotion, and intention for this new mitzvah- not just merely perform it like mechanistic robots. The same way we prepare for cooking by buying all the ingredients required, we must prepare ourselves for mitzvot through our mindsets and intentions so that Hashem will be impressed with our “ingredients” and our final product, and so that we can fulfill the mitzvot to their greatest extent.
When one incorporates this outlook into their daily lives, they will be more cognizant and aware of their actions, approach all challenges in their life with the greatest intentions, and elevate themselves to Hashem.