Rabbi O’s Weekly Torah Portion Commentary. Tzav (Leviticus 6-8)

An Effective Tool for Getting Love You Want
Many people are familiar with an attitude about a task we aren’t looking forward to: “It is not very glamorous, but somebody has to do it.” And so the Torah begins this week’s portion by telling us the mitzvah of , removing the ashes that accumulate from the burnt-offerings upon the altar (Terumat Hadeshen). “The Kohen shall don his fitted linen tunic, and he shall don linen breeches on his flesh; he shall separate the ash of what the fire consumed…on the Altar, and place it next to the Altar” (Leviticus 7:3). This verse teaches us that the Kohen must wear his priestly tunic when preforming the ash-removal service, but why must the Kohen where a fitted garment; wouldn’t it be enough for him simply to wear a garment, even if it wasn’t fitted? In addition, the commentary of Rashi explains that this rule also applies to every priestly garment. All of them must be fitted—they can’t be too long or too short. They must be tailored to fit each individual Kohen according to his physical measurements.
Question:​A detailed analysis of the priestly vestments (bigdei kehuna) was previously discussed in Tezaveh, the Torah portion we read five weeks ago. Shouldn’t the directive of precise-fitting garments have been mentioned in conjunction with the laws of tailoring? Furthermore, if the Torah wanted to teach us those requirements in conjunction with a particular service, why not choose a more distinguished one such as an anointment or sacrifice? Why choose sweeping ashes as the place to instruct us about the imperative for the Kohen to wear fitted garments?
An anecdote from one of the most significant figures in the history of baseball will help to illustrate this point. Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburg Pirates, was playing outfield late into the 1968 season against the Houston Astros. The Pirates were no longer contenders; that game had no statistical meaning. A ball was hit deep toward the outfield wall. As Clemente raced back, it seemed that the ball was going to hit the wall way over his head but that didn’t stop him from propelling himself toward the wall. Speeding at a forty-five degree angle he collided with the wall at the same time that the ball hit it, two feet above his head. In a post-game interview a reporter asked, “Roberto, your team is out of contention. There are three games left in the season. Why in the world did you try so hard to make that play? Was it worth the potential harm you might have done to yourself?” Clemente was puzzled and explained: “I am not paid to win pennants. My job is to catch the ball. I tried to catch the ball. I was trying to do my job.”
When the Torah tells us that the Kohen’s clothes have to be made to measure (for that particular service) it is instructing us that the job too is exactly right (custom made) for the person who is doing it. The Kohen who cleans the ashes on a certain day is not merely doing another Kohen’s job; he is doing a job tailor made for him. Wearing an ill-fitted garment might give the impression of lack of precision. What appeared to be the most trivial of jobs (cleaning the ashes) is a job that must be done and therefore a Mitzvah. Being as it is the job of the hour it is exactly what that particular Kohen was designated to do. Precisely because the job/service is tailor-made for the individual the clothes also must be tailor-made for the job as well.
What’s your job; the one that only you can do? Is it taking care of your elderly parents or taking care of your children? Is it being an understanding parent to your teenager who is causing you much grief? Is it being an understanding spouse or friend? Is it stepping up to take responsibility for a worthy cause? Whatever we do and however we do it, we must realize that the end ultimately comes through many menial tasks. Whatever it takes to get to the goal is as vital as the goal itself and will therefore require devotion, commitment, and self-sacrifice. The fitted garment worn by the Kohen reminded him of the importance of the seemingly meaningless job of collecting the ashes and ingrained in him the idea that every task that needs doing has significance and should be viewed as such. Next time you sigh when having to do something you deem unimportant, realize that if it is the need of your wife, husband, parent, child, or friend, it is worthy not only of your attention, but also your being motivated in being the one selected for that task. Realizing this not only makes the assignment more enjoyable, it also helps to strengthen your relationship with the person for whom you are doing the task. Commitment is something we all crave in every meaningful relationship we have. Every time a person does a seemingly trivial or boring deed for someone of meaning in his or her life, s/he demonstrates commitment to that person. This is one of the most effective tools in getting the love we all want and need in our relationships.

Good Shabbos

(Based on Fitting Work, by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky)