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Tzav: Running after Our Desires ~ Tzvi Abrahams


מְרֻצֶה: pleasing, desirable

רָצוֹן: desire/will

רוּץ: run

שֶׁרֶץ: rodent

אֶרֶץ: earth

רְצֵה: accept

מְרֻצֶה: Pleasing, Desirable

וְאִם הֵאָכֹל יֵאָכֵל מִבְּשַׂר זֶבַח שְׁלָמָיו בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁי לֹא יֵרָצֶה הַמַּקְרִיב אֹתוֹ לֹא יֵחָשֵׁב לוֹ פִּגּוּל יִהְיֶה And if he will surely eat from the meat of the offering on the third day it will not be desirable, the one who brings it should not consider it to be so, it will be pigul.1

The verse above describes a situation that is undesirable in the eyes of Hashem. The term piguldescribes the state of a korbanthat is offered up with the thought to eat it beyond the designated time, in this case on the third day. Each korbanhas a designated time and place when and where it should be eaten to be considered desirable in the eyes of Hashem.

Everything has a time and place. We see this when it comes to food; there are certain foods that only have a limited shelf life, like milk or meat, where, without refrigeration, they spoil within twenty-four hours.

So too certain mitzvos have an optimal time in which they should be performed. In the opening pasukof the sedrah, Rashi explains the word צַו/command, from the word מִצְוָה/mitzvah, to mean זָרוּז/with zeal. There is an expression in Chazal that says, זְרִיזִין מַקְדִּימִיןלְמִצְוֹת,meaning that when carrying out any commandment, one needs to perform it with vitality and enthusiasm, with the knowledge that he is fulfilling the will of his Creator.

רָצוֹן: Desire/Will

This desired level of enthusiasm needed to perform a mitzvah can only be achieved if we make His will our will. רָצוֹן/will has the same gematriaas מְקוּר/source, meaning that our desire is the root source of who we are. Our level of motivation to do something is born out of our desire or lack thereof. In order for us to get out of bed in the morning, we must to desire to do so.

Our body naturally has built-in desires — e.g., to eat, sleep, procreate — but beyond that, we have our רָצוֹן/will that has the strength to counteract our bodily desires, if we so wish. Our strongest רָצוֹן, if we dig deep enough, is a deep yearning to connect to our source —יִחוּד ה’/being at one with Hashem.

רוּץ: Run

Where do we run to? We run after our desires. We keep on running until we have fulfilled our desires. Running is typified by a deer, as it says: רָץ כַּצְבִי/run like a deer to do the will of your Father in Heaven.2

Why is running typified by a צְבִיrather than a leopard or a cheetah that can run much faster? The aspect of speed described is not just a short-term sprint, but endurance — not to have a sudden surge of energy and then become exhausted, but rather to build up and run for long distances at a constantly fast pace.

When I was in a Jewish primary school, I was among the fastest runners (because my name is צְבִי). But when I reached the non-Jewish senior school, I (the צְבִי) was outrun and outclassed. It was a no-contest to be put on the same track as the leopard and cheetah; I came in at a lackluster third place. Only when I became older did I acquire the perseverance tools to run the marathon.

צְבִיalso means “desire” for the very reason stated above: because we run after our desires. The land of Eretz Yisrael is known as אֶרֶץ צְבִי/the land of desire, because all the goyimdesire a piece of the action since this is the land where the Divine Presence is found.3

שֶׁרֶץ: Rodent

The family of creatures that fall under the category of שֶׁרֶץare so called because they are fast and forever running from place to place.4

אֶרֶץ: Earth

Thealephat the beginning of the word אֶרֶץsuggests a meaning of “I will run.” This is the world of running, whereasשָׁמַיִם/Heaven is lashonשָׁם/there. Only when I get there, to my destination of יִחוּד ה’/oneness with Hashem, do I stop running.

רְצֵה: Accept

In the bentchingon Shabbos and in the daily Shemoneh Esrei, we say רְצֵה, where we ask Hashem to accept our prayers. Our prayers are in place of the korbanos/sacrifices, and are our way of drawing close to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Therefore, in order for our prayers to be accepted, they need to be offered up in the same way as the korbanos, i.e., in the right time and the right place. The korbanosgave off a רֵיחַ נִיחֹחַ/a pleasing smell that caused them to be aה’נַחַת רוּחַ לִפְנֵי/accepted and desired by Hashem. Every mitzvah gives off a smell, which can be either pleasant or repugnant.5Just like with a food’s smell, which turns from fresh to sour the longer we leave it, so too with our performance of mitzvos — the moreזָרוּז/enthusiastic we are, the more pleasing the smell is in the eyes of Hashem. Likewise, the longer it takes to do a mitzvah, the less pleasing it becomes, because it no longer has that fresh smell.

We live in a world comprised of time and space, insofar that everything has its time and its space. If we give in to our bodily desires and are unable to get out of bed in the mornings, then we forfeit our time slot for davening; even if we daven at home, we forfeit the optimal place for davening, i.e., in shulwith a minyan. If we don’t say our after-brachoswithin a certain time frame after eating, or if in certain circumstances we change our place of eating, then we could forfeit the brachah. Our quickness or slowness to perform a mitzvah reveals where we are holding with regard to our רָצוֹן/desire, our core source of being.

This is the underlying meaning behind the word צַו, where צַוmeans “to connect.” The whole point of the commandments is to beזָרוּז/zealous, and to train us to run and overcome our bodily desires in order to connect with our source desire, which is to align our will with His will and to reach our destination of יִחוּד ה’/oneness with Hashem, where we can finally come to rest and stop running.

And this is the lesson that we can learn as we approach Pesach, the time of freedom, that the only way to break out of the מֵיצָר/thenarrow restrictive place of מִצְרָיִם/Egypt, was בְּחִפָּזוֹן/with speed, represented by the matzah, where no time was given for theyetzer harato become חָמֵץ/leaven. Having broken out of the confines of Egypt, we can eventually move on to Eretz Yisrael, the land known as אֶרֶץ צְבִי/the land that Hashem desires, where we can be free from our bodily desires to run after our true desire, and be רָץ כַּצְבִי/run like a deer to do the רָצוֹן/will of our Father in Heaven.

1Vayikra 7:18.


3See Rashi to Devarim 33:17.

4Tosfos to Pesachim 24b.

5See above, Parshas Toldos, on ריח/smell.


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