Midrash Tanḥuma states [Parashat Tzav, 14]:
Another thing: “Speak to Aaron” [Vayikra (Leviticus) 6:18] – this is what is stated in Scripture “With Your will, do good to Zion” [Tehillim (Psalms) 51:20] and then “Then You will desire sacrifices of righteousness, a burnt offering and a whole offering;” [ibid. 21] that is to say if Israel does not offer the olah (which was entirely burnt on the altar), Zion and Jerusalem will not be built, for they are built only in the merit of the olah sacrifices which Israel brought before God. And what is unique about the olah? The fact that it alone, among all the sacrifices is called a “sacrifice of righteousness,” as the verse states: Then You will desire sacrifices of righteousness, a burnt offering.” The Holy One, blessed be He said to Moshe: “Since this is so, the olah is especially dear to Me, therefore command Aaron and his sons to be particularly careful to offer it before Me.”
The Midrash teaches that building up Jerusalem and Zion is dependent upon the olah sacrifice. Ibn Ezra [commentary on Tehillim 51:21] notes that it is specifically the Tamid, the perpetual olah which is referred to as “sacrifices of the righteous.” The Tamid was offered twice daily, every day of the year. Thus, to prevent the Kohanim from offering it in a routine manner, God commanded Aaron and his descendants to be particularly careful in offering the daily olah. The Midrash specifies that the unique aspect of the olah is that it is the only sacrifice which is considered “sacrifices of the righteous,” which God “desires,” as the Psalm states.
We can raise two main questions about this Midrash:
1) What is the unique factor of the Tamid versus all other sacrifices which connects it to building Zion and Jerusalem?
2) The Midrash defines the Tamid as “sacrifices of the righteous.” Why is it the Tamid specifically which is called “sacrifices of the righteous?”
The Uniqueness of the Tamid
In order to understand the connection between building Zion and Jerusalem and the Tamid, we must understand some of the characteristics of these two things – the Tamid sacrifice and Jerusalem and Zion.
The Olah – the Tamid
The main characteristic of the Tamid is its being a perpetual offering. What can we learn from the fact that the olah was offered on a daily basis, without break? Rabbi Kook z”tl, in his siddur, Olat Re’iyah, explains the essence of the Tamid sacrifice, including the aspect we are dealing with, its perpetual nature. Rabbi Kook writes that the encounter with the perpetual offering teaches that our need for it is ongoing and never ending. By way of example, a restaurant offers a variety of foods, some are deserts which complete the meal, while others are central to the meal itself. This is expressed in two ways: firstly, the more central a food item is in the meal, the more it helps the body; secondly, such food, because of its importance will be offered on an ongoing basis. Similarly, Rabbi Kook explains that the influence of the daily olah is so basic and so important that its influence cannot be suspended even for a single day – it must continue day after day.
What is the unique characteristic that requires the olah to be offered on the altar daily?
The Tamid Funded by the Half-sheqels, Contributed by the Entire Congregation of Israel
Another aspect of the daily Tamid is that as a public offering on behalf of all Israel it was funded publically, through the “communal sheqels” (Israelites’ contributions to the Beit Mikdash (Temple). In contrast, other sacrifices were offered for various reasons – a sin-offering, a thanksgiving offering, etc. and were therefore privately funded by the individual offering the sacrifice. The daily olah was communally funded, with every individual, in effect, participating equally. Thus, the Tamid, offered as it is on behalf of the collective, has a unique influence on the collective.
Rabbi Kook explains that the Tamid, as a communal sacrifice, is intended to rectify the natural – tangible sides of Am Yisrael (the Nation of Israel); it carries as well an aspect of general rectification of the physical and spiritual within the world.
“This is the Law of the Olah” – Perpetual Sanctity and the Sanctity of the Collective
So far, we have mentioned two special attributes of the olah:
1) Its being perpetual;
2) Its being publically funded.
These two have a common denominator – the aspect of generality. Generality stands in opposition to individuality. The fact that the Tamid is publically funded clearly indicates that it is a general sacrifice. The fact that the olah is offered on a daily basis, with no distinction between week days and Shabbat, also indicates the aspect of generality, in that it is not related to any specific or individual factor; rather, it has unique , general properties which are present at all times.
One of the manifestations of sanctity is that it appears continually and exists eternally. We find a source for this statement in the Babylonian Talmud:
Tanna d’Bei Eliyahu states: The righteous, whom the Holy One, blessed be He, will resurrect, will not revert to dust, for it is said, “And it shall come to pass that he who is left in Zion and he who remains in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one who is written among the living in Jerusalem.” [Isaiah 4:3] Just as the Holy One (the word can also be understood as being lower case “holy”) endures forever, so they shall endure forever. Sanhedrin 92a
The Gemara (Talmud) clarifies that all the righteous who remain in Jerusalem, the eternal Holy City of Am Yisrael, will not revert to dust (i.e., they will not depart from the world), based upon the rule that “the holy endures forever.” Sanctity exists eternally and just as it has this attribute, so it is with the holy righteous ones.
Sanctity, Jerusalem and the Perpetual Sacrifice
Everything in the world is enveloped in the dimension of time. Creation contains myriad creatures, which reflect the tangible nature of our reality. One of the prime characteristics of material is that it is worn down over time. For this reason, that which is material cannot be eternal.
That which is sacred exists in a different framework than the material. To illustrate this point, we will note that one of the most outstanding expressions of closeness to God is prophecy, which transcends the dimension of time and can see the future. This ability to rise above the limitations of time is possible only through the power of sanctity, with its aspect of eternity.
Sanctity is the pinnacle of existence, the ultimate fulfillment of God’s will, and is thus completely connected to the Creator. Thus, sanctity is unfettered by the dimension of time and does not degrade over time – “the holy endures forever.” Since sanctity is connected to the Creator of the world, it is connected to the infinite.
The Tamid teaches the same quality – it never ceases, being offered every day of the year. Thus, the Tamid, more other sacrifices, is instructive of sanctity – it exists eternally and never ceases.
The Tamid is a communal offering, purchased by public funds. Whatever is private relates to a particular person, place and time. A private sacrifice is intended to atone for a particular sin or to express thanks to God; it is affected by time and place and is not eternal. However, a communal sacrifice is different, since it expresses the sanctity of the Am Yisrael, which is immutable, always maintaining its power and its lofty level.
Rabbi Abba bar Zabda said: Even though (the people) have sinned, they are still (called) “Israel.” [Gemara Sanhedrin 44a]
The communal – Israelite aspect always maintains sanctity.
These two aspects of the Tamid, its sanctity is continual and its being a communal offering, are characteristics of Jerusalem as well.
Jerusalem’s Sanctity – “And it shall come to pass that every survivor shall be in Zion, and everyone who is left, in Jerusalem; ‘holy’ shall be said of him.” [Isaiah 4:3] Merely being present in Jerusalem crowns one with sanctity. The Talmud [Bava Kama 82a] discusses a number of municipal ordinances which apply exclusively in Jerusalem, the common denominator of which is the city’s sanctity and purity.
Jerusalem’s Generality – “Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: ‘Jerusalem built-up is like a city that is united together’ [Psalms 122:3] – Jerusalem unites all Israelites to each other in friendship.” [Jerusalem Talmud, Bava Kama 7:7]
Answer to the First Question
Based upon our explanation of the sanctity of Jerusalem and of the Tamid is natural and even necessary. The underlying principles of the Tamid, sanctity and generality, are the principles upon which the holy city Jerusalem is built. Therefore, it is clear and simple that it is in the merit of this sacrifice that Jerusalem is built up. The Tamid conveys the central motifs of the Holy City, the eternal city of the Nation of Israel and the connection between the Temple and the city of Jerusalem specifically.
Explanation of the Appellation “Sacrifices of the Righteous” Specifically for the Tamid
We may now address the second question we raised: why is it specifically the Tamid which is called “sacrifices of the righteous?” The answer is related to our comments above and to the meaning of “righteousness.” As we noted above, the Gemara (Talmud) comments that the righteous who are resurrected will live eternally. The Hebrew root word for “righteous” (ẓedek) means “truth.” Righteousness is the practical expression of truth within the world. As we explained above, the crucial characteristics of the Tamid, that it is perpetual and general, are characteristics of truth as well, since truth relates to everyone equally and is never subject to change.
We learned the unique connection between the Tamid and the Holy City of Jerusalem. The two core characteristics of the Tamid; that it is perpetual and general, are characteristics of the Holy City as well. Thus, we can understand why Jerusalem is built up specifically by virtue of the Tamid, which more than any other sacrifice corresponds to the Holy City and its characteristics.
Offering the Tamid brings us closer to God and endows us with the influence of the characteristics which are the essence of Jerusalem’s existence.