Ex. 27:20 – 30:10 

Rabbi Gary Pokras 

“… a perpetual burnt offering for your generations at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting before the Lord, where I shall meet with you there and speak to you.” (Ex. 29:42) 

In Parashat Tetzaveh we are introduced to the establishment of daily sacrifices. The Hebrew word for sacrifice (korbon) shares a root with the word karov which means “close.” The purpose of the sacrifice was to become closer with God.  

Rabbi Stephen Wylen relates a story told about the Apter Rebbe, who was among the early generations of chassidic rabbis. A chassid, one of his people, was pouring out his heart about his many troubles. When he finished, the Apter Rebbe responded: “You should know that an even greater tragedy than all that has befallen you occurred today; the daily sacrifice was not offered because our Temple lies in ruins.”1 

On the surface, this may not seem like a compassionate response. As a congregational rabbi I see so much pain in the world today. So many of our families struggle with multiple crises, ongoing debilitating illnesses, deep anxiety and more. How does this answer help? 

There are layers of meaning beneath the Apter Rebbe’s words. Closest to the surface is the importance of perspective. When we reframe our suffering to consider a larger picture, it can help us carry our sorrows with more strength and grace. Digging deeper, we discover that there is a connection between our suffering, the Jewish people as a whole, and our distance from God. There is something mystical, kabbalistic at play here. Without the daily sacrifices, where does God speak to us? How do we hear God? How do we grow closer to God? If we are distanced from the Source of Life, how could the world not be broken, and how could we not suffer?  

My teacher Lawrence Hoffman taught us that Jewish spirituality is about a recurring cycle of exile and return. The Apter Rebbe is describing our exile not merely our geographical exile, but our spiritual exile. And he also hinted at the solution: strive to grow closer to God, and to bring God’s Presence more into the world. In other words, we, through our actions, can have cosmic impact. 

We cannot build a third temple or reinstitute the sacrificial cult. However, we can study more Torah, make heartfelt daily prayer more of a habit, and strive to live according to the values and teachings of our tradition. 

Of course, this will not make our troubles vanish. It would, however, bring more than a little healing into the world; and strengthen our ability to lighten our loads, diminish our anxieties, and live with more joy and meaning.  

Such is the compassion and empowerment of the Apter Rebbe’s answer. 


1 Rabbi Stephen Wylen, “T’zaveh,” in Voices of Torah, vol. 2, p. 160.