main postsTzav

Tzav: The Minute that Contains the Enormous

Assemble the entire congregation at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting.[1]

Rashi explains: “This is one of the places where the minute contained the enormous” (מוּעָט מַחֲזִיק אֶת הַמְרוּבֶּה). The entire courtyard of the Tabernacle was 50 by 100 cubits. To fit 600,000 people into that space, 120 people would have to stand on every square cubit.

“The minute contained the enormous” is a phrase the captures the secret of Ahavat Yisrael, the love of Israel. When Jews love each other, they can gather in an extremely small space. This is reflected in the words of the sages on a man and woman who love each other, who can lay down together on the blade of a knife. This is beautifully backed up by a gematria, “Assemble the entire congregation at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting” (כָּל הָעֵדָה הַקְהֵל אֶל פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד; notice that the first word of the verse is left out, as it has no translation in English) has the same value as “the minute contained the enormous” (מוּעָט מַחֲזִיק אֶת הַמְרוּבֶּה), but it also equals the value of Ahavat Yisrael (אַהֲבַת יִשְׂרָאֵל)!

Fittingly, Rabbi Akiva said,[2] “’Love your neighbor as yourself’[3]—this is a major principle of Torah.” Here too, seemingly we have a very short phrase, just three words, “a major principle of Torah” (כְּלָל גָּדוֹל בַּתּוֹרָה). It may seem like a small thing, but it too demonstrates the idea that “the minute contains the enormous,” as it contains the entire Torah.

Delving deeper, we are directed to love Israel and to love God. Our love of God is limitless, “And you shall love Havayah your God [Who is limitless] with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your means [beyond your own limits].”[4] On the surface, love of Israel is limited; you only need to, “Love your neighbor as yourself” and you, of course are limited. But in truth, there is something limitless within your neighbor. God is within him—his love of God manifests inside him—and when you love him completely, you are loving that limitless aspect within him. Once again, “the minute contains the enormous.”

This is the deeper meaning of the complete phrase of Ahavat Yisrael, “And you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am God.” God is telling us: I am within every Jew and when you love him, you love Me. Once again, this is amazingly reflected by the gematria: “And you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am God” (וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ אֲנִי י-הוה) equals “And you shall love Havayah your God” (וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת י-הוה אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ)!

[1]. Leviticus 8:3.

[2]. Sifra, Kedoshim 4:12 and Rashi to Leviticus loc. cit.

[3]. Leviticus 19:18.

[4]. Deuteronomy 6:5.

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