‘Ledoros’: Commandments for all generations


Like much of sefer Vayikra, our parasha, Tzav, focuses on the korbanot. Accordingly, the second verse presents the mitzvah of the korban olah:

“Command (tzav) Aharon and his sons, saying, ‘This is the law of the burnt offering: That is the burnt offering which burns on the altar all night until morning, and the fire of the altar shall burn with it’.”

Rashi, basing himself on Midrash Sifra on our verse and Talmud Bavli, Kiddushin 29a, explains tzav in this manner: “The expression tzav always denotes urging [to promptly and meticulously fulfill a particular commandment] for the present (miyad) and for future generations (v’ledorot).”

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik asks: “What is the meaning of the word ledoros (for future generations) in this context? The mitzvos of mezuzah, tefillin and Shabbos are clearly ledoros. Thousands of years have gone by, and these mitzvos are observed as they had been when they were originally given. But in what way are the mitzvos of the Mishkan practiced today? There has been no korban tamid [daily offering] for almost 2,000 years! In what sense does the mitzvah of offering korbanos continue?”

The Rav begins his answer by citing a midrashic passage that presents a fascinating dialogue between Hashem and Avraham Avinu:

“Abraham asked how he was to know that G-d would not forsake Israel if they sinned. G-d answered, ‘In the merit of the [Temple] sacrifices.’ Abraham insisted that this merit is fine when these sacrifices are in existence, but what was to happen after the destruction of the Temple? G-d replied that if the Children of Israel learned the laws surrounding the sacrifices, He would consider their study as a virtual sacrificial offering. When we cannot offer sacrifices, we recite the halachos [laws] pertaining to them as a substitute.”

In short, the study of the laws of korbanot enables us to bring “virtual sacrificial offerings” and fulfill these mitzvot in a substitute manner.

At this juncture, the Rav extends his interpretation of “virtual” to include the Beit HaMikdash itself: “There is a Mikdash in our days as well — not physically, but through halachic study. This is the mesorah [the passing down from each generation to the next] of Torah Sheb’al Peh, the Oral Law. Today, we read Parashas Shekalim as if the Beis Hamikdash was still standing; it is ledoros. Parashas Parah reminds us to be ritually pure so that we may bring the korban pesach. Although we no longer offer a korban pesach, we read Parashas Parah as if the Beis Hamikdash still exists.”

Two-thousand years is a long time to wait for the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash. Nonetheless, this vision remains indelibly engraved in our neshamot, and was given powerful voice in the Shemoneh Esrei: “Return in mercy to Yerushalayim Your city and dwell therein as You have promised; speedily establish therein the throne of David Your servant, and rebuild it, soon in our days, as an everlasting edifice. Blessed are You Hashem, who rebuilds Yerushalayim.”

With Hashem’s overflowing kindness and mercy, may we be zocheh to serve Him in the rebuilt Beit HaMikdash in our time, v’ledorot — and for all generations to come! V’chane yihi ratzon.