The parasha starts with the narrative of preparing to enter ארץ ישראל, but the second half is all the laws of sacrifices:
What are these doing here? Don’t they belong back in ספר ויקרא?
Rashi connects these laws to the previous narrative:
Moshe, after conducting the final census and setting up the laws of inheritance, asks ה׳ to make sure that בני ישראל have leadership after he dies:
And he doesn’t just ask, he demands:
The Sifra that Rashi cites is interesting:
G-d is saying, “If you are telling Me to plan for your death, then you need to tell Israel to plan for that as well”. But why choose the laws of the daily sacrifices and the holiday musafim? Surely there are laws that are more apt, like all the laws of kings and judges from ספר דברים?
Ramban says that these laws are specific to the entry into ארץ ישראל, just like the laws of נסכים that we discussed earlier:
Now these are not new laws; they have been mentioned before:
But Ramban feels that Moshe needed to learn and teach them again, now, on the eve of their entry to the land.
But Ramban himself explains that the laws relevant to ארץ ישראל are given in ספר דברים. Why these, now? I think that learning these laws is a reaction to Moshe’s concern of לא תהיה עדת ה׳ כצאן אשר אין להם רעה. There’s an obscure Midrash cited by the Maharal:
We understand why אהבת לרעך כמוך is a כלל גדול בתורה; it’s the basis of מצוות בין אדם לחבירו. We understand why שמע ישראל is; it’s the basis of מצוות בין אדם למקום. ספר תולדות אדם is a little more subtle, but it means that all human beings come from the same ancestor. We are all one; this is the basis of what we might call “natural law” or דרך ארץ.
But הכבש האחד תעשה בבקר? Why is that important? Maharal explains that it expresses the need for consistency and permanence:
The Abarbanel points out that the daily עבודה is the goal of all our service of ה׳:
And faced with crisis and unimaginable change, it’s the ability to continue on, day by day, doing the right thing, that keeps us strong:
The reminder of the תמיד is exactly what בני ישראל needed to hear as they faced the death of Moshe and the great unknown future ahead of them.
We’re in the Three Weeks now, and one of the disasters of שבעה עשר בתמוז was the loss of the תמיד:
It’s not clear when the בטל התמיד happened:
But many connect it to the well-known aggadah, dating it to the civil war of the Maccabean kings that ended with the Romans taking effective control of Judah:
The Yerushalmi describes the consequences:
The Jewish people could cope with many things. But losing the consistency of our quotidian service of ה׳ was the beginning of the end.