Imagine if someone stopped you on the street and asked you, “What’s the single most important verse in the entire Torah?”

You’d probably answer something to the effect of “Shema Yisrael” or perhaps one of the Ten Commandments. Maybe “Love your fellow as yourself” would qualify. You know, Golden Rule and all that.

These are reasonable choices.

Well, do I have news for you!

The Most Inclusive Verse in the Torah

A major chunk of the parshah of Pinchas speaks of sacrificial law for various events throughout the year. The Torah details sacrifices to be offered on Shabbat, festivals, and assorted other situations. At the very beginning of these laws, we read of the Tamid offering, the twice daily sacrifice offered in the Temple:

The first lamb you shall sacrifice in the morning and the second lamb you shall sacrifice in the evening.1

These two offerings served as the backbone of the daily Temple service; no other sacrifice was allowed to be offered prior to the morning Tamid or after the afternoon Tamid.

That seems to be the end of it. A simple enough law about sacrifices in the Temple.

But it’s not. Take a look at this Midrash, in which several rabbis offer the verses they believed could encapsulate the entirety of Torah:

Ben Zoma says: We have found a more encompassing verse, which is, “Shema Yisrael.”

Ben Nanas says: We have found a more encompassing verse, which is, “Love your fellow as yourself.”

Shimon Ben Pazi says: We have found a more encompassing verse, which is, “The first lamb you shall sacrifice in the morning and the second lamb you shall sacrifice in the afternoon.”

Rabbi Ploni stood up and said: The halachah follows Ben Pazi.2

Wait, what? What did Rabbi Shimon ben Pazi just say? Why would a passage about offering daily sacrifices be the “most inclusive” verse in the Torah? How can this detail of Temple law play ball with heavyweights like “Shema Yisrael” and the Golden Rule itself?

Constancy is Key

The Maharal3 offers a fascinating, yet profoundly simple, explanation: constancy is key.

Yes, to love your neighbor as yourself is very important. The proclamation of faith that is “Shema!” is both moving and critical. Yet they are arguably not as important as the simple, banal truth of “offer the same two sacrifices every day.”

You see, religious life is thankfully full of high-voltage, electric moments. Be it prayer, taking in the majestic glow of the Shabbat candles, or the thrill of doing a favor for another person, these are the moments we live for. Those pockets of time when we’re energized and joyous about our religious life, and really, life at large.

Such moments are indeed important, and it’s safe to say that no person, no matter how pious or devout, could survive without them.

The problem is that such moments are not constant. In fact, for many, they are few and far between. So what then? What do you do when there’s no majestic glow of Shabbat candles or the prayers no longer talk to you? What do you do when the electricity of religion is gone, or if not entirely gone, seems to be fast asleep?

It is at such moments, when the going gets tough, that the proverbial tough get going. You wake up listless and apathetic, yet you carry forward.


Because you’re committed. You view your relationship with G‑d as a constant, something beyond question, a rock-solid formation that is not subject to the passing whims of your interest or drive.

A Committed Relationship

It’s really like that with any relationship. Do good relationships offer electric moments of passion, energy, and joy? Of course they do!

But those who enjoy true, everlasting, and committed relationships know this simple truth: The secret sauce lies in the commitment itself—regardless of what happens. The constancy, the willingness and readiness to just keep on plugging and doing the same thing today, tomorrow, and the next ten years no matter how boring it may seem—that is the magic ingredient of a successful relationship.

Our relationship with G‑d is no different. There are moments of incredible passion and boundless joy. There will be times when your feet lift off the ground in exuberant dance. Those moments are represented by the holiday sacrifices detailed in the later verses. And then, there are moments when it might seem, dare I say, downright boring. Moments that appear to be a repeat of yesterday and a thousand years stretching back—like the daily Temple sacrifice that was offered every day; twice, in fact.

And you know what?

It’s in the latter instances when the strength of your commitment will be tested, and should you pass, when its full beauty will flower.

So yes, “The first lamb you shall sacrifice in the morning and the second lamb you shall sacrifice in the evening” is truly one of the most important verses in the entire Torah. It gets little attention—and that’s the point.

Consider yourself lucky that you’re now in on the secret.