Parashat Tzav tells of the formal consecration of Aharon and his sons as kohanim, in fulfillment of the detailed commands given earlier, in Sefer Shemot. God commanded Moshe to assemble the entire nation at the entrance to the Mishkan, where they witnessed the offering of the special sacrifices through which Aharon and his sons were formally designated as ministers in the Mishkan.
Rashi (8:3), citing the Midrash, comments, “This is one of the places where the small contained the many.” The area near the entrance to the Mishkan was not actually large enough to contain the entire nation, and yet, miraculously, they all managed to crowd into this area in order to witness the consecration of the kohanim.
What might be the significance of this miraculous phenomenon observed by the Midrash?
One possibility (suggested by Rav Menachem Bentzion Sacks, in his Menachem Tziyon) is that the Midrash here speaks of the extraordinary ability we have to find room for one another when we so desire, when we are genuinely committed to each other. If people live together peacefully, without jealousy and competition, then they can live comfortably even with limited space and limited resources. When they want to make it work, they will generously share and look out for one another, such that they can be accommodated even by a “small space,” whether literally or figuratively. Times of scarcity can be successfully managed if we look out for one another, and not only for ourselves. This is symbolized by the consecration of the kohanim, when the entire nation assembled together in a small space, unified in their devotion to God and their enthusiastic anticipation of His taking residence among them in the Mishkan.
Rav Yisrael of Modzhitz, in Divrei Yisrael, offers a different insight into the Midrash’s comment. He sees the petach Ohel Mo’eid – the entrance to the Mishkan – as a symbol of the “entrance” to teshuva. The Midrash elsewhere (Shir Hashirim Rabba 5:2) famously teaches that God says to Am Yisrael, “Open for Me an entrance of a pinhole, and I will open for you an entrance like the entrance to the Sanctuary.” The Rebbe of Modzhitz suggests that Chazal saw the entrance to the Mishkan as a symbol of the entrance which opens for us when we make a tiny “opening,” when we take the initial modest steps towards self-improvement. And thus specifically in reference to the petach Ohel Mo’eid, the Midrash observes that there are occasions when “hechezik mi’ut et ha-merubeh” – “the small contains the many.” The small steps we take towards repentance and self-growth can lead us to “many,” to great progress and advancement. We should never belittle the “pinholes,” the modest improvements that we make in our lives, because they are far more significant than we tend to think. Just as the relatively small area of the petach Ohel Mo’eid was able to contain the entire nation, our relatively small steps forward contain far more importance than we would imagine they could. According to the Rebbe of Modzhitz, then, the Midrash here urges us to never dismiss our small steps, to appreciate the value of even the seemingly trivial improvements that we make in our conduct and in our lives, and recognize that each one is precious and should bring us satisfaction.