Tetzaveh (You shall command…)
11th of Adar 1, 5779 / February 16th, 2019
By David Barker
This Week’s Readings:
27:20 – 30:10
Haftarah: Ezekiel 43:10-27
Brit Chadashah: 1 Peter 2:1-9
Symbols in literature enhance communication and thought, used as a way to “show" rather than "tell". The use of imagery, symbols and metaphors tease out thematic elements that lead to understanding. These elements can bring cohesion to individual scenes, while others may be so deeply buried that the reader may never connect to what is being communicated on a conscious level. Details are sometimes purposely left out, as with this Torah portion. Moses’ name appears in every parashah from when he is born to the end of Numbers - except for this one. Yet, every dialogue, seemingly random description, song, person, animal, object, metaphor or simile sends a message to the reader.
This Torah portion continues from where G-d instructed Moses and the Israelites to construct a Mishkan (Tabernacle) in the wilderness. This time focusing on the priests, who will serve in structure itself. Moses was to tell the Israelites to bring pure olive oil for the Menorah, which the priests were to light every evening in the Holy Place. G-d also commanded Moses to ordain Aaron and his sons as priests and gives a detailed description of the priestly garments they were to wear while serving in the Tabernacle. The purpose, emphasized many times in this portion, is to make the priests Holy. These special garments and ceremonies of consecration, in-and-of themselves do not protect the priests who work close to the formidable presence of G-d, but rather their absolute obedience to His instruction is what keeps them in the land of the living.
The Haftarah portion continues Ezekiel's vision of the Temple. Beginning with an exhortation that only once the Israelites are “ashamed for all they have done” can the plan for the Temple be revealed. Thereafter the focus is on two main items. The large alter of sacrifice and details for the consecration ceremony, which lasts eight days. The description of the altar in Ezekiel's vision is twice the size of that of the Tabernacle, and layered, instead of straight-edged. Ezekiel's vision contained a triple layered structure, each story stepping inward from the next by one cubit. Attention to detail reveals that this cannot be the First Temple which was several hundred years before Ezekiel, nor can this refer to the Second Temple, because the consecration sin offering involved the male goat (Ezra 6:17), not the bull as mentioned here (43:19).
The Brit Chadashah portion teaches that believers have been chosen by G-d, as were the priests of Israel, we are holy and beloved and have been called to service. We are considered, living stones, being built up as a spiritual house - a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to G-d through Messiah Yeshua.
As with the commandment to keep the lamp of the menorah burning at all times, so today the ner tamid is an eternal lamp, the ritual light set above the aron kodesh symbolizing the Presence of G-d. We dress the Torah scroll similar to that of garments of the High Priest of the Tabernacle. A Torah crown, a pomegranate robe, a breastplate and a yad (pointer). Like all symbols, these practices are meant to point to meanings beyond themselves. The garments and the rituals are connected to the idea of service. Emphasizing the priest’s special responsibility to G-d and community. As the Brit Chadashah teaches, “clothe yourselves in tender compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience bearing with one another and forgiving each other”. It is a gift and honor placed upon priests from outside themselves. Their authority is ultimately rooted in the One who gives meaning to all things. Today we should recognize we are those priests, serving as living stones in this spiritual temple. Let us too examine ourselves and ask; do we live a life that shows us to be His chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for G-d’s own possession, proclaiming the praises of the One who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light or are we like those who Ezekiel rebuked as being ashamed for all they have done?