"you shall command"
Our par’sha this week is entitled T’tzaveh, meaning you shall command. It spans Sh’mot 27.20 through 30.10 and has the distinction of being the only par’sha from the beginning of Sh’mot to the end of D’varim that does not mention Mosheh’s name. While many have offered a variety of reasons for thi omission, it may be simply that this par’sha is a continuation of the commandments that began in last week’s par’sha that began with the words and Y’H’V’H spoke to Mosheh saying…Sh’mot 25.1
In the continuing commandments of Par’sha T’tsaveh we find instructions regarding:
The oil for the menorah
The garments of the kohanim
The offerings required for their dedication to service
The Tamid offerings of the two lambs, and
The instructions regarding the construction of the Altar of Incense that were not included in the instructions regarding the Ark, the Lid of Atonement, the Shulchan and the Menorah in last week’s par’sha.
Like the Tabernacle and its other furnishings, the instructions for the items in this week’s par’sha are also very detailed.
The oil for the menorah had to be clear oil of pressed olives. Oil that was ground contained impurities, so the oil for the menorah was pressed, not ground, to insure it was pure.
Chapter twenty-eight is devoted exclusively to the garments of the kohanim. In verse two Mosheh was commanded to make them set-apart garments…for esteem and for comeliness. Some English bibles use the terms glory and beauty rather than esteem and comeliness. Esteem is from כָב֖וֹד, from the shoresh כבד that means heavy or important. It is used in Sh’mot 16.7 to denote spiritual greatness.
Comeliness is from תִפְאָֽרֶת, tif’a’ret, from the shoresh פאר that means to distinguish, or adornment. In the context of the garments of the kohanim it refers to modesty. This is evident in the fact that although the outer robes were full-lengthvs.4,39, Mosheh was still instructed to make linen trousers that covered the kohanim from their waist to their thighs to cover their nakedness.vs.42
The garments included: a breastplate, a shoulder garment, a robe, an embroidered long shirt, a turban and a girdle for Aharon and his sons. Made of fine linen, the instructions included the exact colors for each of the garments.
The shoulder garment held two shoham stones, which is often translated as onyx. The names of the twelve tribes were engraved on these two stones, six on one and six on the other, according to their birth. In this way Aharon, or the Kohen Gadol at the time, would bear the names of the twelve tribes before Y’H’V’H on his two shoulders, for a remembrance.28.12 This is just one of the many instances that testify to the importance of belonging to one of the twelve tribes.
In addition to these two stones, the breastplate also contained twelve stones which were also according to the names of the sons of Yisra’el, twelve according to their names, like the engraving of a signet, each one with it own name, for the twelve tribes.vs 21 The stones and names on the breastplate were also so Aharon, or the Kohen Gadol at the time, would bear the names of the sons of Yisra’el on the breastplate of right-ruling over his heart, when he goes into the set-apart place, for a remembrance before Y’H’V’H continually.vs.29
And as if we needed any further evidence of the importance of belonging to one of the twelve tribes, the navi Yechezqel described the new city of Yerushalayim, Y’H’V’H Sham’mah, as having twelve gates - one named after each of the twelve tribes.Yechezqel ch. 48
The breastplate also contained the Urim and Tummim that were to be on the heart of Aharon. Today we know very little about the Urim and Tummim, but I can share a little about them based on the Hebrew text. The Urim is spelled אוּרִים֙ and the Tummim is spelled תֻּמִּ֔ים, so we see that they begin with the first and the last letters of the Hebrew aleph-bet.
Urim is from the shoresh אור, which means light or to illuminate. Tummim is from תמם which means to be perfect or to require nothing more. So together these two shoreshim refer to a light that is perfect and requires nothing more.
Aharon and his sons - and their descendants who would serve in their place - were to wear these garments when they came into the Tent of Appointment, or when they came near the slaughter-place to attend in the Set-apart Place, so that they did not bear crookedness and die - a law forever to him, and to his seed after him.
I thought it interesting that this final verse in chapter twenty-eight used the term seed, zera זרע, rather than descendants, toldot. After all, those who served in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple had to be physical descendants of Aharon - toldot. Then I remembered that the Messiah is from the tribe of Yehudah, not Levi.
Chapter twenty-nine details the offerings that were used to anoint Aharon and his sons to set them apart so they could serve in the Tabernacle. Among the offers was a bull that was slaughtered. Its blood was collected and some was placed on the horns of the slaughter-place and all the rest was poured beside the base of the slaughter place.
The fat that covered the entrails, the appendage on the liver, the two kidneys and the fat on them were burned on the slaughter-place. The flesh of the bull, and its skin and its dung, were burned outside the camp because it was a sin offering.29.14 The fact that the sin offering was burned outside the camp has some significance for us today.
Two rams were selected. One was burned entirely on the slaughter-place. The other was . Some of its blood was used to anoint Aharon and his sons, some of the ram was used as a wave offering before Y’H’V’H and the breast and the thigh were given to Aharon and his sons. If any was not eaten and left over the next morning, it had to be burned up. The same is true for any of the Pesach lamb that is not eaten during the Pesach meal.
Verses thirty-eight through forty-two discuss the tamid offering - the two lambs that were offered. One was sacrificed in the morning and the other between the evenings. This was a continual, daily offering, which means they were offered on the Sabbath as well. This is the continual offering referred to by Daniel in his nevuah in Daniel 8.13, which provides us some insight to the time of the Great Distress the Messiah taught about and is revealed in Revelation.
Finally, in chapter thirty, Mosheh is given the instructions regarding the Altar of Incense. Aharon and the Kohnim Gadolim that would follow after him, were commanded to burn incense to Y’H’V’H on this altar twice a day: once in the morning when they tended the menorah and then between the evenings when he lit the lamps of the menorah. Only the incense prepared for use is the Tabernacle could be offered on this Altar - no strange incense, no ascending offerings, grain offerings or drink offerings could be placed on it.
The importance of verse ten is often overlooked, or at least overshadowed, by the offerings on the slaughter-place outside the Tabernacle. And Aharon shall make atonement upon its horns once a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonement - once a year he makes atonement upon it throughout your generations. It is most set-apart to Y’H’V’H.
That’s the physical aspects of what Mosheh was commanded to make for the Tabernacle and the Kohanim, but what do they mean for us today? What lessons do they hold for those seeking to have the testimony of Messiah and to guard the commandments of Elohim?
Consider the oil: it had to be pressed, not crushed. Gethsemane, the garden in which the Messiah prayed many times, is derived from the Aramaic language and means oil press, or place of pressing. The Messiah warned that the Way we are to follows is hard-pressed. We will be hard-pressed as we follow Him and His Father’s Way. The good news is that while we are often hard-pressed, we will never be crushed. And like the oil, the pressing we endure is to remove any impurities from our lives so that we can serve Him.
There is something else important about the oil. All the other materials need to build the Tabernacle were to be taken from the voluntary offerings the people brought as their heart moved them - the terumahSh’mot 25.2, but not the oil. B’nei Yisra’el is commanded to bring clear, pressed oil for the light of the Menorah. The Menorah provided light to the Set-apart Place that led into the Most Set-apart and the Presence of Y’H’V’H. When we become a part of B’nei Yisra’el we are commanded to be a part of bringing Light to the world, as hard-pressed as that may be.
Next we must learn from the garments of the Kohanim. We don’t serve in the Tabernacle or the Temple, but the garments Yisra’el made for the kohanim teach us the importance of dressing in a way the brings honor to our Father and is modest, covering our nakedness. A rule of thumb adopted by many is that men should be covered from their waist to their thighs and women from their shoulders to their thighs. This teaching is based on Sh’mot 28.42, were the kohanim were to wear linen trousers to cover their nakedness, from the waist to the thighs. I realize the world has different standards of dress and modesty, but we are called to come out of the world.
The sacrifices offered to ordain the kohanim should be a constant reminder of the Sacrifice Messiah offered to set us apart to Him so that we could be used by Him.
The Altar of Incense reminds us that we are forbidden to bring strange incense or some other offering not specifically given for our atonement before Y’H’V’H. The lives of Nadab and Abihu, of Qorach and his followers, teach us the consequences of such actions.
Many people mistakenly believe that with the Messiah’s sacrifice chapters such as these no longer pertain to them and therefore little can be learned from studying them. How sad. They don’t know what they are missing. We are to live by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of our Father, and when we study His Word, the lessons seem to just leap off the pages at us. Go out and teach this Word to the nations.
11 Adar I 5776
20 Feb. 2016