There is a commandment given to Israel that once every 7 years, during the Festival of Sukkot, they should assemble ALL the people to hear the Torah read to them. (Deuteronomy 31:10-12). Chazal (a Hebrew acronym that means, “our sages of blessed memory”) instituted a continuous cycle of reading the Torah. They defined weekly sections so that Jews would be reading and hearing Torah every single week and complete the 5 Books of Moses in a set time. The teachers I learned under taught me to follow the yearly Torah cycle and I discovered that Chabad divides their Torah study into daily aliyot. When the Torah portion is read in its entirety on Shabbat in the synagogue, there are seven sections, seven aliyot. The Chabad tradition is to study one aliyah each day, starting Sunday and going through to Shabbat. One who does this can get a double dose of the same Torah Portion each week.
Additionally, the Ashkenazic and Sepharidc, that is Eastern European and Spanish or Iberian Peninsula communities sometime differ on how they divide the Torah Portions.
It’s time to explore Torah Portion 20 Tetzaveh, aliyah by aliyah.
Tetzaveh Exodus 27:20-30:10
Aliyah 1 – Exodus 27:20-28:12
“You are to order the people of Isra’el to bring you pure oil of pounded olives for the light, and to keep a lamp burning continually. 21 Aharon and his sons are to put it in the tent of meeting, outside the curtain in front of the testimony, and keep it burning from evening until morning before HaShem. This is to be a permanent regulation through all the generations of the people of Isra’el.
How permanent is permanent? It has to mean forever. What do we do after the destruction of the Second Temple? Pray that HaShem sees fit to re-establish His Temple in Israel and have His chosen people minister at it again to honor and glorify Him.
“You are to summon your brother Aharon and his sons to come from among the people of Isra’el to you, so that they can serve me as cohanim — Aharon and his sons Nadav, Avihu, El‘azar and Itamar. 2 You are to make for your brother Aharon garments set apart for serving G-d, expressing dignity and splendor. 3 Speak to all the craftsmen to whom I have given the spirit of wisdom, and have them make Aharon’s garments to set him apart for me, so that he can serve me in the office of cohen.
This is clearly HaShem’s will. He desires to have the Levitical Priesthood established to serve Him in the context of the Nation of Israel. There are regulations and definitions He values and established to mark the line of Cohenim as distinct from the rest of the Tribe Levi and the People of Israel.
4 “The garments they are to make are these: a breastplate, a ritual vest, a robe, a checkered tunic, a turban and a sash. They are to make holy garments for your brother Aharon and his sons, so that he can serve me in the office of cohen. 5 They are to use gold; blue, purple and scarlet yarn; and fine linen.
The High Priest or Cohen Gadol wears additional special garments to distinguish him from the Levites, three of them are the Breastplate, Ritual Vest and Sash
The standard Levite would wear all white, but the Cohen Gadol was to wear the colors of the Mishkan in addition to white.
6 “They are to make the ritual vest of gold, of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely woven linen, crafted by a skilled artisan. 7 Attached to its front and back edges are to be two shoulder-pieces that can be fastened together. 8 Its decorated belt is to be of the same workmanship and materials — gold; blue, purple and scarlet yarn; and finely woven linen. 9 Take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Isra’el — 10 six of their names on one stone and the six remaining names on the other, in the order of their birth. 11 An engraver should engrave the names of the sons of Isra’el on the two stones as he would engrave a seal. Mount the stones in gold settings, 12 and put the two stones on the shoulder-pieces of the vest as stones calling to mind the sons of Isra’el. Aharon is to carry their names before HaShem on his two shoulders as a reminder.
These are the details for the Ephon or Ritual Vest. It’s as if the Cohen Gadol was supposed to bear the weight of the entire Nation of Israel on his shoulders.
Aliyah 2 – Exodus 28:13-30
13 “Make gold squares 14 and two chains of pure gold, twisted like cords; attach the cord-like chains to the squares.
15 “Make a breastplate for judging. Have it crafted by a skilled artisan; make it like the work of the ritual vest — make it of gold; blue, purple and scarlet yarn; and finely woven linen. 16 When folded double it is to be square — a hand-span by a hand-span. 17 Put in it settings of stones, four rows of stones: the first row is to be a carnelian, a topaz and an emerald; 18 the second row a green feldspar, a sapphire and a diamond; 19 the third row an orange zircon, an agate and an amethyst; 20 and the fourth row a beryl, an onyx and a jasper. They are to be mounted in their gold settings. 21 The stones will correspond to the names of the twelve sons of Isra’el; they are to be engraved with their names as a seal would be engraved, to represent the twelve tribes.
What makes the breastplate for judging? What does that mean? Is it for judging the people?
Israel is represented twice by the Cohen Gadol. The names of the Tribes are on his shoulders and on his heart. Why is that? What does that mean?
Aliyah 3 – Exodus 28:31-43
Exodus 28:35 Aharon is to wear it when he ministers, and its sound will be heard whenever he enters the Holy Place before HaShem and when he leaves, so that he won’t die.
Church legend tells that on Yom Kippur after the High Priest had entered the Holy of Holies there would be a group of people listening to hear the bells to make sure the Cohen Gadol hadn’t been stricken dead by HaShem. This verse specifically says he will be heard in the Holy Place. Later on we will learn that on Yom Kippur, the Cohen Gagol went into the Holy of Holies without his speacial High Priest garments and therefore with no bells on him. I find it curious that such an anecdote would be shared from the pulpit when it isn’t true.
Aliyah 4 – Exodus 29:1-18
“Take one of the rams: Aharon and his sons are to lay their hands on the ram’s head;
Is this the first time the laying of hands an offering comes up in the Torah?
No, it is introduced with the bull for sin offering, at least in this parshah, see EXO 28:10. Does it appear even earlier? I’ll let you answer that for yourself.
Aliyah 5 – Exodus 29:19-37
Seven days you will make atonement on the altar and consecrate it; thus the altar will be especially holy, and whatever touches the altar will become holy.
Did HaShem choose to make the consecration period 7 days long so that it would include a Shabbat? No ordinary work is to be done on Shabbat, specifically the Torah defines making a fire and yet the Priests and Levites obtained their livelihood from the Tabernacle and Temple and they were working with fire. If you are familiar with Halacha, you know that rules of Shomer Shabbos are stringent and take some getting used to. I don’t imagine they had to consider those in the Tabernacle or Temple. In fact, in the Apostolic Writings, Messiah speaks of the work done in the Temple during Shabbat when he is challenged for healing someone on Shabbat. I must clarify that Messiah did not break the Sabbath and that if he had, he would not be the Messiah because he would have sinned. This question is about whether or not HaShem set the scenario up this way to make it clear that the Tabernacle and Temple work are an exception to the rules of Shabbat. I think so.
Aliyah 6 – Exodus 29:38-46
Exodus 29:38 Now this is what you are to offer on the altar: two lambs a year old, regularly, every day.
Any relationship must be ongoing and have mutual give and take to be healthy. The more frequent the contact is, the stronger the bond will be. The more meaningful the exchange, the greater the impact of each relational transaction.
Aliyah 7 – Exodus 30:1-10
Exodus 30:9 You are not to offer unauthorized incense on it, or a burnt offering or a grain offering; and you are not to pour a drink offering on it.
It is important to note that this is the second altar. It is smaller, buy it is square like the altar in the courtyard. Blood is only to be sprinkled upon it once a year. The offering made on this altar is incense and HaShem specifically states that he does not want to see other offerings made on it. I think this is the last time the instruction for the Mishkan are given and at the end HaShem specifies that there is a particular way He wants to be interacted with. It is vitally important to remember that this is all about relationship. HaShem is a person and He has a love language, listen to it and learn to speak it for the love of G-d.
Before I go, I want to answer questions raised at the beginning of this session. These are my opinions, based on my time studying under various teachers and while I try to set aside any commentaries while examining each aliyah, I will allow myself to bring some back in for this section. I will disclose where I am getting these ideas where relevant.
1. What makes the breastplate for judging?
The answer is in EXO 28:30 You are to put the urim and the tumim in the breastplate for judging; they will be over Aharon’s heart when he goes into the presence of HaShem. Thus Aharon will always have the means for making decisions for the people of Isra’el over his heart when he is in the presence of HaShem.
That’s what the text says. So it functioned like casting lots or, I mean no disrespect by this, like flipping a coin. A binary choice was set by the people and the answer was determined by the Cohen Gadol withdrawing one stone or the other.
2. Why is Israel represented twice by the Cohen Gadol? What do you think?
I don’t see an answer in this passage, so I will speculate.
I think this is about Messiah. He will represent Israel twice to bring humanity full circle to where we are dwelling with G-d as in Eden. Once he bore Israel on his shoulders as a burden and may it be soon, may it be now, Messiah will fight for Israel destroying Her enemies and fulfilling her mission by being the Light of the World who calls all the Earth to love and serve the One True King.
3. What is the significance of a morning and evening offering?
I think this is all about the repetition and the rhythm of a relationship. HaShem walked with Adam and Chavah in the garden in the cool of the day. He wants to be with us, he wants a relationship with us and he wants us to want one with Him. If tomorrow is promised to no Man, then why should you put off being with the One you love? If you died tomorrow, G-d forbid, would you be content having missed the chance to be with your love? G-d is One and He is Only, and we are not to depart from Him.
That concludes my journey through Mishpatim for the year 5782.
I hope these words have been a blessing to you.
May our Heavenly Father give you peace and joy.
This is Matthew and I am Walking In Liberty.