Weekly Reading Insights:
Tetzaveh 5779

Overview of the Weekly Reading

To be read on Shabbat Tetzaveh, 11 Adar I 5779/Feb. 16, 2018

Torah: Exodus 27:20-30:10; Haftorah: Ezekiel 43:10-27 (details about the altars and kohanim)

Tetzaveh is the 8th Reading out of 11 in Exodus and it contains 5430 letters, in 1412 words, in 101verses.

The Jews are commanded to bring oil for illuminating the constantly burning lamp of the tabernacle. Next are listed the instructions for making the priestly vestments of the priests and high priest. The priests, Aharon and his sons, were consecrated and installed into their holy positions through a series of sacrifices, sprinklings, ritual immersions, and garbing themselves in their priestly clothing. This procedure was repeated seven times along with sanctifying the altar. G-d commanded regarding the continual burnt offering and gave instructions for the building and offerings of the incense altar.

An essay from
Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

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There are only 18 verses in the Torah about the creation of the world, whereas there are hundreds of verses detailing the building of the Tabernacle. We learn from this: It’s easy for G-d to make a place for humankind, but for people to make a place for G-d? Not so easy.

Still, why do we have to learn about the Tabernacle to the extent that we do? Isn’t it obsolete? It was only meant to be a temporary structure and was eventually superseded by the Temple in Jerusalem. And if the idea of speaking about the Tabernacle is to explore what it means to make a place for G-d in the world, why don’t we speak about the Temple, which was a lasting structure?

The Tabernacle had one advantage over the Temple. It was constructed in the most dismal, spiritually bereft place: the desert. Reading about the Tabernacle each year, we are reminded that it is our job to bring the light of Judaism to even the most distant and dismal of places.

Chassidic teachings bring the meaning of the Tabernacle a step closer to a personal spiritual lesson. It is taught in some of the holy mystical books (Reishit Chochma, Shelah) that every Jew has to make his or her heart a Tabernacle, a dwelling place for G-d. It follows that every service in the Tabernacle reflected some aspect of the individual’s personal efforts to serve G-d. The second Chabad rebbe, the Mittler Rebbe, explains that there is a significance to the sacrifices that were brought on the two altars: the animal sacrifices brought on the outer altar, and the incense sacrifices brought on the inner altar. On the broadest level, the service of bringing offerings on the outer altar is reflected in our individual service as our involvement with the physical world for heaven’s sake, to elevate all aspects of it to holiness. An example is eating so that we will have the strength to do the commandments, or using wood to make a spice box for Havdalah. This is akin to taking a physical animal and elevating it so that it would become “a pleasant fragrance for the Almighty.”

The Zohar gives us insight into the nature of the incense offering, which was given on the inner alter, describing it by saying, “with one knot I was tied”—referring to attachment to G-d. This kind of offering relates to the types of service that connect us to G-d alone, without the distractions of the physical world—services like studying Torah or prayer, which do not make use of the physical world.

What is the significance of the animal offerings being given on the outer altar, while it is forbidden to offer animal offering on the inner altar?

This teaches us something amazing about man’s service of his Creator. The inner altar that is inside of each of us, the inner sanctum of our heart where our deepest feelings reside, has to be for G-d alone, without any mixture or intervention of the physical world which hides divinity. The elevation of the physical should be done only on the outer altar, via the external expression of our emotions. A person who is spiritually healthy protects and focuses his or her inner emotions and feelings to G-d alone

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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For last year's essay by Rabbi Leiter on this week's Reading, see the archive.


Specifically, for an overview of the recommended articles in the columns:
Holy Zohar, Holy Ari, Mystic Classics, Chasidic Masters, Contemporary Kabbalists, and more,
click to Tetzaveh

one sample:

Contemporary Kabbalists

Light and Unity

By Rabbi Avraham Brandwein

The concealment of G-d's supervision of His Creation may lead a person to think that there is no law and no judge. This lack of understanding is symbolized by the bitter olive, which must be crushed, smashed and hit in order to release the light buried within.

This crushing is the suffering that precedes the path of Torah, after which a person comes to illumination and he merits to see that all of the concealments were for the sake of good.

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