Weekly Reading Insights: Tetzaveh 5784

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To be read on Shabbat Tetzaveh, 15 Adar I 5784/Feb. 24, 2024

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 101 verses.

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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Our portion, Tetzaveh, teaches us about the priestly garments which were required during the various parts of the service in the Tabernacle. It is striking that at the very end of the portion the Torah narrative switches to the small Golden Altar, used for the incense. Why is the commandment to make the Golden Altar discussed here, when it was in last week's portion, Terumah, that all the other vessels and instruments used in the Mishkan (Sanctuary) were discussed?

The various commentators each give a reason. The Sifse Cohen says that the incense offering was discussed separately because of its elevated status. The Ramban and Sforno suggest that this was a more intimate service.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches that the incense service was unique. All the other activities which were performed in public. Only the incense offering was brought by the priest alone, alone with G-d (Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Tamidim U'Musafim 3:3). Even the angels were not allowed to observe, as the Sages teach us (Talmud Yerushalmi, Yoma 5:2) from the verse (Vayikra/Leviticus 16:17), "And there should be no man [inferring angels too] in the Tent of Meeting when he [the priest] goes in to make atonement." The main indwelling of the Shechinah (Divine presence) was during the daily incense offering. In describing the Golden Altar after and apart from all the other vessels and instruments, the Torah is hinting to us that man and G-d alone, together, is the ultimate purpose of the service in the Mishkan and Divine service in general.

The purpose of the Mishkan, and later, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, were the sanctification of space and time. They stood as an example of how the life of individual in relation to G-d is supposed to be, even now, without the privilege of having a Mishkan or the Temple.

Let's be honest. Are we are truly using all our spiritual strength and potential? Are we able to say that the time and space we exist in are sanctified through our presence? Judging ourselves by what others do will not help us reach our goal. Every person has to examine the quality of their personal relationship with the Holy One, Blessed Be He. That is why we are involved with Torah and its commandments; to develop and deepen our relationship with the Almighty, not to secure a position in the community or because someone told us to do this. Now, and even when the third Temple will be rebuilt, each person is, in and of themselves, the Temple.

It is the consciousness of this special relationship that gives the power and fire to everything we do. While there is a value to publicizing our good deeds in general, and tzedakah [charity], in particular, because it encourages others, we have to be careful that the publicity is not for our own self-gratification. However much we can, our spiritual activities should be done quietly, between the Almighty and ourselves, just as the priest brought the offering alone.


Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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


FROM THE SAGES OF KABBALAH ON KabbalaOnline.org

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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