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Tetzaveh (you shall command)

Exodus 27:20 to 30:10, Ezekiel 43:10-27


Note the details of how to dedicate someone for priesthood. There is a sacrifice, bread, washing, clothing, anointing, and something burned outside the camp. Jeffrey Feinberg comments that Hebrews 13:11-13 suggests Yeshua similarly provided for all believers to be dedicated as priests with his sacrifice, body, and bestowing of the Holy Spirit.

The altar of incense is described in this parasha because it had no Canaanite equivalent. It is about priests and praise, which were utterly different from the Canaanite parallels. It creates an image of Sinai as the light of the menorah and smoke of the incense rise each evening.

The maftir for this parasha does not mention gold as it summarized the offerings.

How do the priestly vestments compare to Paul's "spiritual armor"?

Why is it a choshen mishpat, a breastplate of judgment/law/ordinance? Because it uses the names of the sons of Yisrael like a prayer, to remind God about his promises and Ya'akov's prophecies. The breastplate pleads, "O God, treat the people of Yisrael as you have promised, not as they deserve."

Parashot Outline

Moses is alone atop Sinai for 40 days, hearing about the construction plans (begins in 25:1)

Part One—Priests must be as light to the people

Priests are to be a light. (27:20-21)
Priestly garments. (28:1-43)
Consecration of priests. (29:1-37)

Morning and evening sacrifices. (29:38-43)

Summary of Tabernacle and priests consecrated with God dwelling and people seeing. (29:44-46)

Part Two—The people and the priests must be as incence to me

Make an altar for morning and evening incense to go before the veil. (30:1-10)

  You have "atonement upon your souls"! (30:11-16)
   Priests are not only atoned-for but also anointed.
   They should wash hands and feet. Make a basin and use it. (30:17-21)
   Use this recipe for making the anointing oil. (30:22-33)

Use this recipe for altar incense. (30:34-38)

Traditional Jewish Commentary

The Baal HaTurim suggests that Moshe's name does not appear in this entire parasha because Moshe told God "If you destroy them, erase my name from your book." God lessened his direct involvement by letting Moshe destroy the sinners. And God lessened Moshe's curse by removing his name only from this parasha.

The Baal HaTurim notes that the tent of meeting was at the west end of the courtyard, which would mean the morning sacrifices happened with the priests facing away from the sun. They would start the day in defiance of sun-worship.

Rabeinu Bachye, citing the Ramban, comments on the Pasuk "And you shall place into the Choshen Mishpat the Urim ve'Tumim", remarks that the Torah refers to the Urim ve'Tumim using the definite article. This suggests that we know what the Torah is referring to, whereas in fact, this is the first time that the Torah mentions them? Moreover, he says, it is strange that unlike all the other holy vessels and garments, by which the Torah writes "and you shall make ... ", no such command is issued with regard to the Urim ve'Tumim. He therefore concludes that the Urim ve'Tumim were not made by man at all, but by G-d. And he cites as a precedent for the use of the definite article in this way, the K'ruvim that G-d placed outside the gates of Gan Eden. The Torah writes there in Bereishis (3:24) "And he placed on the east of the Garden of Eden the K'ruvim...", even though no mention of them had been made previously.

HaRav Eliezer Chrysler writes, "The Golden Mizbei'ach is placed at the end of Tetzaveh with the garments of the Kohanim, rather than in Terumah with the other vessels because the garments of the Kohanim too, were made 'for honour and glory', as the Torah specifically writes." The Seforno goes one step further still. He points out that the purpose of the Golden Mizbei'ach and what was sacrificed on it was not to rest the Shechinah or to bring it down into this world, like the other holy vessels and the Korbonos brought on them were. Rather, its purpose was to honor (not the Beis Hamikdosh, but) Hashem after He had arrived there.

Efraim Levine writes, "With this idea in mind we may similarly ask, why here in parshas Tetzaveh does the Torah command with regard to all the vestments "and you shall make," in the singular, yet with regard to the ephod the Torah commands "and they shall make" in the plural. What is special about the ephod that the Torah specifies that all have a portion in its fashioning?"

Efraim Levine writes, "The commentators explain that the kohen gadol was a microcosm of the spiritual talents and potential of the Jewish people. The various vestments that cover the different sections of his body represent the beautification and glorification of different qualities."

"This is what you should offer upon the Altar, two sheep within their first year, every day, continually" (Shemot 29:38) Notice that "continually" is not literally true as an act, but should be the attitude. When else is the Hebrew word for "continually" used in this parasha?