Parashat Tetzaveh

Live To Serve

Like the priests and Levites, we must find our unique eternal flame to light the world.

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Provided by the Union for Reform, the central body of Reform Judaism in North America.

Parashah Overview

  • The Children of Israel are commanded to bring pure olive oil for the ner tamid, "a constantly burning light," above the sanctuary. (Exodus 27:20-21)

  • Aaron and his sons, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar, are chosen to serve God as priests. (Exodus 28:1)

  • God instructs Moses to make special clothes for the priests. (Exodus 28:2-43)

  • Aaron and his sons are ordained in a seven-day ceremony. (Exodus 29:1-46)

  • Aaron is commanded to burn incense on an altar made of acacia wood every morning and evening. (Exodus 30:1-10)

Focal Point

You shall further instruct the Israelites to bring you clear oil of beaten olives for lighting, for kindling lamps regularly. Aaron and his sons shall set them up in the Tent of the Meeting, outside the curtain that is over the Pact [to burn] from evening to morning before Adonai. It shall be a due from the Israelites for all time, throughout the ages. You shall bring forward your brother Aaron, with his sons, from among the Israelites, to serve me as priests: Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron. (Exodus 27:20-28:1)

Your Guide

What does the symbolism of the image "a constantly burning light" suggest? Is that light an external phenomenon or an internal one?

Who "chooses" Aaron's sons to become priests? Do you feel chosen for a special task in life? From where did your mandate come: your parents, your religious life, or an internal mandate?

Perhaps the juxtaposition of the image of light and the ordination of the Kohanim (priests) suggests to us that as a "kingdom of priests," we are all ordained to bring light into the world. What does this mean to you? How do you bring light into the world?

Being a "bearer of light" requires preparation. What do you do to prepare yourself for your role as a bearer of light?

What do you think are the qualities that are suitable for an Israelite priest? What qualities do you invoke in answering your own spiritual calling?

Aaron burns incense every day as an expression of gratitude to God. Do you feel gratitude for the privilege of serving others?

What are the benefits of service to others? What gets in the way of such service? Is living to serve others consonant with our Jewish heritage?

Do you serve others out of fear, out of obligation, or out of love?

By the Way…

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Rabbi Robert Lennick

Rabbi Robert Lennick is the president and CEO of Religion in American Life, Stamford, CT.