Commentary on Parashat Tetzaveh, Exodus 27:20 - 30:10
“And Moses,” God commands, “you shall command the sons of Israel to use pure olive oil for kindling the light of the lamps. Aaron shall set up this light to burn continuously in the sanctuary. It will serve as a light for God for all generations.
“Have Aaron and his sons serve Me as priests. Make for them sacred garments using fine linen, gold and blue, purple and scarlet yarns. Make for them a breast-piece, an ephod, a robe, a tunic of checkered work and a sash. These garments must always be worn when officiating in My sanctuary.
“For Aaron’s ephod, take two lazuli stones and engrave in gold on them the names of the tribes of Israel. Thus Aaron shall carry their names before God as a remembrance.”
“In the sanctuary, says God, “Aaron shall wear a pure gold Breastplate of Judgment, with engraved stones representing the tribes of Israel. Aaron?s robe for officiating will be pure turquoise wool with bells of gold all around. In this way, the sound of the bells can be heard when the High Priest comes into the Lord?s sanctuary and when he goes out, so that he may not die.
“For Aaron’s forehead, you shall make a head-plate of pure gold inscribed with: ‘Holy to The Lord.’ Thus Aaron shall bring forgiveness for sins in which a sacred offering is offered.”
“Make tunics, sashes and turbans of fine embroidered linen for the sons of Aaron to give them dignity and glory. Anoint them and invest them with the full authority to serve Me as priests. They shall only wear linen when serving Me officially.
Sanctifying the Priests
“Here is how to sanctify Aaron and his sons as priests,” God continues. “First prepare a young bull and two rams without blemish, and some matzah bread and matzah cakes kneaded with oil. Have Aaron and his sons bathe, then dress in their holy garments. Place the anointing oil upon Aaron?s head.
“Then Aaron and his sons will bring the bull and the basket with the matzah bread to the front of the Tent of Appointed Meeting. They shall hold the bull as it is slaughtered before God. Take some of the bull?s blood and with your finger, place blood on the elevated corners of the altar and its base. Parts of the bull will burn at the altar while other parts shall burn in a fire outside the camp. This is an offering that clears sin.
“Slaughter a ram and place the ram’s blood on the garments of Aaron and his sons. Have them take parts of the ram and some of the matzah and wave them. This shall be a wave offering before God.
“The offerings on the altar which rise up in smoke shall be an expression of compliance to God. They are fire offerings to God.
“Another ram shall be now be cooked in this holy place. Aaron and his sons shall eat this ram. No stranger may eat of it.
“Seven days shall you perform atonement upon the altar and sanctify it. Henceforth the altar shall be a holy of holies. Whatever touches the altar will remain holy.”
God continues to Moses, “At the Tent of Appointed Meetings, I will set times for Myself to meet with the sons of Israel. I will sanctify Aaron and his sons as My priests. I will dwell in the midst of the sons of Israel, and I will be their God. They will experience that I, God, am their God, who brought them out from the land of Mitzrayim (Egypt) in order to dwell in their midst.
“Make an altar with incense which Aaron shall make go up in smoke each morning. It shall be a continual incense before God. Once a year, Aaron shall make atonement for sins upon this altar. This annual atonement is holy of holies to God.”
Parashat Tetzaveh: Discussion Questions
1) A light is to be on continually in the sanctuary. How is this “eternal light” a symbol before the Lord for all generations? How do you feel when you see “the eternal light” in synagogue?
2) God tells Moses what the Priests must wear in the Sanctuary. What difference does it make to you what your rabbi wears? Does it make a difference to you what you wear in synagogue?
3) Aaron?s head-plate of pure gold has the inscription “Holy to the Lord.” Where on your body would you place a sign with the inscription “Holy to the Lord?”
4) Why do you think animals are sacrificed to God? What is the meaning of the blood being placed around the altar and on Aaron’s clothing? How do you feel when you see blood?
Reprinted with permission from Jewish Family & Life!