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Parsha Tetzaveh

(Exodus 27:20-30:10)

"And you shall command the children of Israel, that they bring to you pure oil of olives crushed for lighting,
to raise an everlasting lamp... from evening to morning" (Exodus 27:20-21)
The word tetzaveh, "to command," also means "to connect" and "to bond." Thus the verse can also be read as G-d saying to Moses: "And you shall bond with the Children of Israel." For every Jewish soul has at its core a spark of the soul of Moses. (Ohr HaChaim)
These verses contain a paradox: "everlasting flame" implies a state of perptuality and changelessness;
"from evening to morning" implies fluctuating conditions of lesser and greater luminance. For such is our mission in life: to impart the eternity and perfection of the Divine to a temporal world,
and to do so not by negating the world's temporality and diversity,
but by illuminating its every state and condition -from "evening" to "morning" -- with the divine light.

Tetzaveh is the only Parshah in the Torah since Moses' birth in which Moses' name does not appear (with the exception of the book of Deuteronomy, which consists wholly of a first-person narrative spoken by Moses). The reason for this is that, [when the people of Israel sinned with the Golden Calf,] Moses said to G-d: "If You do not [forgive them,] erase me from the book that You have written" (Exodus 32:31). This was realized in the Parshah of Tetzaveh, since the censure of a righteous person, even if made conditional on an unfulfilled stipulation, always has some effect. (Baal HaTurim)

The Efod

And they shall make the efod of gold [thread], blue, purple and scarlet [wool], and fine twined linen, artistic work.
The Efod resembled an apron worn backwards, so that it covered the back of the wearer from above the waist down to the ankles and overlapped in the front. A sash tied in the front beneath the heart, and two bands extended up the wearer's back to his shoulder

The Breastplate
The second garment that Moses is instructed to make is "the breastplate of judgment." A rectangular piece of fabric (woven of the same materials as the Efod) should be folded in half to make a square pouch measuring half a cubit by half a cubit (approximately 10 inches x 10 inches). Upon its front, in gold settings, twelve gemstones should be arranged in four rows:
The Breastplate should hang upon the High Priest's chest, firmly bound to the Efod by means of gold chains extending from the Breastplate's upper corners to the fittings of the Efod's shoulder stones, and ribbons of blue wool binding golden rings on the Breastplate's lower corners to corresponding rings attached to the Efod's sash---this to ensure that "the Breastplate shall not budge from the Efod."
Ruby, chrysolithe, beryl... turquoise, sapphire, diamond... ligure, agate, jasper.... emerald, shoham, jade (28:17-20)
According to the Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 2:7), the colorings of the stones were as follows: Reuben's stone, odem, was red; Simeon's stone, pitedah, was green; Levi's stone, bareket, was white, black and red; Judah's stone, nofech, was sky-colored; Issachar's stone, sapir, was dark blue; Zebulun's stone, yahalom, was white (lavan, which can also mean clear); Dan's stone, leshem, was of a similar hue as that of the sapir; Gad's stone, shvo, was gray; Naphtali's stone, achlamah, was the color of clear wine; Asher's stone, tarshish, was "the color of the precious stone with which women decorate themselves"; Joseph's stone, shoham, was black; Benjamin's stone yashpei, had the colors of all twelve stones.

In addition to the names of the tribes, the stones also contained the words, "Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Shivtei Yeshurun ('righteous tribes')," so the Breastplate should contain all 22 letters of the Holy Tongue (Talmud).

As associated with the Tabernacle, four distinct groups of people are found, each with different roles:
High Priests - were the connection to the Divine. As the only ones who could enter the Holy of Holies, they were held to the strictest levels of integrity and purity and privy to the most intimate level of Torah.
Priests - Served in the sanctuary, serving the High Priest and directing the Levites. They also accompanied the army in battle. They were also teachers of the deeper (hidden) aspects of Torah
Levites - Taught the people at a "lower level" than the Priests, focusing on issues of the soul, ethics and customs
Israelites - Performed the physical rituals and their own personal actions
At the deeper levels of Torah learning, "existence" consists of four levels, which parallel the above hierarchy:
Atzilut ("nearness," e.g. to God) is the level of existence prior to Genesis 1:1. This level has no concept of separation or change, and is "Divine" in nature. It is the "image" of God that we are created in. This is the level of service of the High Priest, who along with the Ark made the "direct connection" to God.
Beriah ("creation") is the first level of creation, reflected in the Genesis account prior to the Garden of Eden. It is associated with the "Throne Room" of God, the realm of archangels, and the highest level of prophecy, that of Moses or John in the book of Revelation. This is also the level the Priesthood served.
Yetzirah ("formation) is the next ("lower") level of creation, associated with the Garden of Eden in Genesis, the realm of our souls and the angels (both "good" and "bad" ones, hence Yetzirah is also called the "mixed realm.") This is the level of the Levites.
Asiyyah ("making") is the lowest level of creation, the physcial realm (which maintains its own "spiritual dimension" to it.
These four levels of existence are associated with man, and are also mirrored in the garments of the High Priest. The ephod, the outermost garment, reflected these four worlds in the colors found.

Exodus 28:5-6 - "They shall take the gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and the fine linen, and they shall make the ephod of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, artistically worked"


There is a great deal of mystical teaching concerning the incense altar, located at the center of the sanctuary. This is a critical juncture as it is here that a person goes from a stage of "approaching" God, to one of deveikut (communion/cleaving) with God. (This is in fact commanded by God in Deuteronomy 4:4; 10:20; 11:22; 13:4; 30:20.) This was the function of the incense, which ascended to the heavenlies creating the bond between man below and God above.

Another curious point is that the High Priest was the one who wore the crown (even though he held no political or military power) while the King of Israel did not. However, the king had to copy and carry his own Torah scroll. (So much for separation of "church and state!")

It is interesting to note that miracles were associated with each of the five vessels found in the Tabernacle:
The Ark with its rods should have taken up all the space from wall to wall in the Holy of Holies. But when the High Priest entered, he could walk around it as the Ark did not take up any "physical space."
The Bread of the Face was never stale even after being left uncovered for a week.
The middle lamp of the Menorah (the ner ma'arivi) did not stop burning until the High Priest would extinguish it.
Fire fell from heaven and fell on the Burnt-Offering Altar. The smoke would always proceed vertically even when there was wind.
The wood of the incense altar, under only a thin layer of gold, was never scorched.


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