Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #20: Tetzaveh (You are to order) Sh’mot (Exodus) 27:20-30:10
Haftarah: Yechezk’el (Ezekiel 43:10-27)
B’rit Chadashah: Philippians 4:10-20
Let’s start our discussion this week with the first sentence of the parashah in Ex. 27:20-21: You are to order the people of Isra’el to bring you pure oil of pounded olives for the light, and to keep a lamp burning continually. Aharon and his sons are to put it in the tent of meeting, outside the curtain in front of the testimony, and keep it burning from evening until morning before Adonai. This is to be a permanent regulation through all the generations of the people of Isra’el.”
The oil is to be from the finest drippings- shemen zayit zach katit (oil of olive, pure, pressed) – are gathered from the first droplets oozing from plump, ripe olives. Note the light is to shine through the night, the oil is to be the “first-fruits” of sorts, and it is pounded (worked) such as molding a piece of pottery. This process describes our purpose; to shine our lights perpetually in a dark world, and the process of being refined. Also unique and applicable to our refining process is that the olive oil is crushed in a mortar [Rashi, Men, 86b], not ground by a millstone. This careful intensive procedure prevents the olive particles from muddying the clarity of virgin olive oil. The unwavering, smokeless, translucent light shines brilliantly from the m’norah in the Holy Place. This entire process represents our purpose to be alight unto the nations and how we are prepared to do so. In the B’rit Chadashah we see this scripture reflected in Yahshua’ words (Matt. 5:14-16): You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Likewise, when people light a lamp, they don’t cover it with a bowl but put it on a lampstand, so that it shines for everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they may see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.” Note that it does not say “praise you.” Our purpose is to glorify G-d in all that we think, say, and do. This is a command for us to be holy and pure, just as the first squeezing of the olives are holy and pure.
Placing the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) in proper attire is critical for approaching G-d. Keep in mind the letter of G-d’s law for the garments, but also the spirit of such detailed instructions. It is not consistent that we should decide to wear our “Shabbat best” clothing for Shabbat, only to have a wrong attitude while sitting in the synagogue. Who are we trying to fool or impress? G-d is watching our hearts, not the brand of our clothes. Similarly, there is a symbolic explanation of every piece of the priestly vestments that in fact carries over to our role as the new priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9) : But you are a chosen people, the King’s Cohanim, a holy nation, a people for G-d to possess! Why? In order for you to declare the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Again we can see the parallel to the description of the m’norah and its/our purpose described in our parashah.
Let’s move to Ex. Chapter 30. In this chapter, G-d orders the making of an altar on which no physical sacrifices are offered. Yet an atonement is required on this altar annually during Yom Kippur. Why?
It may seem strange that a passage addressing one of the pieces of furniture for the Mishkan is mentioned in this parashah discussing priestly clothing, and the process of setting the priests apart for G-d’s service. But this section is placed in this parashah deliberately. The incense altar has no equivalent in the celestial temples and such of Canaanite deities. Yet, from evening to evening, b’ha’a lot Aharon (Aaron causes to go up) the light of the lamps at the same time yaktirenah (he causes to send up smoke) incense upon the altar of gold (Ex. 30:7-8).
The scenario at Sinai once again is brought to our attention. The people stand before the sanctuary, which is fenced off. The ohel moed (the tent of meeting) stands inside the courts where Aharon and his sons ascend. Higher and closer rises the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) to cause the light to ascend in a cloud of smoke to meet with the L-rd.
The purpose of sacrifices is to keep the camp lean where G-d dwells, and G-d descends in his glory to meet with Isra’el at the tent of meeting which He alone sanctifies (Ex. 29:43-6). Yearly atonement is made on the golden altar annually to keep the camp clean. This requires a blood sacrifice, a sin offering, upon the horns of the golden altar on Yom Kippur (Lev. 16:18). According to Sforno quoting Tanchuma, p. 443, “The incense offering does not come to expiate sin or transgression of guilt. It comes only to bring simchah (joy or happiness).” Thus, the purpose of incense is to honor G-d after He comes and to welcome His presence (1 Ch. 16:29): “give Adonai the glory due to his name; bring an offering, and come into his presence. Worship Adonai in splendid, holy attire.” When we light the Shabbat candles, we bring invite the whole peace of G-d (Shalom) into our lives and homes demonstrated by the woman waving her hands over the Shabbat candles and bringing them towards her three times.
* Tanchuma referred to in the above paragraph is the name given to three different collections of Pentateuch aggadot; two are extant, while the third is known only through citations. These teachings although bearing the name of R. Tanchuma, must not be regarded as having been written or edited by him. They were so named merely because they consist partly of homilies originating with him (this being indicated by the introductory formula “Thus began R. Tanḥuma” or “Thus preached R. Tanchuma”) and partly of homilies by aggadic teachers who followed the style of R. Tanchuma. Tanhuma bar Abba was a Jewish scholar of the 5th generation, one of the foremost aggadists of his time.
Aggadah refers to the homiletic and non-legalistic exegetical texts in the classical rabbinic literature of Judaism, particularly as recorded in the Talmud and Midrash. In general, Aggadah is a compendium of rabbinic homilies that incorporates folklore, historical anecdotes, moral exhortations, and practical advice in various spheres, from business to medicine. The Aggadah may be seen as those teachings which communicate rabbinic traditions to the reader, simultaneously expanding their understanding of the text, while strengthening their religious experience and spiritual connection. The root also has the meaning “flow”, and here relates to the transmission of ideas. This information is to provide those with little to no Jewish education or background knowledge of some of the terminology and Jewish scholars mentioned used in this teaching.
Haftarah: Ezekiel 43:10-27
In this Parashah Moshe is told to perform certain rituals in order to purify both the Kohanim and the Mizbayah (Incense Altar). These rituals took seven days.
In the Haftarah, Yechezk’el receives an image of what the Temple will look like. He is to transmit this image to B’nai Yisra’el (children of Israel). At the same time, the prophet is given a ritual that must be performed for seven days. Its purpose is also to consecrate the Kohanim and the Mizbayah.
Now let me add a little about the Menorah or the Golden Lampstand in the Mishkan and in both Temples. It is perhaps the greatest of all Messianic symbols. It seven arms represent the biblical number of completion. More than that, the arrangement of the Menorah elevates the Shamash, or Servant lamp, to a position of dominance. This lamp occupies the center position among all the other lamps. It was also called Ner Elohim, the “Lamp of G-d” as well as the Shamash. It typifies the person and work of the Messiah.
Each morning, a priest would service the lamps, except the two most easterly. If he found any lamp extinguished, he relighted them. The two eastern lamps were left burning until after the morning service. The Servant Lamp was left burning all day and was refilled in the evening. There are stories that the Shamash lamp could continue to burn for as much as a day longer on the same amount of oil. Rabbis called this “the miracle of the Menorah.”
Let’s revisit Genesis 1:1 that forms a Menorah. In Hebrew we have the following words: Bereshit (in the beginning) barah (created) Elohim (G-d) eht (Aleph/Tahv) hashamayim (the heavens) va eht (and) haeretz (the earth). The fourth word את eht pronounced as eight) represent the Servant (Shamash) Lamp. It contains two Hebrew letters, the aleph א and the ת tahv, the first and last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. They correspond to the Greek letters Alpha and Omega or the English letters A and Z.
The Hebrew Text in Gen. 1:1 read from right to left
“haeretz va eht hashamayim eht Elohim barah Bereshit”
Rabbinical scholars call the א aleph and ת “the word of creation.”
The opening chapters of the book of Revelation reveal that Yahshua executed his Father’s instructions; (Rev. 1:1) “This is the revelation which G-d gave to Yahshua the Messiah, so that he could show his servants what must happen very soon.” Yahshua as the Servant lamp shone His light to his servants that include us if we are faithful to “keep a lamp burning continually… this is to be a permanent regulation through all the generations of the people of Israel.” (Exodus 27:20-21) This scripture by the way, is the opening statements in our parashah! The alef- tav (eht), what we now understand to represent Yahshua in the first statement of Genesis is the 4th word in the first seven, taking the position as the center of the menorah! He is the aleph א and the ת tahv. He is claiming the position of “the world of creation” featured in Genesis 1:1.
In addition to the seven lamps of the Menorah, Zechariah was introduced to “Two Olive Trees” who in Revelation 11:4 are called “two candlesticks.” The implication is that these two are added to the other seven of the Temple Menorah, making a total of nine lamps, a Hanukkah Menorah. In Revelation 11:4 we are told that two witnesses are fulfillment of the two olive trees in Zechariah’s prophecy. These two witnesses represent Law and Grace. Represented today as Judah and Ephraim. Torah and Grace. This duality is also demonstrated in Revelation by the singing of the Song of Moshe (Law) and the Song of the Lamb (Grace). It represents the bringing together again of Judah/Israel and Ephraim/Israel along with their fellow travelers Gentiles into one stick Israel.
Consider the Shield of Israel. It corresponds to the vision seen by Zechariah. Two Olive Branches standing beside Israel’s Menorah, one on each side. These two branches are referred to as the two anointed ones that stand by the Lord of the whole earth. Could these two individuals also represent G-d’s grace and law? We cannot know for sure until they appear, but they seem to correspond to the keruvim that stand with outstretched wings over the Ark of the Covenant. Notice there are twelve leaves with what appears as a flame over each branch making 24. In Revelation 4:4 we see twenty-four elders sitting around the throne of HaShem with crowns of Gold on their heads. Comparing this imagery to the Shield of Israel we can see that these two Olive Branches represent the Twelve Patriarchs and the Twelve Apostles united into one commonwealth: Jew/Gentile, Law/Grace under the Kippur (Blood) of Yahshua our Kohen Gadol and Melech ha O’lam in the Theocracy of Israel.
B’rit Chadashah: Philippians 4:10-20
Sha’ul (Paul) explains in these passages that the object is not for us to try and isolate ourselves from an evil world, but to insulate ourselves spiritually as Noah did when he applied pitch to the ark. Insulating our minds with Torah helps us to maintain our peace in a chaotic environment, no matter where we may find ourselves.
In verse 9, Sha’ul again makes himself an example (compare 3:17).
11–13 The movement is accused of fostering both asceticism and greed. The teaching of these verses, based on Sha’ul’s personal experience (11:21–33), is that the Messiah offers power to cope with both penury and luxury, indeed power to do all things as we live to glorify G-d.
19 This is the ultimate assurance of G-d’s providence and sufficiency (Rom. 9:5). In these verses we have the grateful acknowledgment which the apostle makes of the kindness of the Philippians in sending him a present for his support, now that he was a prisoner at Rome. And here, he takes occasion to acknowledge their former kindnesses to him, and to make mention of them, v. 15, 16. Sha’ul had a grateful spirit; for, though what they did for him was nothing in comparison of what he deserved from them. Yet he speaks of their kindness as if it had been a piece of generous charity, when it was really far short of the debt they owed to him. They could not have given him too much, since they owed to him even their own souls; and yet, when they send a small present to him, how kindly does he take it, how thankfully does he mention it, even in this epistle which was to be as a record, and read in the assemblies, through all ages as a memorial to their kindness. He reminds them that in the beginning of the gospel no assembly communicated with him as to giving and receiving but they only, v. 15. They not only maintained him comfortably while he was with them, but when he departed from Macedonia they sent tokens of their kindness after him; and this when no other assembly did so. None besides sent after him of their carnal things, in consideration of what they had reaped of his spiritual things. In works of charity, we are ready to ask what other people do lest G-d forbid, we give too much! But the assembly of the Philippians never considered that. It showed so much more to their honor that they were the only assembly who were just and generous. “Even in Thessalonica (after he had departed from Macedonia) you sent once and again to my necessity” v. 16. It was but little which they sent; they sent only to his necessity, just things he had need of; perhaps it was according to their ability, or he did not desire superfluities nor dainties. It is an admirable thing to see those to whom God has given in the gifts of his grace abounding in grateful returns to his ministers and people, according to their own ability and their necessity: “You sent once and again.” Many people make it an excuse that they have given once; why should they have to do so again? This was not the attitude of the Philippians who sent once and again. They often relieved and refreshed him in his necessities. He makes this mention of their former kindness, not only out of gratitude, but for their encouragement. This is the message of our parashah. We as the new priesthood are to become attuned to the needs of our people, to listen, to be quick although discerning with our giving, and ready to carry our lights to wherever G-d requires us to go. We must let our lights perpetually shine in daylight and in darkness as the Light of G-d’s Torah provides the lamp unto our feet and a Light unto our paths (Psalm 119:105).
G-d told Moshe to command Aaron to light the Menorah in the Mishkan. The Hebrew word Tetzaveh, which means “command,” has a numeric value of 501. The words nashim tzivah, “He commanded women,” also have a value of 501. According to the Oral Torah, this teaches us that the lighting of candles is a commandment that women should perform. Keep in mind the lighting of the candles on Shabbat is a Jewish tradition and not commanded in G-d’s Torah. It is a beautiful tradition that sets the holy Shabbat apart from the mundane, but a tradition nevertheless.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart