Tetzaveh

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Not to be confused with Tzav (parsha) or Mitzvah.

Tetzaveh, Tetsaveh, T'tzaveh, or T'tzavveh (תְּצַוֶּהHebrew for "you command,” the second word and first distinctive word in the parashah) is the 20th weekly Torah portion (פָּרָשָׁה, parashah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the eighth in the book of Exodus. It constitutes Exodus 27:20–30:10. The parashah is made up of 5,430 Hebrew letters, 1,412 Hebrew words, and 101 verses, and can occupy about 179 lines in a Torah Scroll (סֵפֶר תּוֹרָה, Sefer Torah).[1] Jews read it the 20th Sabbath after Simchat Torah, generally in February or March.

The parashah reports God’s commands to bring olive oil for the lamp, to make sacred garments for the priests, to conduct an ordination ceremony, and to make an incense altar.

The High Priest (illustration from a Bible card published 1907 by the Providence Lithograph Company)

Readings[edit]

The High Priest (illustration from the 1890 Holman Bible)

In traditional Sabbath Torah reading, the parashah is divided into seven readings, or עליות, aliyot.[2]

The High Priest’s Breast Plate (illustration from the 1890 Holman Bible)

First reading — Exodus 27:20–28:12[edit]

In the first reading (עליה, aliyah), God instructed the Israelites to bring Moses clear olive oil, so that Aaron and his descendants as High Priest could kindle lamps regularly in the Tabernacle.[3] God instructed Moses to make sacral vestments for Aaron: a breastpiece (the Hoshen), the Ephod, a robe, a gold frontlet inscribed “holy to the Lord,” a fringed tunic, a headdress, a sash, and linen breeches.[4]

Second reading — Exodus 28:13–30[edit]

In the second reading (עליה, aliyah), God detailed the instructions for the breastpiece.[5] God instructed Moses to place Urim and Thummim inside the breastpiece of decision.[6]

Third reading — Exodus 28:31–43[edit]

In the third reading (עליה, aliyah), God detailed the instructions for the robe, frontlet, fringed tunic, headdress, sash, and breeches.[7] God instructed Moses to place pomegranates and gold bells around the robe’s hem, to make a sound when the High Priest entered and exited the sanctuary, so that he not die.[8]

Fourth reading — Exodus 29:1–18[edit]

In the fourth reading (עליה, aliyah), God laid out an ordination ceremony for priests involving the sacrifice of a young bull, two rams, unleavened bread, unleavened cakes with oil mixed in, and unleavened wafers spread with oil.[9] God instructed Moses to lead the bull to the front of the Tabernacle, let Aaron and his sons lay their hands upon the bull’s head, slaughter the bull at the entrance of the Tent, and put some of the bull’s blood on the horns of the altar.[10]

Fifth reading — Exodus 29:19–37[edit]

In the fifth reading (עליה, aliyah), God instructed Moses to take one of the rams, let Aaron and his sons lay their hands upon the ram’s head, slaughter the ram, and put some of its blood and put on the ridge of Aaron’s right ear and on the ridges of his sons’ right ears, and on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the big toes of their right feet.[11]

Sixth reading — Exodus 29:38–46[edit]

In the sixth reading (עליה, aliyah), God promised to meet and speak with Moses and the Israelites there, to abide among the Israelites, and be their God.[12]

Seventh reading — Exodus 30:1–10[edit]

In the seventh reading (עליה, aliyah), God instructed Moses to make an incense altar of acacia wood overlaid with gold — sometimes called the Golden Altar.[13]

In inner-Biblical interpretation[edit]

The parashah has parallels or is discussed in these Biblical sources:[14]

Exodus chapters 25–39[edit]

This is the pattern of instruction and construction of the Tabernacle and its furnishings:

The Tabernacle
Item Instruction Construction
Order Verses Order Verses
Contributions 1 Exodus 25:1–9 2 Exodus 35:4–29
Ark 2 Exodus 25:10–22 5 Exodus 37:1–9
Table 3 Exodus 25:23–30 6 Exodus 37:10–16
Menorah 4 Exodus 25:31–40 7 Exodus 37:17–24
Tabernacle 5 Exodus 26:1–37 4 Exodus 36:8–38
Altar of Sacrifice 6 Exodus 27:1–8 11 Exodus 38:1–7
Tabernacle Court 7 Exodus 27:9–19 13 Exodus 38:9–20
Lamp 8 Exodus 27:20–21 16 Numbers 8:1–4
Priestly Garments 9 Exodus 28:1–43 14 Exodus 39:1–31
Ordination Ritual 10 Exodus 29:1–46 15 Leviticus 8:1–9:24
Altar of Incense 11 Exodus 30:1–10 8 Exodus 37:25–28
Laver 12 Exodus 30:17–21 12 Exodus 38:8
Anointing Oil 13 Exodus 30:22–33 9 Exodus 37:29
Incense 14 Exodus 30:34–38 10 Exodus 37:29
Craftspeople 15 Exodus 31:1–11 3 Exodus 35:30–36:7
The Sabbath 16 Exodus 31:12–17 1 Exodus 35:1–3

Exodus chapter 28[edit]

The Hebrew Bible refers to the Urim and Thummim in Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8; Numbers 27:21; Deuteronomy 33:8; 1 Samuel 14:41 (“Thammim”) and 28:6; Ezra 2:63; and Nehemiah 7:65; and may refer to them in references to “sacred utensils” in Numbers 31:6 and the Ephod in 1 Samuel 14:3 and 19; 23:6 and 9; and 30:7–8; and Hosea 3:4.

Exodus chapter 29[edit]

The Torah mentions the combination of ear, thumb, and toe in three places. In Exodus 29:20, God instructed Moses how to initiate the priests, telling him to kill a ram, take some of its blood, and put it on the tip of the right ear of Aaron and his sons, on the thumb of their right hand, and on the great toe of their right foot, and dash the remaining blood against the altar round about. And then Leviticus 8:23–24 reports that Moses followed God’s instructions to initiate Aaron and his sons. Then, Leviticus 14:14, 17, 25, and 28 set forth a similar procedure for the cleansing of a person with skin disease (צָּרַעַת, tzara’at). In Leviticus 14:14, God instructed the priest on the day of the person’s cleansing to take some of the blood of a guilt-offering and put it upon the tip of the right ear, the thumb of the right hand, and the great toe of the right foot of the one to be cleansed. And then in Leviticus 14:17, God instructed the priest to put oil on the tip of the right ear, the thumb of the right hand, and the great toe of the right foot of the one to be cleansed, on top of the blood of the guilt-offering. And finally, in Leviticus 14:25 and 28, God instructed the priest to repeat the procedure on the eighth day to complete the person’s cleansing.

The High Priest wearing his breastplate (illustration circa 1861–1880 from The History of Costume by Braun and Schneider)

In early nonrabbinic interpretation[edit]

The parashah has parallels or is discussed in these early nonrabbinic sources:

Exodus chapter 28[edit]

Josephus interpreted the linen vestment of Exodus 28:5 to signify the earth, as flax grows out of the earth. Josephus interpreted the Ephod of the four colors gold, blue, purple, and scarlet[15] to signify that God made the universe of four elements, with the gold interwoven to show the splendor by which all things are enlightened. Josephus saw the stones on the High Priest's shoulders in Exodus 28:9–12 to declare the sun and the moon. He interpreted the breastplate of Exodus 28:15–22 to resemble the earth, having the middle place of the world, and the girdle that encompassed the High Priest to signify the ocean, which went about the world. He interpreted the 12 stones of the Ephod in Exodus 28:17–21 to represent the months or the signs of the Zodiac. He interpreted the golden bells and pomegranates that Exodus 28:33–35 says hung on the fringes of the High Priest’s garments to signify thunder and lightning, respectively. And Josephus saw the blue on the headdress of Exodus 28:37 to represent heaven, “for how otherwise could the name of God be inscribed upon it?”[16]

Exodus chapter 29[edit]

Philo taught that the command of Exodus 29:20 to apply ram’s blood to the priests’ right ear, right thumb, and right great toe signified that the perfect person must be pure in every word, every action, and the entirety of life. For the ear symbolized the hearing with which people judge one’s words, the hand symbolized action, and the foot symbolized the way in which a person walks in life. And since each of these is an extremity of the right side of the body, Philo imagined that Exodus 29:20 teaches that one should labor to attain improvement in everything with dexterity and felicity, as an archer aims at a target.[17]

Menorah from the Arch of Titus (illustration from the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia)

In classical rabbinic interpretation[edit]

The parashah is discussed in these rabbinic sources from the era of the Mishnah and the Talmud:

Exodus chapter 27[edit]

It was taught in a Baraita that Rabbi Josiah taught that the expression “they shall take for you” (וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ, v’yikhu eileicha) in Exodus 27:20 was a command for Moses to take from communal funds, in contrast to the expression “make for yourself” (עֲשֵׂה לְךָ, aseih lecha) in Numbers 10:2, which was a command for Moses to take from his own funds.[18]

The Mishnah posited that one could have inferred that meal-offerings would require the purest olive oil, for if the menorah, whose oil was not eaten, required pure olive oil, how much more so should meal-offerings, whose oil was eaten. But Exodus 27:20 states, “pure olive oil beaten for the light,” but not “pure olive oil beaten for meal-offerings,” to make clear that such purity was required only for the menorah and not for meal-offerings.[19] The Mishnah taught that there were three harvests of olives, and each crop gave three kinds of oil (for a total of nine types of oil). The first crop of olives were picked from the top of the tree; they were pounded and put into a basket (Rabbi Judah said around the inside of the basket) to yield the first oil. The olives were then pressed beneath a beam (Rabbi Judah said with stones) to yield the second oil. The olives were then ground and pressed again to yield the third oil. Only the first oil was fit for the menorah, while the second and third were for meal-offerings. The second crop is when the olives at roof-level were picked from the tree; they were pounded and put into the basket (Rabbi Judah said around the inside of the basket) to yield the first oil (of the second crop). The olives were then pressed with the beam (Rabbi Judah said with stones) to yield the second oil (of the second crop). The olives were then ground and pressed again to yield the third oil. Once again, with the second crop, only the first oil was fit for the menorah, while the second and third were for meal-offerings. The third crop was when the last olives of the tree were packed in a vat until they become overripe. These olives were then taken up and dried on the roof and then pounded and put into the basket (Rabbi Judah said around the inside of the basket) to yield the first oil. The olives were next pressed with the beam (Rabbi Judah said with stones) to yield the second oil. And then they were ground and pressed again to yield the third oil. Once again, with the third crop, only the first oil was fit for the menorah, while the second and third were for meal-offerings.[20]

The Golden Lamp-Bearer (illustration from the 1890 Holman Bible)

A Midrash taught that the lights of the Tabernacle menorah were replicas of the heavenly lights. The Midrash taught that everything God created in heaven has a replica on earth. Thus Daniel 2:22 reports, “And the light dwells with [God]” in heaven. While below on earth, Exodus 27:20 directs, “That they bring to you pure olive-oil beaten for the light.” (Thus, since all that is above is also below, God dwells on earth just as God dwells in heaven.) What is more, the Midrash taught that God holds the things below dearer than those above, for God left the things in heaven to descend to dwell among those below, as Exodus 25:8 reports, “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.”[21]

A Midrash expounded on Exodus 27:20 to explain why Israel was, in the words of Jeremiah 11:16, like “a leafy olive tree.” The Midrash taught that just as the olive is beaten, ground, tied up with ropes, and then at last it yields its oil, so the nations have come and beaten, imprisoned, bound, and surrounded Israel, and when at last Israel repents of its sins, God answers it. The Midrash offered a second explanation: Just as all liquids commingle one with the other, but oil refuses to do so, so Israel keeps itself distinct, as it is commanded in Deuteronomy 7:3. The Midrash offered a third explanation: Just as oil floats to the top even after it has been mixed with every kind of liquid, so Israel, as long as it performs the will of God, will be set on high by God, as it says in Deuteronomy 28:1. The Midrash offered a fourth explanation: Just as oil gives forth light, so did the Temple in Jerusalem give light to the whole world, as it says in Isaiah 60:3.[22]

A Baraita taught that they used the High Priest’s worn-out trousers to make the wicks of the Temple menorah and the worn-out trousers of ordinary priests for candelabra outside the Temple. Reading the words “to cause a lamp to burn continually” in Exodus 27:20, Rabbi Samuel bar Isaac deduced that the unusual word לְהַעֲלֹת, lehaalot, literally “to cause to ascend,” meant that the wick had to allow the flame to ascend by itself. And thus the Rabbis concluded that no material other than flax — as in the fine linen of the High Priest’s clothing — would allow the flame to ascend by itself.[23] Similarly, Rami bar Hama deduced from the use of word לְהַעֲלֹת, lehaalot, in Exodus 27:20 that the menorah flame had to ascend by itself, and not through other means (such as adjustment by the priests). Thus Rami bar Hama taught that the wicks and oil that the Sages taught one could not light on the Sabbath, one could also not light in the Temple.[24] The Gemara challenged Rami bar Hama, however, citing a Mishnah[25] that taught that the worn-out breeches and girdles of priests were torn and used to kindle the lights for the celebration of the Water-Drawing. The Gemara posited that perhaps that celebration was different. The Gemara countered with the teaching of Rabbah bar Masnah, who taught that worn-out priestly garments were torn and made into wicks for the Temple. And the Gemara clarified that the linen garments were meant.[24]

High Priest in Robes and Breastplate (the chain censer is anachronistic)

Exodus chapter 28[edit]

The Mishnah summarized the priestly garments described in Exodus 28, saying that “the High Priest performs the service in eight garments, and the common priest in four: in tunic, drawers, miter, and girdle. The High Priest adds to those the breastplate, the apron, the robe, and the frontlet. And the High Priest wore these eight garments when he inquired of the Urim and Thummim.[26]

Priests of the Tabernacle (illustration from the 1897 Bible Pictures and What They Teach Us by Charles Foster)

Rabbi Hama bar Hanina interpreted the words “the plaited (שְּׂרָד, serad) garments for ministering in the holy place” in Exodus 35:19 to teach that but for the priestly garments described in Exodus 28 (and the atonement achieved by the garments or the priests who wore them), no remnant (שָׂרִיד, sarid) of the Jews would have survived.[27] Similarly, citing Mishnah Yoma 7:5,[26] Rabbi Simon taught that even as the sacrifices had an atoning power, so too did the priestly garments. Rabbi Simon explained that the priests’ tunic atoned for those who wore a mixture of wool and linen (שַׁעַטְנֵז, shaatnez, prohibited by Deuteronomy 22:11), as Genesis 37:3 says, “And he made him a coat (tunic) of many colors” (and the Jerusalem Talmud explained that Joseph’s coat was similar to one made of the forbidden mixture). The breeches atoned for unchastity, as Exodus 28:42 says, “And you shall make them linen breeches to cover the flesh of their nakedness.” The miter atoned for arrogance, as Exodus 29:6 says, “And you shall set the miter on his head.” Some said that the girdle atoned for the crooked in heart, and others said for thieves. Rabbi Levi said that the girdle was 32 cubits long (about 48 feet), and that the priest wound it towards the front and towards the back, and this was the ground for saying that it was to atone for the crooked in heart (as the numerical value of the Hebrew word for heart is 32). The one who said that the girdle atoned for thieves argued that since the girdle was hollow, it resembled thieves, who do their work in secret, hiding their stolen goods in hollows and caves. The breastplate atoned for those who pervert justice, as Exodus 28:30 says, “And you shall put in the breastplate of judgment.” The Ephod atoned for idol-worshippers, as Hosea 3:4 says, “and without Ephod or teraphim.” Rabbi Simon taught in the name of Rabbi Nathan that the robe atoned for two sins, unintentional manslaughter (for which the Torah provided cities of refuge) and evil speech.[28]

David with the Head of Goliath (painting circa 1606–1607 by Caravaggio)

The robe atoned for evil speech by the bells on its fringe, as Exodus 28:34–35 says, “A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the skirts of the robe round about. And it shall be upon Aaron to minister, and the sound thereof shall be heard.” Exodus 28:34–35 thus implies that this sound made atonement for the sound of evil speech. There is not strictly atonement for one who unintentionally slays a human being, but the Torah provides a means of atonement by the death of the High Priest, as Numbers 35:28 says, “after the death of the High Priest the manslayer may return to the land of his possession.” Some said that the forehead-plate atoned for the shameless, while others said for blasphemers. Those who said that it atoned for the shameless deduced it from the similar use of the word “forehead” in Exodus 28:38, which says of the forehead-plate, “And it shall be upon Aaron's forehead,” and Jeremiah 3:3, which says, “You had a harlot's forehead, you refused to be ashamed.” Those who said that the forehead-plate atoned for blasphemers deduced it from the similar use of the word “forehead” in Exodus 28:38 and 1 Samuel 17:48, which says of Goliath, “And the stone sank into his forehead.”[29]

The Breastplate of the High Priest (illustration from the 1905–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia)

A Baraita interpreted the term “his fitted linen garment” (מִדּוֹ, mido) in Leviticus 6:3 to teach that the each priestly garment in Exodus 28 had to be fitted to the particular priest, and had to be neither too short nor too long.[30]

Rabbi Eleazar deduced from the words “that the breastplate not be loosed from the Ephod” in Exodus 28:28 that one who removed the breast-plate from the apron received the punishment of lashes. Rav Aha bar Jacob objected that perhaps Exodus 28:28 meant merely to instruct the Israelites to fasten the breast-plate securely so that it would “not be loosed.” But the Gemara noted that Exodus 28:28 does not say merely, “so that it not be loosed.”[31]

The Mishnah taught that the High Priest inquired of the Urim and Thummim noted in Exodus 28:30 only for the king, for the court, or for one whom the community needed.[26]

A Baraita explained why the Urim and Thummim noted in Exodus 28:30 were called by those names: The term “Urim” is like the Hebrew word for “lights,” and thus it was called “Urim” because it enlightened. The term “Thummim” is like the Hebrew word tam meaning “to be complete,” and thus it was called “Thummim” because its predictions were fulfilled. The Gemara discussed how they used the Urim and Thummim: Rabbi Johanan said that the letters of the stones in the breastplate stood out to spell out the answer. Resh Lakish said that the letters joined each other to spell words. But the Gemara noted that the Hebrew letter צ, tsade, was missing from the list of the 12 tribes of Israel. Rabbi Samuel bar Isaac said that the stones of the breastplate also contained the names of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But the Gemara noted that the Hebrew letter ט, teth, was also missing. Rav Aha bar Jacob said that they also contained the words: “The tribes of Jeshurun.” The Gemara taught that although the decree of a prophet could be revoked, the decree of the Urim and Thummim could not be revoked, as Numbers 27:21 says, “By the judgment of the Urim.”[32]

The High Priest wearing his Breastplate (1984 illustration by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing)

The Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer taught that when Israel sinned in the matter of the devoted things, as reported in Joshua 7:11, Joshua looked at the 12 stones corresponding to the 12 tribes that were upon the High Priest’s breastplate. For every tribe that had sinned, the light of its stone became dim, and Joshua saw that the light of the stone for the tribe of Judah had become dim. So Joshua knew that the tribe of Judah had transgressed in the matter of the devoted things. Similarly, the Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer taught that Saul saw the Philistines turning against Israel, and he knew that Israel had sinned in the matter of the ban. Saul looked at the 12 stones, and for each tribe that had followed the law, its stone (on the High Priest’s breastplate) shined with its light, and for each tribe that had transgressed, the light of its stone was dim. So Saul knew that the tribe of Benjamin had trespassed in the matter of the ban.[33]

The Mishnah reported that with the death of the former prophets, the Urim and Thummim ceased.[34] In this connection, the Gemara reported differing views of who the former prophets were. Rav Huna said they were David, Samuel, and Solomon. Rav Nachman said that during the days of David, they were sometimes successful and sometimes not (getting an answer from the Urim and Thummim), for Zadok consulted it and succeeded, while Abiathar consulted it and was not successful, as 2 Samuel 15:24 reports, “And Abiathar went up.” (He retired from the priesthood because the Urim and Thummim gave him no reply.) Rabbah bar Samuel asked whether the report of 2 Chronicles 26:5, “And he (King Uzziah of Judah) set himself to seek God all the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the vision of God,” did not refer to the Urim and Thummim. But the Gemara answered that Uzziah did so through Zechariah’s prophecy. A Baraita told that when the first Temple was destroyed, the Urim and Thummim ceased, and explained Ezra 2:63 (reporting events after the Jews returned from the Babylonian Captivity), “And the governor said to them that they should not eat of the most holy things till there stood up a priest with Urim and Thummim,” as a reference to the remote future, as when one speaks of the time of the Messiah. Rav Nachman concluded that the term “former prophets” referred to a period before Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, who were latter prophets.[35] And the Jerusalem Talmud taught that the “former prophets” referred to Samuel and David, and thus the Urim and Thummim did not function in the period of the First Temple, either.[36]

blue tekhelet thread on a set of tzitzit

Rabbi Hanina ben Gamaliel interpreted the words “completely blue (תְּכֵלֶת, tekhelet)” in Exodus 28:31 to teach that blue dye used to test the dye is unfit for further use to dye the blue, tekhelet strand of a tzitzit, interpreting the word “completely” to mean “full strength.” But Rabbi Johanan ben Dahabai taught that even the second dyeing using the same dye is valid, reading the words “and scarlet” (וּשְׁנִי תוֹלַעַת, ushni tolalat) in Leviticus 14:4 to mean “a second [dying] of red wool.”[37]

The Gemara reported that some interpreted the words “woven work” in Exodus 28:32 to teach that all priestly garments were made entirely by weaving, without needlework. But Abaye interpreted a saying of Resh Lakish and a Baraita to teach that the sleeves of the priestly garments were woven separately and then attached to the garment using needlework, and the sleeves reached down to the priest’s wrist.[38]

Priest, High Priest, and Levite (illustration from the 1890 Holman Bible)

Rehaba said in the name of Rav Judah that one who tore a priestly garment was liable to punishment with lashes, for Exodus 28:32 says “that it be not rent.” Rav Aha bar Jacob objected that perhaps Exodus 28:32 meant to instruct that the Israelites make a hem so that the garment would not tear. But the Gemara noted that Exodus 28:32 does not say merely, “lest it be torn.”[31]

A Baraita taught that the golden head-plate of Exodus 28:36–38 was two fingerbreadths wide and stretched around the High Priest’s forehead from ear to ear. The Baraita taught that two lines were written on it, with the four-letter name of God יהוה on the top line and “holy to” (קֹדֶשׁ לַ, kodesh la) on the bottom line. But Rabbi Eliezer son of Rabbi Jose said that he saw it in Rome (where it was taken after the destruction of the Temple) and “holy to the Lord” (קֹדֶשׁ לַיהוה) was written in one line.[39]

Rabbi taught that there was no difference between the tunic, belt, turban, and breeches of the High Priest and those of the common priest in Exodus 28:40–43, except in the belt. Rabbi Eleazar the son of Rabbi Simeon taught that there was not even any distinction in the belt. Ravin reported that all agree that on Yom Kippur, the High Priest’s belt was made of fine linen (as stated in Leviticus 16:4), and during the rest of the year a belt made of both wool and linen (shatnez) (as stated in Exodus 39:29). The difference concerned only the common priest's belt, both on the Day of Atonement and during the rest of the year. Concerning that, Rabbi said it was made of both wool and linen, and Rabbi Eleazar the son of Rabbi Simeon said it was made of fine linen.[40]

A Baraita taught that the priests’ breeches of Exodus 28:42 were like the knee breeches of horsemen, reaching upwards to the hips and downwards to the thighs. They had laces but had no padding in either back or front (and thus fit loosely).[41]

Fitting a Priest’s Garments (1984 illustration by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing)

Exodus chapter 29[edit]

A Baraita taught that a priest who performed sacrifices without the proper priestly garments was liable to death at the hands of Heaven.[42] Rabbi Abbahu said in the name of Rabbi Johanan's (or some say Rabbi Eleazar son of Rabbi Simeon) that the Baraita’s teaching was derived from Exodus 29:9, which says: “And you shall gird them with girdles, Aaron and his sons, and bind turbans on them; and they shall have the priesthood by a perpetual statute.” Thus, the Gemara reasoned, when wearing their proper priestly garments, priests were invested with their priesthood; but when they were not wearing their proper priestly garments, they lacked their priesthood and were considered like non-priests, who were liable to death if they performed the priestly service.[43]

A Midrash asked: As Exodus 29:9 reported that there already were 70 elders of Israel, why in Numbers 11:16, did God direct Moses to gather 70 elders of Israel? The Midrash deduced that when in Numbers 11:1, the people murmured, speaking evil, and God sent fire to devour part of the camp, all those earlier 70 elders had been burned up. The Midrash continued that the earlier 70 elders were consumed like Nadab and Abihu, because they too acted frivolously when (as reported in Exodus 24:11) they beheld God and inappropriately ate and drank. The Midrash taught that Nadab, Abihu, and the 70 elders deserved to die then, but because God so loved giving the Torah, God did not wish to create disturb that time.[44]

Priests Offering at the Altar (1984 illustration by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing)

The Mishnah explained how the priests carried out the rites of the wave-offering described in Exodus 29:27: On the east side of the altar, the priest placed the two loaves on the two lambs and put his two hands beneath them and waved them forward and backward and upward and downward.[45]

The Sages interpreted the words of Exodus 29:27, “which is waved, and which is heaved up,” to teach that the priest moved an offering forward and backward, upward and downward. As Exodus 29:27 thus compares “heaving” to “waving,” the Midrash deduced that in every case where the priest waved, he also heaved.[46]

Rabbi Johanan deduced from the reference of Exodus 29:29 to “the holy garments of Aaron” that Numbers 31:6 refers to the priestly garments containing the Urim and Thummim when it reports that “Moses sent . . . Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war, with the holy vessels.” But the Midrash concluded that Numbers 31:6 refers to the Ark of the Covenant, to which Numbers 7:9 refers when it says, “the service of the holy things.”[47]

A Baraita noted a difference in wording between Exodus 29:30, regarding the investiture of the High Priest, and Leviticus 16:32, regarding the qualifications for performing the Yom Kippur service. Exodus 29:29–30 says, “The holy garments of Aaron shall be for his sons after him, to be anointed in them, and to be consecrated in them. Seven days shall the son that is priest in his stead put them on.” This text demonstrated that a priest who had put on the required larger number of garments and who had been anointed on each of the seven days was permitted to serve as High Priest. Leviticus 16:32, however, says, “And the priest who shall be anointed and who shall be consecrated to be priest in his father’s stead shall make the atonement.” The Baraita interpreted the words, “Who shall be anointed and who shall be consecrated,” to mean one who had been anointed and consecrated in whatever way (as long as he had been consecrated, even if some detail of the ceremony had been omitted). The Baraita thus concluded that if the priest had put on the larger number of garments for only one day and had been anointed on each of the seven days, or if he had been anointed for only one day and had put on the larger number of garments for seven days, he would also be permitted to perform the Yom Kippur service. Noting that Exodus 29:30 indicated that the larger number of garments was necessary in the first instance for the seven days, the Gemara asked what Scriptural text supported the proposition that anointment on each of the seven days was in the first instance required. The Gemara answered that one could infer that from the fact that a special statement of the Torah was necessary to exclude it. Or, in the alternative, one could infer that from Exodus 29:29, which says, “And the holy garments of Aaron shall be for his sons after him, to be anointed in them, and to be consecrated in them.” As Exodus 29:29 puts the anointing and the donning of the larger number of garments on the same level, therefor, just as the donning of the larger number of garments was required for seven days, so was the anointing obligatory for seven days.[48]

Rabbi Eliezer interpreted the words, “And there I will meet with the children of Israel; and [the Tabernacle] shall be sanctified by My glory,” in Exodus 29:43 to mean that God would in the future meet the Israelites and be sanctified among them. The Midrash reports that this occurred on the eighth day of the consecration of the Tabernacle, as reported in Leviticus 9:1. And as Leviticus 9:24 reports, “when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces.”[49]

The Two Priests Are Destroyed (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)

The Mekhilta interpreted the words, “And there I will meet with the children of Israel; and it shall be sanctified by My glory,” in Exodus 29:43 to be the words to which Moses referred in Leviticus 10:3, when he said, “This is it what the Lord spoke, saying: ‘Through them who are near to Me I will be sanctified.’”[50]

The Gemara interpreted the report in Exodus 29:43 that the Tabernacle “shall be sanctified by My glory” to refer to the death of Nadab and Abihu. The Gemara taught that one should read not “My glory” (bi-khevodi) but “My honored ones” (bi-khevuday). The Gemara thus taught that God told Moses in Exodus 29:43 that God would sanctify the Tabernacle through the death of Nadab and Abihu, but Moses did not comprehend God’s meaning until Nadab and Abihu died in Leviticus 10:2. When Aaron’s sons died, Moses told Aaron in Leviticus 10:3 that Aaron’s sons died only that God’s glory might be sanctified through them. When Aaron thus perceived that his sons were God’s honored ones, Aaron was silent, as Leviticus 10:3 reports, “And Aaron held his peace,” and Aaron was rewarded for his silence.[51]

Joshua ben Levi interpreted the words of Exodus 29:46, “And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, Who brought them out of the land of Egypt in order that I may dwell among them,” to teach that the Israelites came out of Egypt only because God foresaw that they would later build God a Tabernacle.[52]

The Inner Altar (1984 illustration by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing)

Exodus chapter 30[edit]

The Outer Altar (1984 illustration by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing)

Rabbi Jose argued that the dimensions of the inner altar in Exodus 30:2 helped to interpret the size of the outer altar. Rabbi Judah maintained that the outer altar was wider than Rabbi Jose thought it was, whereas Rabbi Jose maintained that the outer altar was taller than Rabbi Judah thought it was. Rabbi Jose said that one should read literally the words of Exodus 27:1, “five cubits long, and five cubits broad.” But Rabbi Judah noted that Exodus 27:1 uses the word “square” (רָבוּעַ, ravua), just as Ezekiel 43:16 uses the word “square” (רָבוּעַ, ravua). Rabbi Judah argued that just as in Ezekiel 43:16, the dimension was measured from the center (so that the dimension described only one quadrant of the total), so the dimensions of Exodus 27:1 should be measured from the center (and thus, according to Rabbi Judah, the altar was 10 cubits on each side.) The Gemara explained that we know that this is how to understand Ezekiel 43:16 because Ezekiel 43:16 says, “And the hearth shall be 12 cubits long by 12 cubits broad, square,” and Ezekiel 43:16 continues, “to the four sides thereof,” teaching that the measurement was taken from the middle (interpreting “to” as intimating that from a particular point, there were 12 cubits in all directions, hence from the center). Rabbi Jose, however, reasoned that a common use of the word “square” applied to the height of the altar. Rabbi Judah said that one should read literally the words of Exodus 27:1, “And the height thereof shall be three cubits.” But Rabbi Jose noted that Exodus 27:1 uses the word “square” (רָבוּעַ, ravua), just as Exodus 30:2 uses the word “square” (רָבוּעַ, ravua, referring to the inner altar). Rabbi Jose argued that just as in Exodus 30:2 the altar’s height was twice its length, so too in Exodus 27:1, the height was to be read as twice its length (and thus the altar was 10 cubits high). Rabbi Judah questioned Rabbi Jose’s conclusion, for if priests stood on the altar to perform the service 10 cubits above the ground, the people would see them from outside the courtyard. Rabbi Jose replied to Rabbi Judah that Numbers 4:26 states, “And the hangings of the court, and the screen for the door of the gate of the court, which is by the Tabernacle and by the altar round about,” teaching that just as the Tabernacle was 10 cubits high, so was the altar 10 cubits high; and Exodus 38:14 says, “The hangings for the one side were fifteen cubits” (teaching that the walls of the courtyard were 15 cubits high). The Gemara explained that according to Rabbi Jose’s reading, the words of Exodus 27:18, “And the height five cubits,” meant from the upper edge of the altar to the top of the hangings. And according to Rabbi Jose, the words of Exodus 27:1, “and the height thereof shall be three cubits,” meant that there were three cubits from the edge of the terrace (on the side of the altar) to the top of the altar. Rabbi Judah, however, granted that the priest could be seen outside the Tabernacle, but argued that the sacrifice in his hands could not be seen.[53]

The Mishnah taught that the incense offering of Exodus 30:7 was not subject to the penalty associated with eating invalidated offerings.[54]

a ner tamid (נֵר תָּמִיד), or sanctuary lamp, hanging over the ark in a synagogue, in remembrance of the command in Exodus 27:20–21

Commandments[edit]

According to Maimonides and Sefer ha-Chinuch, there are 4 positive and 3 negative commandments in the parashah:[55]

  • To light the Menorah every day[56]
  • The Kohanim must wear their priestly garments during service.[57]
  • The breastpiece must not be loosened from the Ephod.[58]
  • Not to tear the priestly garments[59]
  • The Kohanim must eat the sacrificial meat.[60]
  • To burn incense every day[61]
  • Not to burn anything on the incense altar besides incense[62]

In the liturgy[edit]

The tamid sacrifice that Exodus 29:38–39 called for the priests to offer at twilight presaged the afternoon prayer service, called “Mincha” or “offering” in Hebrew.[63]

Ezekiel (1510 fresco by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel)

Haftarah[edit]

Generally[edit]

The haftarah for the parashah is Ezekiel 43:10–27.

Connection to the Parashah[edit]

Both the parashah and the haftarah in Ezekiel describe God’s holy sacrificial altar and its consecration, the parashah in the Tabernacle in the wilderness,[64] and the haftarah in Ezekiel’s conception of a future Temple.[65] Both the parashah and the haftarah describe plans conveyed by a mighty prophet, Moses in the parashah and Ezekiel in the haftarah.

The Death of Agag (illustration by Gustave Doré from the 1865 La Sainte Bible)

On Shabbat Zachor[edit]

When Parashah Tetzaveh coincides with Shabbat Zachor (the special Sabbath immediately preceding Purim — as it does in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2018, and 2020), the haftarah is:

Connection to the Special Sabbath[edit]

On Shabbat Zachor, the Sabbath just before Purim, Jews read Deuteronomy 25:17–19, which instructs Jews: “Remember (זָכוֹר, zachor) what Amalek did” in attacking the Israelites.[66] The haftarah for Shabbat Zachor, 1 Samuel 15:2–34 or 1–34, describes Saul’s encounter with Amalek and Saul’s and Samuel’s treatment of the Amalekite king Agag. Purim, in turn, commemorates the story of Esther and the Jewish people’s victory over Haman’s plan to kill the Jews, told in the book of Esther.[67] Esther 3:1 identifies Haman as an Agagite, and thus a descendant of Amalek. Numbers 24:7 identifies the Agagites with the Amalekites. Alternatively, a Midrash tells the story that between King Agag’s capture by Saul and his killing by Samuel, Agag fathered a child, from whom Haman in turn descended.[68]

Further reading[edit]

The parashah has parallels or is discussed in these sources:

Biblical[edit]

Philo

Early nonrabbinic[edit]

Josephus

Classical rabbinic[edit]

  • Mishnah: Yoma 7:5; Sotah 9:12; Zevachim 4:3; Menachot 5:6, 8:5; Keritot 1:1; Tamid 7:1; Kinnim 3:6. Land of Israel, circa 200 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, pages 277, 464, 705, 743, 750, 871, 889. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-300-05022-4.
  • Tosefta: Sotah 7:17; Menachot 6:11, 7:6, 9:16. Land of Israel, circa 300 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., The Tosefta: Translated from the Hebrew, with a New Introduction. Translated by Jacob Neusner, volume 1, page 865; volume 2, pages 1430–31, 1435, 1448. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002. ISBN 1-56563-642-2.
  • Jerusalem Talmud: Challah 20a; Shabbat 20b; Pesachim 35a, 57a, 62a; Yoma 3a, 5a, 6b, 8b, 14a–15a, 16a, 20a–b, 21b, 36a–b, 49b–50a; Sukkah 29b; Megillah 17a; Sotah 24b. Land of Israel, circa 400 CE. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Yerushalmi. Edited by Chaim Malinowitz, Yisroel Simcha Schorr, and Mordechai Marcus, volumes 11, 13, 18–19, 21–22, 26. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2008–2013.
Talmud

Medieval[edit]

  • Exodus Rabbah 36:1–38:9. 10th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Exodus. Translated by S. M. Lehrman, 3:436–57. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
Rashi
  • Saadia Gaon. The Book of Beliefs and Opinions, 2:11; 3:10. Baghdad, Babylonia, 933. Translated by Samuel Rosenblatt, 125, 177. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1948. ISBN 0-300-04490-9.
  • Rashi. Commentary. Exodus 27–30. Troyes, France, late 11th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Rashi. The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary Translated, Annotated, and Elucidated. Translated and annotated by Yisrael Isser Zvi Herczeg, 2:375–421. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1994. ISBN 0-89906-027-7.
  • Rashbam. Commentary on the Torah. Troyes, early 12th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Rashbam’s Commentary on Exodus: An Annotated Translation. Edited and translated by Martin I. Lockshin, pages 351–84. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997. ISBN 0-7885-0225-5.
  • Abraham ibn Ezra. Commentary on the Torah. France, 1153. Reprinted in, e.g., Ibn Ezra's Commentary on the Pentateuch: Exodus (Shemot). Translated and annotated by H. Norman Strickman and Arthur M. Silver, volume 2, pages 583–628. New York: Menorah Publishing Company, 1996. ISBN 0-932232-08-6.
Nachmanides
The Zohar
  • Zohar 2:179b–187b. Spain, late 13th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., The Zohar. Translated by Harry Sperling and Maurice Simon. 5 volumes. London: Soncino Press, 1934.
  • Bahya ben Asher. Commentary on the Torah. Spain, early 14th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbeinu Bachya: Torah Commentary by Rabbi Bachya ben Asher. Translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk, volume 4, pages 1276–310. Jerusalem: Lambda Publishers, 2003. ISBN 965-7108-45-4.
  • Jacob ben Asher (Baal Ha-Turim). Commentary on the Torah. Early 14th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Baal Haturim Chumash: Shemos/Exodus. Translated by Eliyahu Touger; edited and annotated by Avie Gold, volume 2, pages 845–79. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2000. ISBN 1-57819-129-7.
  • Isaac ben Moses Arama. Akedat Yizhak (The Binding of Isaac). Late 15th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Yitzchak Arama. Akeydat Yitzchak: Commentary of Rabbi Yitzchak Arama on the Torah. Translated and condensed by Eliyahu Munk, volume 1, pages 471–83. New York, Lambda Publishers, 2001. ISBN 965-7108-30-6.

Modern[edit]

  • Obadiah ben Jacob Sforno. Commentary on the Torah. Venice, 1567. Reprinted in, e.g., Sforno: Commentary on the Torah. Translation and explanatory notes by Raphael Pelcovitz, pages 432–43. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1997. ISBN 0-89906-268-7.
  • Moshe Alshich. Commentary on the Torah. Safed, circa 1593. Reprinted in, e.g., Moshe Alshich. Midrash of Rabbi Moshe Alshich on the Torah. Translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk, volume 2, pages 551–62. New York, Lambda Publishers, 2000. ISBN 965-7108-13-6.
Hobbes
Hirsch
Luzzatto
Cassuto
Steinsaltz
Plaut

External links[edit]

Old book bindings.jpg

Texts[edit]

Commentaries[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Torah Stats — Shemoth". Akhlah Inc. Retrieved July 6, 2013. 
  2. ^ See, e.g., The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Chumash: Shemos/Exodus. Edited by Menachem Davis, 201–24. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2008. ISBN 1-4226-0204-4.
  3. ^ Exodus 27:20–21.
  4. ^ Exodus 28.
  5. ^ Exodus 28:13–30.
  6. ^ Exodus 28:30.
  7. ^ Exodus 28:31–43.
  8. ^ Exodus 33–35.
  9. ^ Exodus 29.
  10. ^ Exodus 29:10–12.
  11. ^ Exodus 29:19–20.
  12. ^ Exodus 29:42–45.
  13. ^ Exodus 30.
  14. ^ For more on inner-Biblical interpretation, see, e.g., Benjamin D. Sommer. “Inner-biblical Interpretation.” In The Jewish Study Bible. Edited by Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, pages 1829–35. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-19-529751-2.
  15. ^ Exodus 28:6
  16. ^ Antiquities of the Jews 3:7:7.
  17. ^ On the Life of Moses 2:29:150–51.
  18. ^ Babylonian Talmud Yoma 3b.
  19. ^ Mishnah Menachot 8:5. Land of Israel, circa 200 CE. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, page 750. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-300-05022-4. Babylonian Talmud Menachot 86a.
  20. ^ Mishnah Menachot 8:4. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, page 749. Babylonian Talmud Menachot 86a.
  21. ^ Exodus Rabbah 33:4
  22. ^ Exodus Rabbah 36:1
  23. ^ Jerusalem Talmud Sukkah 29b.
  24. ^ a b Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 21a.
  25. ^ Mishnah Sukkah 5:3. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, page 289. Jerusalem Talmud Sukkah 29a. Babylonian Talmud Sukkah 51a.
  26. ^ a b c Mishnah Yoma 7:5. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, page 277. Babylonian Talmud Yoma 71b.
  27. ^ Babylonian Talmud Yoma 72a–b.
  28. ^ Leviticus Rabbah 10:6.
  29. ^ Leviticus Rabbah 10:6.
  30. ^ Babylonian Talmud Zevachim 35a.
  31. ^ a b Babylonian Talmud Yoma 72a.
  32. ^ Babylonian Talmud Yoma 73b.
  33. ^ Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer, chapter 38. Early 9th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer. Translated and annotated by Gerald Friedlander, pages 295, 297–98. London, 1916. Reprinted New York: Hermon Press, 1970. ISBN 0-87203-183-7.
  34. ^ Mishnah Sotah 9:12. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, page 464. Babylonian Talmud Sotah 48a. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Bavli. Elucidated by Eliezer Herzka, Moshe Zev Einhorn, Michoel Weiner, Dovid Kamenetsky, and Reuvein Dowek; edited by Yisroel Simcha Schorr and Chaim Malinowitz, volume 33b, page 48a3. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2000. ISBN 1-57819-673-6.
  35. ^ Babylonian Talmud Sotah 48b. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Bavli. Elucidated by Eliezer Herzka, Moshe Zev Einhorn, Michoel Weiner, Dovid Kamenetsky, and Reuvein Dowek; edited by Yisroel Simcha Schorr and Chaim Malinowitz, volume 33b, pages 48b1–2.
  36. ^ Jerusalem Talmud Sotah 24b.
  37. ^ Babylonian Talmud Menachot 42b.
  38. ^ Babylonian Talmud Yoma 72b.
  39. ^ Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 63b.
  40. ^ Babylonian Talmud Yoma 12b.
  41. ^ Babylonian Talmud Niddah 13b.
  42. ^ Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 83a.
  43. ^ Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 83b.
  44. ^ Midrash Tanhuma Beha’aloscha 16.
  45. ^ Mishnah Menachot 5:6. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, page 743. Babylonian Talmud Menachot 61a.
  46. ^ Numbers Rabbah 9:38. 12th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Numbers. Translated by Judah J. Slotki, volume 5, pages 313–14. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2. See also Numbers Rabbah 10:23. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Numbers. Translated by Judah J. Slotki, volume 5, page 403.
  47. ^ Numbers Rabbah 22:4. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Numbers. Translated by Judah J. Slotki, volume 6, pages 855–56.
  48. ^ Babylonian Talmud Yoma 5a. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Bavli. Elucidated by Abba Zvi Naiman, Michoel Weiner, Yosef Widroff, Moshe Zev Einhorn, Israel Schneider, and Zev Meisels; edited by Yisroel Simcha Schorr and Chaim Malinowitz, volume 13, page 5a2. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1998. ISBN 1-57819-660-4.
  49. ^ Numbers Rabbah 14:21.
  50. ^ Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael Pisha chapter 12. Land of Israel, late 4th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Mekhilta According to Rabbi Ishmael. Translated by Jacob Z. Lauterbach, volume 1, page 63. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1933, reissued 2004. ISBN 0-8276-0678-8.
  51. ^ Babylonian Talmud Zevachim 115b.
  52. ^ Numbers Rabbah 3:6. See also Numbers Rabbah 12:6.
  53. ^ Babylonian Talmud Zevachim 59b–60a. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Bavli. Elucidated by Moshe Zev Einhorn, Henoch Moshe Levin, Michoel Weiner, Shlomo Fox-Ashrei, and Abba Zvi Naiman; edited by Yisroel Simcha Schorr and Chaim Malinowitz, volume 56, pages 59b1–60a1. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1995. ISBN 1-57819-614-0.
  54. ^ Mishnah Zevachim 4:3. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, page 705. Babylonian Talmud Zevachim 42b.
  55. ^ See, e.g., Maimonides. The Commandments: Sefer Ha-Mitzvoth of Maimonides. Translated by Charles B. Chavel, 1:34–35, 37, 42–43, 101–02; 2:81, 85–86. London: Soncino Press, 1967. ISBN 0-900689-71-4. Sefer HaHinnuch: The Book of [Mitzvah] Education. Translated by Charles Wengrov, 1:377–95. Jerusalem: Feldheim Publishers, 1991. ISBN 0-87306-179-9.
  56. ^ Exodus 27:21.
  57. ^ Exodus 28:2.
  58. ^ Exodus 28:28.
  59. ^ Exodus 28:32.
  60. ^ Exodus 29:33.
  61. ^ Exodus 30:7.
  62. ^ Exodus 30:9.
  63. ^ Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 26b; Reuven Hammer, Or Hadash: A Commentary on Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals, 1. New York: The Rabbinical Assembly, 2003. ISBN 0-916219-20-8.
  64. ^ Exodus 27:1–8; 29:36–37.
  65. ^ Ezekiel 43:13–17.
  66. ^ Deuteronomy 25:17.
  67. ^ Esther 1:1–10:3.
  68. ^ Seder Eliyahu Rabbah ch. 20; Targum Sheni to Esther 4:13.