Parashat Tetzaveh

Shabbat Zachor – The Sabbath of Repentance Exodus 27:20-30:10; Ezekiel 43:10-27; Hebrews 13:10-17 Special reading for Zachor: Deut 25:17-19; 1 Samuel 15:1-34; Mark 6:14-29

Our parasha this Shabbat deals with; • The preparation of consecrated oil to be used to keep the menorah burning • The ner tamid that was to burn continuously before the Aaron Kodesh • the preparation of the consecrated oil • Setting apart of Aaron and his sons to serve as cohanim • The priestly vestments • The Altar of Burnt Offering • The Altar of Incense

This parasha marks a transition from dealing with the structure of the Mishkan (the Tabernacle in the wilderness) to those who will serve HaShem as priests IN the tabernacle. This is introduced by the phrase “v’atah” – “now you”. The sages note that both last Shabbat’s portion, Terumah (offerings) and Tetzaveh (commandments) should be read together as a single unit, for you cannot separate the physical space from those who are called to serve in it! They form an intrinsic whole and both are essential for the efficient functioning of the Tabernacle.

Furthermore, the special consecrated oil of olives is pivotal in this transition because it is the chief means of anointing the cohanim who were to be set apart to serve in the Tabernacle.

The portion of Tetzaveh, as commentators have noted, has one unusual feature: it is the only portion from the beginning of Shemot to the end of Devarim that does not contain the name of Moses. Several interpretations have been offered:

1. Vilna Gaon suggests that it is related to the fact that in most years it is read during the week in which the seventh of Adar falls: the day of Moses' death. During this week, we sense the loss of the greatest leader in Jewish history - and his absence from Tetzaveh expresses that loss.

2. Baal HaTurim relates it to Moses' plea, in next week's sedra, for God to forgive Israel. "If not," says Moses, "blot me out of the book you have written" (32: 32). There is a principle that "The curse of a sage comes true, even if it was conditional " (Makkot 11a). Thus for one week, his name was "blotted out" from the Torah.

3. Paneach Raza relates it to another principle: "There is no anger that does not leave an impression" When Moses, for the last time, declined God's invitation to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt, saying "Please send someone else", God "became angry with Moses" (Ex. 4: 13-14) and told him that his brother Aaron would accompany him.

For that reason, Moses forfeited the role he might otherwise have had, of becoming the first of Israel's priests, a role that went instead to Aaron. That is why he is missing from the portion of Tetsaveh which is dedicated to the role of the Cohen.

All three explanations focus on an absence. However, perhaps the simplest explanation is that Tetzaveh is dedicated to a presence, one that had a decisive influence on Judaism and Jewish history.

Judaism is unusual in that it recognises not one form of religious leadership but two: the navi (prophet) and the cohen (the priest). Perhaps Sha’ul was alluding to this principle in Ehpesians 2: Eph 2:19-22 19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

The figure of the prophet has always captured the imagination. He (or she) is a person of drama, "speaking truth to power", unafraid to challenge kings and courts or society in the name of the Most High. No ot