Parsha Tetzavah

G‑d tells Moses to receive from the children of Israel pure olive oil to feed the “everlasting flame” of the menorah, which Aaron is to kindle each day, “from evening till morning.”

The priestly garments, to be worn by the kohanim (priests) while serving in the Sanctuary, are described. All kohanim wore: 1) the ketonet—a full-length linen tunic; 2) michnasayim—linen breeches; 3) mitznefet or migba’at—a linen turban; 4) avnet—a long sash wound above the waist.

In addition, the kohen gadol (high priest) wore: 5) the efod—an apron-like garment made of blue-, purple- and red-dyed wool, linen and gold thread; 6) the choshen—a breastplate containing twelve precious stones inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel; 7) the me’il—a cloak of blue wool, with gold bells and decorative pomegranates on its hem; 8) the tzitz—a golden plate worn on the forehead, bearing the inscription “Holy to G‑d.”

Tetzaveh also includes G‑d’s detailed instructions for the seven-day initiation of Aaron and his four sons—Nadav, Avihu, Elazar and Itamar—into the priesthood, and for the making of the golden altar, on which the ketoret (incense) was burned.

 

G-d tells Moshe to command the Jewish People to supply pure olive oil for the menorah in the Mishkan.

He also tells Moshe to organize the making of the big dei kehuna(priestly garments): A breast plate, an ephod, a robe, a checkered tunic, a turban, a sash, a forehead-plate, and linen trousers.

Upon their completion, Moshe is to perform a ceremony for seven days to consecrate Aharon and his sons. This includes offering sacrifices, dressing Aharon and his sons in their respective garments, and anointing Aharon with oil. G-d commands that every morning and afternoon a sheep be offered on the altar in the Mishkan.

This offering should be accompanied by a meal-offering and libations of wine and oil. G-d commands that an altar for incense be built from acacia wood and covered with gold. Aharon and his descendants should burn incense on this altar every day.

 

Generating Doubt

Parshat Tetzaveh usually precedes Purim, when we read the "maftir" portion describing how Amalek attacked the Jewish people as they left Egypt - even though Amalek lived in a distant land and was under no imminent threat.

So why did Amalek attack?

The Torah says that Amalek attacked the Jews "karcha" - which literally means by way of happenstance. Amalek's entire philosophy is that there is no design or providence in the world. Everything is haphazard, dictated by chance, luck and fate. That's why Haman, a direct descendent of Amalek, decided to kill the Jews based on a lottery, from which the name "Purim" is derived.

Philosophically, Amalek and the Jewish people stand at opposite ends of the spectrum. Judaism believes that the world has purpose and meaning, and that God is intimately involved in our lives. Indeed, that is the very lesson of Purim: Even when things seems bleak, God is there, guiding events. With Haman's decree, it seemed that the Jews were doomed. But then there was a dramatic turnabout.

In our own lives, to the extent we may doubt God's involvement, is the extent that Amalek's philosophy of randomness is part of us.

The Kabbalists point out the numerical value of Amalek -- 240 -- is the same as safek,meaning "doubt." The energy of Amalek is to create doubts about what is true and real in this world, and of God's role in directing events in the best possible way.

This concept is so important that one of 613 mitzvot is to remember what Amalek did. And that's what we do, every year, on the Shabbat before Purim. So let's take this message to heart, and do our part - to fight Amalek's idea of a random world.

© 2017 by Shalom Magazine