Parashat Tetzave - March 11

T'tsaveh תצוה

Exodus 27.20 - Exodus 30.10

Exodus 26.31-35: “And you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet stuff and fine twined linen; in skilled work shall it be made, with cherubim; and you shall hang it upon four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, with hooks of gold, upon four bases of silver. And you shall hang the veil from the clasps, and bring the ark of the testimony in thither within the veil; and the veil shall separate for you the holy place from the most holy. You shall put the mercy seat upon the ark of the testimony in the most holy place. And you shall set the table outside the veil, and the lampstand on the south side of the tabernacle opposite the table; and you shall put the table on the north side.”

Here are the instructions for making a heavy curtain that will cover the entrance into the Holy of Holies, the place where God says he will meet with them (Exodus 30.6). However, this thick veil blocks their passage into the presence of God. This same veil was used to cover the ark of the covenant when the Tabernacle was taken down for moving (Numbers 4.5). The veil spoke loudly of the separation between God and man. Only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, could one man, the High Priest, enter inside that veil (Leviticus 16.2, 12, 15). For the rest of the year no one could approach the direct presence of God or even see the ark from a distance.

In the Messiah, God provided the means for anyone to come inside the veil into his presence. To symbolize that fact dramatically, when the Messiah died, the veil in the Temple in Jerusalem was torn (Matthew 27.51). “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner shrine behind the curtain.” (Hebrews 6.19). No longer must we fear we will be struck dead if we enter God’s presence. Now we have full confidence that God has opened the way by the blood of the Messiah: “We have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh.” (Hebrews 10.19-20).

[BSI/rp]

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Exodus 27.20: “You shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you pure beaten olive oil for the light, that a lamp may be set up to burn continually.”

The phrase “pure beaten olive oil for the light . . . to burn continually” alludes to the Messiah in several ways. The fact that the oil in the menorah was to burn continually was understood to mean that the light from the olive oil “goes out from the Temple and lights the world” (Tanchuma (Buber) D, T’tzaveh 4-5). In support of this the midrash quotes from the messianic passage in Isaiah 60.1-2: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.” It then cites verse 19 of the same chapter, “The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you by night; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.” and comments, “God said to Israel, ‘In this world you needed the light of the Temple, but in the world to come, thanks to that same light, I will bring you Messiah the King, as it is written (Psalms 132.17), “There [in Zion] I will make a horn to sprout for David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed [Messiah].”’”

We remember the words of the Messiah when he said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8.12), and “I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (John 12.46).

The fact that the oil for the lamp was to be pure speaks of the sinlessness of the Messiah. To extract the purest oil from the olives, they had to be bruised and beaten and ultimately crushed. So too the Messiah will be bruised and crushed before his light shines out to the world.

[BSI/rp/ts]

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Exodus 28.29: “So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment upon his heart, when he goes into the holy place, to bring them to continual remembrance before the Lord.” This is an allusion to the greater High Priest, the Messiah. Of him it is said, “He is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7.25), and also, “Who is to condemn? Is it Messiah Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us?” (Romans 8.34)

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Exodus 30.1-10: From Psalms 141.2 we learn that incense is a symbol for prayer: “Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice!” This is confirmed also in Revelation 5.8: “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” The Messiah will carry the priestly duty of intercessory prayer. Not only that, but those who follow the Messiah will also offer incense up to God in the form of prayers.

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Haftarah: Ezekiel 43.1-27

Ezekiel 43.2, 4-5: “The glory of the God of Israel came from the east . . . As the glory of the Lord entered the temple by the gate facing east, the Spirit lifted me up, and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple.” This entry of the Lord into the Temple from the direction of the Mount of Olives reminds us of the entry of the Messiah into Jerusalem while the crowds welcomed him as the king “who comes in the name of the Lord” (Luke 19.38).

Shabbat Shalom!

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