Parashat Tsav & Shabbat HaGadol - April 8th

צו Tsav

Lev. 6.1 — Lev. 8.36 (in the Hebrew text)

Lev. 6.8 — Lev. 8.36 (in the English text)

Leviticus 8.12: “He poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron's head, and anointed him, to consecrate him.” Chapter 8 gives detailed instructions for the consecration of the priests. The anointing with oil is a hint toward the greater anointed one to come later.

Approximately five hundred years after Moses, God speaks by the mouth of David and says of the promised Messiah: “You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” (Psalms 110.4). What does “forever” mean? And why not “after the order of Aaron,” the head of the old priestly order? Who was this Melchizedek? What is the difference between his priesthood and that of Aaron?

Melchizedek lived in the days of our father Abraham. He appears suddenly on the stage of history and mysteriously disappears again without our knowing anything about him, except for his meeting with Abraham on one occasion. The Bible presents him as “a priest of the most high God”; and a great man, like our father Abraham, recognized his greatness by giving him a tenth of all that he had at that moment. Now, after ap­proximately a thousand years, God speaks by the mouth of David of “a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek,” and by this he annuls, as it were, the priesthood after the order of Aaron, and emphasizes the eternalness—”forever”—of the new priesthood. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews gives us an interesting and detailed exposition of this prophetic statement:

“But he [the priest after the order of Melchizedek] holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues for ever. Consequently 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. For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did this once for all when he offered up himself. Indeed, the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect for ever. . . . We have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent which is set up not by man but by the Lord.” (Hebrews 7:24-28. 8:1-2).

[SO]

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Haftarah: Jeremiah 7:21 — Jer. 8:3. 9:22-23

Jeremiah 7.25-28: “From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day; yet they did not listen to me, or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers. So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you. And you shall say to them, ‘This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the Lord their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips.’”

This idea appears in the parable told by Jesus in Matthew 21.33-45, where the coming of the prophets and the rejection of their message by the nation is a precursor to the coming and rejection of the Messiah himself.

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Jeremiah 9.23-24: “Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practice steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, says the Lord.’”

This passage is quoted in the NT (1 Corinthians 1.26-31) as characterizing those who follow the Messiah. Just as his origins were humble and lowly, so too those who believe in him will not have qualities in themselves to recommend them to God. They will be completely dependent on his grace for their standing.

[BSI/rp]

Shabbat HaGadol (Sabbath of the Great One)

Reading: Malachi 3 & 4 (Malachi 3 in the Hebrew Bible)

Shabbat HaGadol is a mysterious acknowledgement of someone or something "Great" that comes before Passover.  Shabbat HaGadol always occurs the Sabbath before Passover and the passage from Malachi is read.  Outside of this, there are various Jewish interpretations of what Shabbat HaGadol actually means.

One interpretation is to remember a tradition that all of the first-born in Egypt of high position requested from Pharoah to set the Israelites free from slavery.  The Talmud teaches that when Pharoah denied this request these Egyptian priests and officials rose up against Pharoah's troops and their was a bloody battle.  

It is also believed in Talmudic Judaism that Hezekiah fell ill on this day and was told that he would soon die because he had never married.  Hezekiah sought the face of God and God granted Hezekiah another 15 years of life.  This account of Hezekiah's life is paritally documented in 2 Kings chapter 20.  The part that is written in the Bible is that God did tell Hezekiah that he would die, Hezekiah prayed to God, and God said that He would heal him. 

The Biblical connection to the "Great" aspect of this Sabbath seems to be the coming of Elijah before the "great" and dreadful day of the LORD spoken of in Malachi 4:5.  That Elijah the prophet will come as a predecessor to the Messiah is clear in Biblical literature and Jewish tradition, including the Passover seder itself.  

Shabbat Shalom!

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