Thoughts on Parashat Tetzaveh

Parashat Tetzaveh, Exodus 27.20 – 30.10,[i] (tetzaveh (תְּצַוֶּ֣ה) “you are to command” continues with various articles and requirements for the Tabernacle as well as the specific clothing that Aaron and his sons and future generations are to wear when ministering before the LORD. It is most noteworthy to realize that at the beginning of last week’s parasha, we read that while the collection to be taken was to be anyone’s “heart compels him” (Exodus 25.2) there were specific items that were to be acceptable for said offering (25.3-7). This week however begins with Hashem telling Moshe “you are to command Bnei-Yisrael, that they are to bring to you pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually,” (27.20).

Rashi comments, that “continually” does not mean 24 hours a day as vs 21a states that “Aaron and his sons will set it (the Menorah) in order, to burn from evening to morning before ADONAI.” Instead, as the (עֹלַ֤ת תָּמִיד) the regular burnt offerings, they were to be “a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting before ADONAI” (Exodus 29.42).[ii] Like the עֹלַ֤ת תָּמִיד, the lamp is to burn throughout Bnei Yisrael’s generations (27.21b). The “continual” aspect would be that so long as Israel exists as a people, the light of the Menorah would burn. Today, as there are Jews and synagogues throughout the earth and there are lights burning in remembrance of this command. Where ever there is darkness, there remains a light, burning to remind the Jews everywhere as well as the rest of the world of the eternal and imminent Presence of the LORD, God of Israel.

Interestingly, the JPS translation offers a slightly different understanding. Instead of “It will be a statute forever throughout their generations, on behalf of Bnei-Yisrael” (vs 21b, TLV) the JPS reads, “It shall be a due from the Israelites for all time, throughout the ages.”[iii] In other words, the provision of oil is a “permanent public obligation” thereby causing the LORD’s memorial to be incumbent upon Bnei Yisrael. This responsibility is echoed in Yeshua’s teaching,

 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on a lampstand so it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men so they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5.14-16)

The idea of remembering is further emphasized this Shabbat, as the Shabbat immediately before Purim is Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat of Remembrance. The special reading is

“Remember what Amalek did to you along the way as you came out from Egypt – how he happened upon you along the way and attacked those among you in the rear, all the stragglers behind you, when you were tired and weary – he did not fear God. Now when ADONAI your God grants you rest from all the enemies surrounding you in the land ADONAI your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, you are to blot out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens. Do not forget!” (Deuteronomy 25.17-19)

Aside from both Haman and the Amalekites wanting to see the destruction what is the connection. Esther 3.1 identifies Haman as the Agagite, while 1 Samuel 15 recounts Saul’s disobedience in not killing Agag, king of the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15.8). In the end, Samuel had to kill King Agag but with Saul’s disobedience, the Amalekites did not cease to exist and that came back to haunt Israel, even while they were in exile.

The Haftarah, 1 Samuel 15.1-34 is the account of the LORD’s command to Saul to completely destroy the Amalekites, “Now go and strike down Amalek and put all he has under the ban of destruction—so have no pity on him; but kill both men and women, children and nursing infants, oxen and sheep, camels and donkeys” (1 Samuel 15.3) and his disobedience to that command which led to the kingship eventually passing to David. The important thing for us to remember at this point, is that when the LORD tells us to do something, there is a reason for it – even if it is not clear to us. Neglecting to be obedient to His command can have potentially disastrous effects. We cannot tell if the book of Esther would have been written had Saul destroyed the Amalekites just as we cannot tell the result of our disobedience, except in hindsight. I suppose it would be better for all, if we walked in obedience, remembering the Words of Yeshua, “blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11.28), and not taking the chance of experiencing what

SS and PS

[i] Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.

[ii] The Torah with Rashi’s Commentary Translated, Annotated, and Elucidated, Vol 2 Shemos/Exodus 4th Edition, by Rabbi Yisrael Isser Zvi Herczeg. Mesorah Publications, Ltd. Brooklyn, 1997. p 376

[iii] The JPS Torah Commentary, Exodus, The Traditional Hebrew Text with the New JPS Translation, Commentary by Nahum M. Sarna. The Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia, 1991. p 176

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Michael Hillel with his wife Vered and their three children, made aliyah from the US in late 80s, and in biblical fashion has, for the last 27 years, done whatever his hands have found to do. In 2013 Michael began working on a MA degree in Messianic Jewish Theology. Using the tools learned from his studies, he has been writing teaching and devotional materials from both the Tanakh and Apostolic Writings. Since Messianic Judaism shares a communal context with both Judaism and Christianity, he incorporates material from both traditionally Jewish and Christian perspectives.