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This Parashah picks up where Trumah leaves off. Having concluded the instructions for building the Tabernacle, Tetzaveh begins with commands about providing fuel for illumination; in this case, olive oil. Aaron and his sons are to set up these lamps in the Ohel Moed, the Tent of Meeting, where they will burn from evening to morning.

The Torah moves now to establish the priesthood, through Aaron and his sons: Nadav, Avihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. They are provided with special dress to distinguish them from the other Israelites and to mark them for sacred service.

The Kohen Gadol, High Priest, is unique in his golden attire. He wears eight special objects:

  1. The Ephod, or apron

  2. The Hoshen, or breastpiece, which uses twelve coloured stones to signify the Twelve Tribes of Israel

  3. The Urim ve-Tummim, devices used to discern the will of God

  4. The robe made entirely of tekhelet, the blue dye also found in one thread of tzitzit, and with pomegranates on its hem

  5. The Tzitz, or frontlet, bearing the words “Holy to Adonai”

  6. The Kuttonet, or tunic

  7. The Mitznefet, or headdress

  8. The Avnet, or sash

The ordinary priests wore four garments.

Tetzaveh goes on to describe the installation ritual of the priests, a ceremony presided over by Moses, which lasted for seven days (another reference to Creation). The installation ceremony consists of sacrifices of both animals and grain, bathing, and cleansing the priests’ bodies, robbing the priests, and anointing them.

The portion ends with a summary of the purpose of this elaborate rite: “I will abide among the Israelites and I will be their God. And they shall know that I, Hashem, am their God, who brought them out from the land of Egypt that I might abide among them, I, Hashem, their God”.

Based on The Bedside Torah by Rabbi Bradley Artson

Questions for discussion

1-  What are the advantages and disadvantages of a hereditary priesthood system?

2- How can we, in modern times, understand the mystery of the Urim ve-Tummim?

3- Why do we need all these ceremonies for God to abide between us?

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