Tetzaveh – Torah for Today

Original Broadcast Date: February 28, 2015

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Beerman:

We are looking forward to the section today that covers Exodus 27 through 32. Last time, we talked about the portion that dealt with the dwelling.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, the dwelling of God, the design of the sanctuary.

Beerman:

Right and in this section, Tetzaveh, focuses on more specific furniture—some of the objects that are in the sanctuary and the function of those objects. We talked about cherubim and a little bit about altars and tent last time, but this time we are going to look a little bit closer. I want to start with Exodus 28, and this first verse of course here says, “Now take Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister to me as priest, Aaron and Aaron sons.” Then of course it lists the names of those sons.

So here is an introduction to Aaron, and we know he was a high priest, but really who is he really and what is this about?

Bolotnikov:

Well, Aaron is Moses’s brother. In fact, Aaron was the mouth of Moses when Moses talked to Pharaoh.

Beerman:

God was kind. He gave Moses that option, didn’t He? And allowed him to speak even though he did not think he could.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, they are both from the tribe of Levi, but it is interesting that we do not yet have a Levitical priesthood in this story because all the parashat is talking about is Aaron and his sons as high priest, so the other priest offices are wide open. As we know, based on Exodus 13, we have a system in place where each family had to consecrate its first-born male to serve God. So Aaron and his sons were to lead the other servants of the first born to become servants of God in the sanctuary.

Beerman:

So are you suggesting then that at this point where we are in Exodus that what comes later in the institution of other Levitical priests that was not in place here, or God did not see it as necessary at this point. That is a later development?

Bolotnikov:

Yes, that is a later development.

Beerman:

New insight, interesting!

Bolotnikov:

We will learn about this actually in the next Torah portion, we will exactly understand why it all change.

Beerman:

So again, just to share a little bit more. What is his function here then? Why is this set forth here?

Bolotnikov:

Well, one of the functions here, and this is what the entire Torah portion is all about, is about the daily ministry of the high priest. This is one of the good examples of how the Torah portions in the Torah scroll work. If you come to our congregation on 7290 Saint Johns Boulevard on Friday night and especially on Saturday at 4:00 o’clock, you’ll see we have a Torah scroll from which we read. Those who know it, already see that the Torah scroll does not have verse and chapter divisions. That is why the columns are broken into paragraphs.

The paragraph is the beginning of the weekly Torah portion. So this weekly Torah portion begins with what is known in our English Bible as Exodus 27:20, and it is called “The Tetzaveh,” which is not easy to pronounce for English speakers.

Beerman:

True, I struggle with that.

Bolotnikov:

But it means, “You shall command.” You shall command the sons of Israel that they would take for themselves a special oil from the olives which is very pure for the menorah, for the seven candles.

Beerman:

Of the candelabra there.

Bolotnikov:

Of the candelabra there.

Beerman:

The menorah.

Bolotnikov:

That is known as the menorah, for ner tamid. Ner means “the light,” and tamid means “daily,” so it has to be lit every day.

Beerman:

The light never goes out then.

Bolotnikov:

No.

Beerman:

Never goes out in the sanctuary, always…

Bolotnikov:

No. By the way, talking about the history recorded in the Book of Maccabees and the Talmud about Hanukkah. It was all about how to restart after the temple was desecrated by the Maccabees. How they had this problem to reestablish this continuous burning of the oil that creates the everlasting light.

That was a very serious thing. This is like a foundation of the function of the sanctuary. The light should never be out, the sanctuary is constantly to be functioning. The task of Aaron—that is what it says—the task of Aaron, it is for them, an everlasting command. The everlasting commandment is to keep it going.

Beerman:

It never goes out. They need to make sure it never goes out.

Bolotnikov:

So, that is the first the commandment of the daily service of what Aaron and his sons, the priests were supposed to do.

Beerman:

This is a connection I never made. So this is fascinating and enlightening that this really was their first and foremost assignment was to keep that light going. I have missed that. It is easy to miss something like that in a reading a passage like this.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, and then there is a second interesting command here, because basically this entire Torah portion which goes from Exodus 27:20 all the way to Exodus 30:10 is about nothing else but the assignment—the obligation of the high priest. So what we have are very logical divisions here. The previous Parsha “The Terumah,” (actually we did not talk about this) means “the offering.” So the people of Israel were supposed to bring gold and other offerings for the dwelling of God to be constructed.

We did talk about the dwelling of God, the purpose of the dwelling of God and the sacredness of the dwelling of God and the Ark. This is what God reveals to Moses how it is supposed to be. And then the next portion is basically not about the objects, but about the people who are serving in there. The main person who is serving there is Aaron and his family, and they are supposed to keep this thing going. So it is important, because we can see that the sanctuary is not some kind of a dead memorial. It is a functioning place. It is a functioning live place.

Things are going on. Like next, it talks about the stones upon Aaron’s ephod, and with these stones, as we can see in Exodus 28:30, Aaron is supposed to come into the sanctuary every day and carry the names. Let me switch here to the way my English Bible formulates it. In Exodus 28:30, it says, “And you shall put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be on Aaron’s heart, when he goes in before the LORD: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel on his heart before the LORD continuously” or daily. That is another word.

Beerman:

“Tamid.”

Bolotnikov:

Tamid, yes. It is interesting. Here verse 13 talks about the judgment. The other passage is verse 12, here in the same chapter 28. It talks about a memorial of the names, “You shall put the two stones on the shoulders of the ephod, as memorial stones for the sons of Israel, so Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord on his two shoulders as a memorial.”

Beerman:

Again, kind of a fascinating and warm picture of God’s immanence symbolized in what the high priest is supposed to do, caring and…

Bolotnikov:

Yes, in other words this is a great symbol of what a high priest is doing. The high priest is not trying to reach a transcendent God. The high priest is to actually present, the names of every Israeli before the Lord. So God would remember. It says several times, “For memory, for memory,” so that God would remember everybody’s name, two million people, four million people. That is a definite revelation of the character of God.

Beerman:

You know most English readers would understand these two stones on the breastplate of judgment as urim and thummin. That is how we usually understand them, kind of the yes or no. What is the function here of these two stones?

Bolotnikov:

The two stones, the twelve stones on a breastplate. They symbolize the twelve tribes of Israel and that is interesting… I am not into numerology here. In fact, I am not into kabbalah, modern kabbalah where everybody tries to give a numerical meaning of Hebrew letters and feed it to the computer and try to calculate. Sometimes I hear this, “Oh, the Bible predicted this event and this of event” because you put the code in a computer, and I always say, “Hello! Who programmed the computer to generate what you get?” A computer is a senseless chip of silicon unless you feed it with a certain program, algorithm, software, and somebody preprogramed it, and then you feed it. That is a wrong logic. But it is interesting that there are two fundamental numbers in the Bible. It seems to be always there the number 3 and the number 4. The number 3 seems to be related to the number that belongs to God.

Beerman:

Interesting.

Bolotnikov:

Christians definitely will say, “It is the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.”

Beerman:

Sure.

Bolotnikov:

The number four is the four corners of the earth (that is the creation), and when you get seven, which everybody knows as the completeness, that is the sum of 2.

Beerman:

That is the sum of 2 that is number 3 and 4.

Bolotnikov:

But when you get 12 that is just…

Beerman:

Three times four.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, 3 multiplied by 4. So that is the number of the covenant. That is the covenant aspect. Here is the 12. They are on the breast. The two are on shoulders. That is a little different. I am really fascinated that we take the gadgets on computers for granted, but we do not even think how it all started, and the science behind these silicon chips that can do stuff for us. It is called discrete mathematics.

What is discrete mathematics? We have different numeric systems. We use the decimal numeric system, 1 through 10, and then we start doing digits, 11, 12… This is called decimal. Babylon used the hexagon, and however they call a six-based system. It is kind of a weird system because the decimal is based on a number of our fingers and toes. It is easy to count. I do not know, but the Babylonians like the 6. That is why you know the number 6… 6… 6…

Beerman:

Yes, they did. Number 6… 6… 6… The Babylonian number.

Bolotnikov:

I still cannot figure that part out, but it is interesting that you have a dual system, 0 and 1. That is used in a computer.

Beerman:

Same thing.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, and the reason why it is used by physics is because you can apply voltage or have no voltage. So 0 is no voltage. 1 is voltage. You can write the code in this system. That is actually—after all the software, all this language that goes into this long huge lines of 1s and 0s—that is how the computer thinks. Yes or no. It is about same logic.

Beerman:

These stones though. They did function as kind of a guidance system did not they?

Bolotnikov:

Yes, that is a great way to learn to pray to God, because sometimes we pray, and we are so unclear.

Beerman:

Yes, after all we do not know.

Bolotnikov:

I hear prayers of people. “What is he really actually wanting?” With the Urim and Thummim what you are going to get is, “Okay, you can come to the Lord, and He will say ‘Yes’or ‘No.’” So you need to break down your prayer request logically in such a way that it will be very clear.

In my opinion, it’s really about the prayer. Before you pray, you really have to think. In other words, to me personally based on this, prayer is not just the continuous repetition of the same request. It is more of a thinking process of what exactly do you want to ask God for you to do.

Beerman:

And to give you Yes or No, opening or closing door, in essence, how to proceed. Interesting.

I wanted to ask you several more questions about ephod and breast plate, but in the time we have left here probably what is more important is the emphasis on the continual nature, the tamid of this service that the high priest was to make sure took place, lights that will went out, etc. What is the significance of the need for it to be continual and its connection with other portions of scripture?

Bolotnikov:

There are other important, interesting parts of the continual service at the sanctuary and this other part is found in Exodus 29. It talks about the two lambs sacrificed morning and evening. This is the burnt offering—the covenant. They continuous because the fire on the brazen alter also should not go out.

Beerman:

This is the altar on which the sacrifices were made, correct?

Bolotnikov:

Yes, this is the big altar where the people would come in to have sacrifices made, and this fire, the smoke from the daily burnt offering constantly went up to heaven, establishing the covenantal bridge between God and the human being. And then of course the last portion of the parsha talks about the golden altar of incense. That is the other task which Aaron is supposed to do. He is to continuously burn incense in front of the Most Holy, which the Book of Revelation talks about. “This is the prayers of the people.”

Beerman:

Okay, that was my next question. What is the significance of that incense? What does that represents?

Bolotnikov:

The incense had several meanings, however in the daily services its significance here is this. The incense reaches through the little gap in the ceiling of the sanctuary inside the Most Holy, and that is basically again the way to communicate to God. The daily offerings and the daily service are made by the priest in the absence of the other people, so it is an intercessory ministry.

Beerman:

It never ceases apparently and is never to cease; that God does not go to sleep. He is always aware. you can always go to Him, and so it does seem logical, if you look to the other portions of scripture that it would be the object of Satan to try to disrupt that connection and that communion in any way that he possibly could.

Bolotnikov:

Yes that is actually when we talk about the Book of Daniel Chapter 8, talking about the little horn and the anti-Christ, people take all kinds of ideas about the anti-Christ, but if you at the initial symbol of the anti-Christ action, the little horn his symbol is to interrupt the daily communion between man and God. That is exactly why it says Daniel 8:11 that, “From the chief of the heavenly host, (which is Jesus) his daily was taken” and people do not understand what daily is because they do not read this parsha. This parsha exactly describes the four daily activities of the high priest, making sure that the candelabra menorah is burning, carrying the names of the people of Israel in front of God, offering sacrifices—burnt offerings morning and evening—and burning the incense on the golden alter. So these are four daily activities that support the continuity of the convent connection between God and His people.

Beerman:

And apparently, it does not, just as you have pointed out, it does not just involve sacrifice; it involves those other three aspects.

Bolotnikov:

Oh absolutely.

Beerman:

At the services, and you notice in verse 11 of Daniel 8, the supplied term in most Bibles in New King James that this daily sacrifice was taken away. But there is more than that isn’t it?

Bolotnikov:

Yes, it is more than that. It is definitely difficult for English because daily in English is an adjective, and grammatically, you cannot have a hanging adjective without a noun. So you must supply something. It is what you supply. You have to supply the daily activity rather than daily sacrifice.

Beerman:

It is a lot involved here, isn’t there?

Bolotnikov:

Oh, yes absolutely.

Beerman:

So much that is below the surface, that often we do not see, and I really believe that our discussion today has elucidated and highlighted things that I had not really seen before in this passage with regard to the daily and how important that is to continue.

Bolotnikov:

One of the things of this parsha is to show the character of God in so many ways—how He wants to keep the covenant or relationship with His people.

 

 


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