Parashat Tetzaveh: Various Teachings From Netivyah Staff

In our desire to provide you with the teaching of Messiah Yeshua in a Jewish context, we provide in-depth teachings of the weekly Torah portions throughout the year. Below are various perspectives from various teachers and staff members from Netivyah Bible Instruction ministry.

Joseph Shulam: The Uniqueness of the Priestly Calling and Its Relationship With the Messiah [2019]

This week’s Torah portion is Parashat Tetzaveh (in Hebrew, “you command”). The reading starts in Exodus 27:20 and ends in Exodus 30:10. There are a few unique and interesting things about this reading of the Torah.

  1. Moses is not mentioned in this portion of the Torah. This is unusual, because the very opening statement implies Moses: “you command”. Who is the “you” in this context? It is Moses. Some of the rabbinical commentators say that God was angry with Moses for a short season, because Moses disagreed with him after the sin of the golden calf, and did not allow God to destroy the whole nation. So, his name is not mentioned. Of course, this is only speculation and not a very convincing one! In the whole parasha, when God speaks to Moses, He just uses, “and you.” Very impersonal use of the word “you.”
  2. Moses is commanding the artisans in the camp (those who built the tabernacle) to make the official clothing for Aaron, his brother, and his sons who are officiating as priests for Israel.
  3. These articles of clothing and artifacts for the service of the Lord are so detailed in every aspect, from the cloth that is to be used for every part to the golden breastplate, and the stones that are to represent each tribe (Exodus 28).
  4. The ordination of Aaron and his sons for the priesthood is also an interesting process that most “believers” ignore in the ordination of leaders and elders (Exodus 29:20). There is the same ceremony with oil in Leviticus 14:17-28. Why is the ordination of those who are going to serve God and the people connected to the ear, the hand, and the foot of the servants of God and people?
    • The ear has to be anointed, because if the servant of God does not hear God and receive His direction to pass on to the people – if he does not have an ear that hears and obeys God – he cannot really serve God or faithfully serve the people.
    • The anointing of the right thumb – without anointed hands that are doing the will of God with dedication, purity, and honesty, under the Lord’s authority, every service is going to be impure and unacceptable to the Lord.
    • The right foot of the priest has to be also anointed so that he can walk in God’s will and lead the people that follow with the leading and direction of the Lord, and not with his own agenda and his own ambition.
  5. The connection between the high priest of Israel and those who were in the cities of refuge, because they had killed someone unintentionally. This part is fascinating for those of us who believe that Yeshua of Nazareth, our Messiah, atones for our sins with his death. Those in Judaism who opposed Yeshua and His Jewish disciples in the past and today use an argument that a human being cannot atone for others by his death. Here we see a Torah example that the death of the high priest atones for those who killed a person and releases them from the city of refuge, protected from anyone who would like to harm them or take vengeance. This paradigm of the death of the high priest of Israel that atones and releases those who killed a person by not paying attention and being distracted, by negligence, by not taking precaution to prevent such accidents from taking place, and many other mistakes (manslaughter). These people are forgiven and atoned for by the death of the high priest of Israel. This applies to all the six cities of refuge. If a high priest, who is a sinner like all men, can atone and release killers, how much the more the death of Yeshua, who was sinless and offered Himself for all, can atone and release us from damnation in the Judgment Day.

Muriel Stern: Let There be Light [2019]

“Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning.” – Exodus 27:20

This week’s Torah portion, just like the one from last week, has detailed descriptions for the tabernacle. While last week’s portion covered the ark, the table, the lampstand, the altar, the actual tent and the courtyard, the majority of this portion deals with the clothing of the priests. Just similar portions, that may seem boring and irrelevant, I encourage you to read them. The attention to detail is fascinating and interesting. The Lord’s dwelling place on earth was a big deal. It represented Him!

When we look around us at creation we see a similar attention to detail. Even the work of the most renowned artists pale in comparison to the creativeness of the Lord. He is the creator. So it is only logical that his home should represent that.

While one could say that it is legalistic, I find it actually pretty amazing. The creator of the universe wants to dwell among us. And He invites us to create something beautiful with Him. So when you read these chapters, I hope you experience the loving presence of our Heavenly Father, who longs to have you be part of His plan.

What specifically stood out to me in this portions was that it started and ended with light.

“Aaron must burn fragrant incense on the altar every morning when he tends to the lamps. He must burn incense again when he lights the lamps at twilight…” – Exodus 30:7-8

The beautiful and skillfully crafted lamp that would stand in the tent of meeting, the place that the Lord God had chosen to live, must be lit at all times. The Israelites were commanded to provide the highest quality of oil and enough in quantity and Aaron had to tend to the lights morning and evening.

There are a lot of verses in the bible about light. Everlasting light, the light of the world, letting our light shine, not letting our oil run out, etc., but when I read about the Tabernacle or the Temple, what comes to my mind are the very last chapters of the Bible; the book of Revelation.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people,and he will dwell with them. They will be his people and God himself will be with them and be their God.” – Revelation 22:1-3

“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city goes not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” – Revelation 21:22-23

The creator of the world really didn’t need our help to build a dwelling place for himself here on earth. The light of the world didn’t need us to keep the light going. One day, when there is a new heaven and new earth, the Lord’s dwelling place will be of His own creation and He will be the light.

But in this in-between-time, after the fall and before the restoration, we are invited to be a part of it. To create with the Creator. Not because He needs us too, but because He wants to be with us. And by shining our lights we show Him that we long to be with Him too.

Yehuda Bachana: Why Should We Dress Nice for God? [2018]


Read the teaching below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.

This week’s Torah portion begins with God’s commandments regarding the priestly garments:

“Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron to give him dignity and honor.” – Exodus 28:2 [NIV]

This reading focuses on weaving and embroidery, breastplates and the ephods, robes, breeches, tunics, filigree settings, shoulder pieces, as well as buckles and stones. It discusses a variety of colors and fabrics such as blue, purple, scarlet yarn, and fine linen. If someone came in off the street while this Torah portion was being read in a congregation, he might think that he had mistakenly walked in on a sewing class.

“Clothes Make the Man”

parashat-tetzaveh

What’s behind God’s detailed commandments regarding the priestly garments?

These passages are filled with very detailed descriptions of the vessels and colors of the Tabernacle, including the priestly garments. All of which create for us a tremendous symphony of majesty and splendor, as is fitting for the House of God.

I suppose that the idea behind the design was so that the people would not be indifferent, but rather that their spirits would be lifted, and they would feel a sense of inspiration when they came into the House of God.

This portion leads to the following question: What’s the point of an entire Torah portion that talks about clothes? There is a well-known saying that goes, “Clothes make the man.”

There’s an interesting story about an employee who works in a telemarketing company. For many years he would come to work dressed in very simple clothes. The huge advantage about working in phone sales was that customers do not care how the seller looks nor what he or she is wearing.

One day, however, the employee started to notice that the most successful salespeople were those who came to work every day wearing business clothes – a suit and tie. He decided to try out this business style for himself and he came to work wearing a pristine suit and tie.

Suddenly he found himself talking on the phone with greater self-confidence, sitting more upright in the chair, and communicating with the customers in a much more professional way. The clothes might not have been seen, but their presence was evident.

I suppose that this is the reason why the Torah emphasizes the garments of the priests, to make sure that the priests would be willing to serve the public and serve God in the most honorable way.

In Judaism, we are familiar with the idea of Shabbat clothes. What’s behind this idea? Does God really care about the clothes we wear? In a certain way, I believe He does.

I gleaned from this parasha, that whenever a person comes to the congregation, to be a part of the group, to stand and pray before God, he or she must be clean and dressed in respectable, fine clothing. The saying, “Clothes make the man,” proves to be true.

Is Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder?

God’s instructed accuracy and symmetry for the Tabernacle, the priests, the sacred vessels, and everything else that belongs to Him, create something luxurious and beautiful. Despite this, the word “beauty”, or anything similar, hardly appears.

Why does biblical thinking ignore the human enjoyment found in beauty?

Beauty is a subjective concept, it is by no means objective. There are no scientific laws or rules of logic that we can use to determine the criteria of what is beautiful.

A common understanding of what is beautiful is bound to a society in a certain place and time. A fact proven to us in that, throughout history, the concept of beauty has changed drastically. Even today there are different concepts of beauty amongst various nations and people groups.

Again, this is because beauty is illogical and you cannot prove that something is beautiful or not. Yet there is nothing that attracts us more than beauty. It’s on this that all of our consumer economy is based. Almost everything we buy must first be attractive. Only after the product passes the beauty test do we think about the effectiveness of it.

We live in a time that is especially known for consumer culture, and as such we use beauty to promote sales. Designers strive to design consumer goods from shoes and clothes, to furniture and cars, in order to stimulate an aesthetic experience for the consumer.

The Struggle Against Externalism

One of today’s modern problems is that we have become like vessels in which only the outside is seen and valued – the external beauty and design of an object or person.

The Bible describes the problem with beauty. For example, in the story of Adam and Eve, the Tree of Knowledge is described as being beautiful, “…The fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye…” (Genesis 3:6) This was a major factor in the attraction to the fruit and in the subsequent rebellion against God.

The beauty of the “daughters of humans” is also considered to be a stumbling block, as is seen in the prelude to the flood: “…The sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful…” (Genesis 6:2)

The “Virtuous Woman” (Proverbs 31) comes against man’s externalism, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting,” in comparing it with man’s internal beauty, “…But a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

So here is the time to stop and ask, is external beauty important? Or does only internal beauty matter? The answer is, of course, yes to both. Beauty – the cover of the book – is important. However, the contents are just as important as well. The right thing to do is to put the important things in a respectable external frame.

How to Dress for Holiness

Aesthetics are desirable and even important when they are in the service of the holy. This is evident with the Temple, the priestly garments, the Tabernacle, and the sacred vessels, as we learned today from this week’s parasha.

The plain sense of the Bible teaches us that the priestly garments are for “dignity and honor”, for two main reasons:

The first reason is to foster a sense of respect and honor in the assembly. Worship requires a separation between the holy and the profane, and for this the priests are dressed and adorned in a unique way. In fact, in every religion one can identify the prayer leader, the rabbi, the priest – because they are typically dressed differently from others. At first glance of the prayer leader, you can see that clothes make the man.

Clothes create a distance, they are indicative of reverence. A person who is well-dressed is seen as one who is elevated higher than the rest of the people, much more than if he were not to be dressed in luxurious clothes.

The second reason is for the priest himself, the prayer leader, to treat his status with respect, to take his role and status seriously and honorably. When we dress out of respect for the Sabbath and the community, we are honoring the status and the dwelling place of God.

Yet on the other hand, Yeshua despises our efforts to look good, and asks us why we care about clothing. Yeshua takes us to a field of flowers:

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” – Matthew 6:28,29 [NIV]

But nevertheless we are told to dress nicely and modestly:

“I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety…” – 1 Timothy 2:9a [NIV]

In the Bible, sometimes clothes are connected with a spiritual state, or a state of sin, for example, Zechariah 3 presents a vision of Joshua the priest standing before the throne of judgment:

“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord… Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes [meaning he was filthy from sin] as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Take off his filthy clothes.’ Then he said to Joshua, ‘See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.’” – Zechariah 3:1a,3,4 [NIV]

Clothes can also indicate salvation:

“I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness…” – Isaiah 61:10a [NIV]

Yeshua teaches us the Parable of the Great Banquet in Matthew 22. The parable is about the Kingdom of Heaven, in which God the King prepares a wedding feast for His Son, Yeshua.

Many were invited to this wedding feast, but few showed up. The King sent out His servants to bring in any person they could find to come and participate in the wedding. In the end, many guests attended the wedding, but one passage is particularly jarring to the ears:

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” – Matthew 22:11-13 [NIV]

In this parable, the wrong clothes represent sin, as in the previous example from Zechariah 3. This man had not given his life to Yeshua and did not receive the forgiveness of sins through Yeshua the Messiah. Therefore, that person was not suitable for the wedding feast in the Kingdom of Heaven.

In conclusion

I am convinced that we need to be dressed in dignity and honor when we come into the House of God or congregation. This will show respect to the people around us as well as psychologically cause us to take more seriously the status of the House of God.

Another famous saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” This can cause us to miss the point. People will always judge the book by its cover, therefore we have the obligation to put content that is sacred behind a beautiful and dignified cover.

Click here to download a pdf version of this teaching.

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