June 20, 2018 |

Parshat Tetzaveh: Walkthrough

Loyalty to the literal text, with a modern voice [All editorializing in brackets]

[God continues His soliloquy. Quotes are implied in every paragraph.]

Now you go tell the Israelites to get pure olive oil to light the menorah. They should set it up in the Tent, outside the Curtain which was on the Covenant, set up there before God all night long, for all time, on behalf of the Israelites.

Now bring your brother Aaron with his sons (Nadav, Avihu, Elazar, and Itamar), to become priests. And you should make holy clothes for Aaron, to honor and glorify him. Get all the most creative people together for this project, which should include a BREASTPLATE, an APRON, a ROBE, a CHECKED COAT, a HAT, and a BELT.

[Note, some of this has been hard to translate for more than a millennium, so the intent of what follows is to provide a feeling for the flow of the text rather than a precise translation.]

Make the APRON [“ephod”] out of gold and royal fabrics and colors. It should have two shoulder straps attached to the edges. Take two stones, and engrave the names of the Israelites, six on one stone, and six on the other, in their birth order, and then surround the engravings with gold. Then place these two stones on the shoulder straps of the apron, as memorial stones for the Israelites, which Aaron will have with him when he approaches God.

Make gold settings, surrounded by gold chains.

Make a BREASTPLATE [“choshen”], similar to the apron, with gold and royal fabrics and colors. It should be filled with four rows of three precious stones in each row, surrounded by gold. And the names of the Israelites should be on these stones [as well]. Then make loops and connectors, so that the breastplate and the apron can be connected, which they should always be. Thus Aaron will always have the names of the Israelites literally on his heart as he approaches God. The Urim and Tumim [not referenced before or after, very hard to say what they mean in context to a simple reading] should be placed on the breastplate as well, and they would also be on Aaron’s heart when he approaches God. The breastplate is sometimes called the “breastplate of judgment” because Aaron carried the fate of the Israelites when he wore it to approach God.

Make the ROBE [“me’il”] of the apron, of a strong, material that can’t be torn. On the seams you should make designs, as well as bells, in order that he be heard when he enters the holy area and not die.

Make a HEAD PLATE [“tzitz”] out of pure gold, and engrave on it “Sanctified to God”. Put a blue strand [petil techeilet, like tzitzit, also notice the similarity between “tzitz” and “tzitzit”] on it, and put it opposite the front of the hat. It should be on Aaraon’s forehead, in order that the Israelites be pleasing to God.

Make ROBES and BELTS for Aaron’s sons as well, along with headdresses. You should also make cloth pants, which should go down to their thighs. They should wear all this whenever they offer sacrifices so that they don’t die. So it should be for Aaron, his sons, and their descendants, for all time.

Here’s what you should do to inaugurate them as priests: Set up a sacrifice, bring them to the Special Tent [note: not sure how to translate “Moed” here], and hose them down. Then get them dressed in the aforementioned clothes, and anoint them with oil. Then sacrifice the animals with various rituals including throwing blood around, eviscerations and separating out certain entrails. Some of the blood goes on Aaron’s and his sons’ ears, thumbs, and big toes.

The priestly clothing that belongs to Aaron should get passed on to his sons after him.

Some of the meat from the sacrifices can only be eaten by Aaron or his sons. Anything left over should get burned.

There should be a daily sacrifice on the altar, with one sheep in the morning and one in the evening. Each sheep should be sacrificed with flour, wine, and oil. This sacrifice should be made at the entrance of the Special Tent, which is where I will talk to you.

I will make all of this holy – the Tent, Aaron, his sons, the altar – and I will dwell amongst the Israelites and be their God. And thus they will know that I am their God who took them out of Egypt in order to dwell among them; I am their God.

You should also make an incense altar, out of acacia wood, 1L x 1W (square), 2H.It should also be covered in gold and be portable, with rods going through holes on the sides. It should go in front of the curtain which was in front of the Ark. Every morning when he cleans the candleas and every evening when he goes to light the candles, Aaron should also do the incense offering, for all time.


Jack Kustanowitz

Joined: July 15, 2007

Jack is an Internet professional living in Silver Spring, MD. He is a proud alum of the Frisch School in Paramus, NJ as well as Boston University, where he was active at BU Hillel.

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