Friday, March 5, 2021

Hebrew Insights into Parashat Ki Tissa –Sh’mot (Exodus) 34 - 30:11

 "When you lift up ["ki tissa"] the head [singular] of the sons of Israel to be mustered, they shall each give the ransom of his soul to YHVH in mustering them, and there shall not be a plague among them in mustering them" (Ex. 30:12, literal translation). Hundreds of years later, when King David made an attempt to conduct a census, YHVH reprimanded him heavily ("And Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel… And it was evil in the eyes of Elohim as to this thing". 1st Ch. 21:1,7). But whereas David counted (“mana” – meaning “apportion, divide, limit”) the people, YHVH asked Moshe to “lift up” the sons of Yisrael, since people are not to be numbered as a commodity. Each individual was, as it were, to be lifted up to his Maker. For a proper conduct of the census, every one between age twenty and fifty had to offer a representational half shekel as a token, called a "ransom" ("kofer," of the root k.f.r. that is "kippur," meaning “propitiation, covering”). This half shekel "atonement money" given to YHVH as a contribution ("trumah"), was then rendered "for the service of the Tent of Meeting [ohel mo'ed]”, for it to "be a memorial of the sons of Israel before YHVH to make atonement for yourselves" (30:16 emphases added). This atonement (or ransom) money became a contribution to help in constructing of the place where these sons of Yisrael will eventually be atoned for and remembered. Interestingly, later on in the Parasha, in 34:23, we read: “Three times in the year your men shall appear before YHVH”. In Hebrew “man” or “male” is “zachar” (literally, “one who remembered”), but here the word has been modified to “za’chur”, which means “one who is remembered”. Here it would be appropriate to add that Yeshua has paid in full for the required atonement, much more than a half shekel, “and [also] raised [lifted] us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places” (Eph. 2:6).

Going back to the census, we see how it enabled further national organization to take place, while offering an opportunity for contributions to be collected for the construction of Ohel Mo’ed (“tent of meeting”, as it is referred to in this Parasha). This pragmatism, wherein the nation's practical and spiritual needs were combined, illustrates the Torah’s intrinsic and typical proclivity for fusing various components and aspects of life into one act or event, as seen here. This command also made it clear that, before the Almighty all were equal: “The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel” (30:15).  

More instructions for articles and utensils, which are to make up the future Mishkan, follow. In 30:17-21, the brazen laver is mentioned, and then the instructions for making the incense and anointing oil (ref. vs. 23-25). "It shall not be poured on the flesh of man, and you shall not make any like it in its proportion; it is holy. It shall be holy to you. If a man prepares any like it, or who gives from it to a stranger, he shall be cut off from his people" (30:32,33), is the injunction in connection to both (the oil and the incense, see also vs. 37, 38). No doubt the exclusive usage of these articles may also be applied to our lives - making distinctions between that which is set apart and that which is not and not mixing the two, in spite of the above statement, of “fusing various components and aspects of life into one act”. Thus, different matters, commandments and actions, need to be put into their specific Elohim-regulated context.  

Now that all the instructions with respect to the Mishkan are in place, it becomes necessary to select the artisans to execute the work. The men chosen by YHVH are Betzal'el the son of Oori, the son of Choor from Yehuda, who was filled with YHVH's Spirit, and Ohali'av (“Father is My Tent”) the son of Achi'se'mach from the tribe of Dan. These two were endowed with all the wisdom, understanding, knowledge and skills that it would take "to make all that I have commanded…" (ref. 31:1-6). YHVH declares, "I have called by name Betzal'el" (31:2, emphasis added), and indeed the meaning of the name is "in the shadow of the Almighty" ("beh"-"in"; "tzel"- “shadow”; “el"-"mighty").  Incidentally, the choice of these two men represents the principle “from the least to the greatest”, as Betzal’el hailed out of the foremost tribe, while Ohali’av from the tribe that was considered the least. 

Just before Moshe's return with the Torah instructions, inscribed on the tablets of the testimony "by the finger of Elohim" (31:18), attention is given once more to the Shabbat. It is to be "as a sign between Me and you, throughout your generations, that you may know that I am YHVH who sanctifies [separates/sets apart] you" (31:13). Shabbat is seen here as the seal for the "everlasting [or perpetual] covenant" (v. 16) that YHVH made with Yisrael, who, as a nation is to testify to the fact that He "made heaven and earth in six days and in the seventh He ceased and was refreshed". These instructions are preceded by one little word, "ach" (v. 13), translated, "but", “surely”, or "as for you". However, in this context it appears to mean, "whatever else you do [keep My Sabbaths]”! All seems to be in order now. YHVH hands Moshe the stone tablets He had written, and Moshe is about to descend from the mountain and deliver the Divine message to the People. 

Suddenly there is a shift of scene and time. At what point exactly was it that the people's restlessness and disenchantment with Moshe led them to put pressure on A'ha’ron to ease off their frustrations? The answer to that remains unknown, but what our text does inform us about, is the people's firm resolve to alleviate these frustrations. "And the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain. And the people gathered to Aaron. And they said to him, 'Rise up, make for us gods who may go before our face. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him'" (32:1). 

Several key words in this text (32:1-6) help in unraveling this scene as it unfolds. Moshe's delay here is "boshesh", its root being "bosh" (bet, vav, shin) whose primary meaning is “shame, disgrace, to cause shame and disgrace, or embarrassment (e.g. Gen. 2:25), withering, dryness and destruction”. This verb decodes the emotions and thoughts that were plaguing the anxious Israelites. It is not difficult to envision them expressing the following sentiments:  “What embarrassment and shame is this man Moshe subjecting us to! His strange ways and disappearance will be our demise, and we will wither and be destroyed in this desert!” A large crowd gathers around A'ha’ron, denoted by "(va)yika'hel", of the root k.h.l (kof, hey, lamed) which means “assembly or congregation”. Thus, the assembly of Yisrael congregates around the only person whom they deem able to execute the plan that they had already formulated. To the "elohim" which they demand that A'haron make for them, they refer in the plural (“make us gods, which shall go before us” 32:1), being in direct defiance of what they had heard just a little while earlier… "You shall have no other gods before Me" (Parashat Yitro, Ex. 20:3). With bitter sarcasm they refer to Moshe as "this man who brought us out of Egypt", while at the same time not only forgetting the miracles and wonders it took to extricate them out of the land of their affliction, but also avoiding any reference to YHVH Himself. "Seeing that Moshe had delayed" (32:1 italics added), they are now calling for visible gods which would "walk before their faces”. This is another contrary concept, as the individuals and the nation were to “walk before Elohim’s face”, and not the other way around (e.g. Gen. 17:1, 24:40; 1st Sam. 2:30; 1st Kings 2:4, 8:25, 9:4). 

In an attempt to placate the crowd, A'ha’ron complies, instructing anyone wearing jewelry to "remove" their gold earrings, using, not coincidentally, the imperative plural form for "tear off", which is “par'ku" (32:2). The verb p.r.k  (pey, resh, kof) also means “to part, to rip (Ps. 7:2), to fragment, or to tear” (I Kings 19:11; Ezekiel 19:12), thus all-too accurately describing the overall condition of those who were "tearing off" their jewels to make gods for themselves! 

In the process A'ha’ron takes a stylus - che'ret (ch.r.t, chet, resh, tet) (32:4), which seems to share the root with one of the words for "magicians" (such as those who operated in Egypt, e.g. Ex.8:7,18 - "chartumin"), making up for an intriguing connection (in light of the circumstances).  Before we go on with this scene, it is interesting to compare the above (“stylus”) with another reference to a “stylus” and “etching” (or “engraving”). Thus, in 32:16, it says about the tablets being “engraved” by the “finger of Elohim”. “Engraved” is spelt “charut”, but not with a tet (like the above), but with a tav, which makes it very close to “cherut” - liberty. The comparison and contrast between the “magical”-like formation of the calf, and the “liberty” that seems to be associated with the tablets that YHVH engraved, is very striking (cf. James 1:24, the “Torah of liberty”). Back to A’ha’ron. With the stylus A’ha’ron formed - "(ve)yatzar" - the "molten calf" - "egel ma'seh'cha". "Formed" is of the root (yod, tzadi, resh) which goes back to "thought, imagination and contemplation" - "yetzer" - such as used in B’resheet (Genesis) 6:5, and 8:21 respectively: "Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart"; "The imagination of the heart of man is evil from his youth". It is nothing less than "evil imagination" which brought about the ensuing results in this sad episode. The calf, "egel", is rooted in a.g.l (ayin, gimmel, lamed), meaning, "round or roll", referring to a young calf as it rolls, bounds or gallops. This particular calf, though, was a "ma'seh'cha", that is a molten image. "Ma'seh'cha" is also a “covering” or a “veil”, such as the "veil covering all the nations" found in Yishayahu (Isaiah) 25:7, where it is in the form of the alliteration: "ma'seh'cha nesu'cha". 

Thus, whereas in Parashat Mishpatim (in 21:1) we saw that Moshe was to place the Torah in front of YHVH's chosen Nation as a mirror, here the backsliding Israelites, who are so desperate to see with their eyes (as pointed out above), actually suffer a loss of sight, as they are blindfolded by a "ma'seh'cha" (a veil) of their own making. In 34:17, in the course of the renewal of the Covenant, it was necessary to remind them once again, “You shall make no molten gods – elohey ma’seh’cha”. 

Continuing in chapter 32: “…And they rose early on the morrow, and they offered burnt offerings and brought near peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play" (v. 6, emphasis added). The offense of these descendants of Yitz'chak (Isaac) climaxes when they act in total defiance to the stern warning, which was presented to them in Sh’mot (Exodus) 22:20 (and 34:14): "One sacrificing to gods shall be destroyed”. The verb for “play” is "(le)tza'chek" (of the root, tzadi, chet, kof - “to laugh") and is used here, implying "making sport, toying with, mocking", or "conjugal caresses" - all of which speak of the lewd debauchery in which Yitzchak’s progeny was engaging. 

YHVH discloses to the unsuspecting Moshe the gory details of what "your people whom you brought up out of Egypt" (literal translation, italics added) have done, and with that He (symbolically) charges him "to go… to descend" (32:7). The all-knowing Elohim, being aware of the fact that Moshe would beseech Him on behalf of this reproachable people, makes here a declaration (v. 10), allowing us a rare glimpse into what is otherwise an 'off limits' domain of His deep hurt: "Leave Me alone (that My anger may glow against them, that I may consume them)" (italics added).  But Moshe's uninterrupted intercessory address (vs. 11-13) does result in YHVH being "moved to pity concerning the evil which He had spoken to do to His people" (v. 14). 

The language employed in 32:15,16 could not be more emphatic in recounting the preciousness of the divinely written tablets: “…the two tablets of the testimony… tablets written on their two sides, on this and on that side they were written. And the tablets were the work of Elohim, and the writing was the writing of Elohim; it was engraved on the tablets". All this is in sharp contrast to the horrendous sight awaiting Moshe at the foot of the Mountain. 

“When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses. ‘There is a noise of war in the camp’” (32:17). The people were “in the process” of making a sound of “teruah” – literally “b’re’o”. This unusual usage of the verb “to sound a t’ruah” echoes “ra” or “ra’ah” (resh, ayin) – evil, and indeed just a little further A’ha’ron says about the people, “the are set on evil” – ra (v. 22. Refer also to 32:12,14, where ‘harm’ – ra’ah - is used 3 times).  This follows the burning of the image, grinding its ashes to powder and mixing it with water, an act preformed by Moshe, who then made the people of Yisrael drink this concoction.  YHVH’s messenger was acting on behalf of a jealous Husband who was more than suspicious of His wife’s unfaithfulness and betrayal (see Numbers 5:11 ff – the “law of jealousy”). “She”, therefore, had to partake of this unsavory drink. 

After a sad confrontation with A'ha’ron, during which the latter defends his position by making weak excuses, Moshe realizes that the People is "loosed – unrestrained - for Aaron had let it loose – be unrestrained - for derision among their enemies" (32: 25). The words for "loose" used here stem from "para" (p.r.a. pey/fey, resh, ayin). As we observed already in Parashat Miketz (Gen. 41-44:17), the same consonants also appear in Par'oh's name. The question that arises here is whether the meaning of this root ("unruly," "disorder", “unrestrained”) had any bearing on the meaning of the title accorded to the Egyptian monarchs (although "Par'oh", as we noted there, does have its specific and separate meaning in the Ancient Egyptian tongue).  This issue seems to be quite pertinent in this case, as the Hebrews were certainly manifesting a reversal to practices which they no doubt observed in land of their sojourning. Likewise, we have just seen a resemblance of the word denoting Egypt’s magicians to the tool used by A'ha’ron to make the calf. 

The first six verses of chapter 33 describe a transitional phase, leading to the restitution of relationship between YHVH and His People. As part of the People's mourning and repentance, they remove the rest of their jewels (verse 6). Interestingly, the verb for removing the jewels is not the same as the one used above (32:2). Instead, there is the unusual usage of a word that in Shmot (Exodus) 12:36 was employed for "spoiling" (the Egyptians). This verb – va’yit’natzlu - shares its root ( yod, tzadi, lamed) with the verb for "deliver" (Ex. 3:8). Being used here in the course of healing the breach in the relationship with the Almighty, could be a reminder to Yisrael of their miraculous deliverance from Egypt. 

In the course of Moshe’s intercession on behalf of the People of Yisrael, YHVH says to him: “… lead the people to that which I have told you…” (literal translation, 32:34). “N’cheh” is the imperative here for “lead”. Later on, in 33:14, after a long discourse between YHVH and Moshe, the Holy One promises: “My Presence – panim-face – will go, and I will give you rest” (literal translation). “Give rest” – hani’choti – actually shares its root with “lead”, and more specifically, “leading toward a goal”, without forgetting, of course, the element of “rest”. Thus, it was only by virtue of YHVH’s “restful and purposeful guidance” that Moshe was able to be the goal-oriented leader that he was. 

The rest of the Parasha deals with issues relating, not surprisingly in view of the recent events, to YHVH's presence, His reverence, His revelation to Moshe, and to the renewal of the Covenant.  In mentioning the writing of the "d'varim" – “words” on the new stone tablets, the figure "ten" is cited (34:28), unlike the first mention of these “words”, where no number was specified (Parashat Yitro, Ex. chapter 20).  In this verse (28) Moshe is described as staying on the Mount, in the Presence of YHVH, for forty days during which time he wrote the tablets, abstaining from food and drink. In 24:10,11 (Parashat Mishpatim) we encountered the elders and nobles of Yisrael ‘seeing’ the Elohim of Yisrael while “eating and drinking”, just prior to Moshe’s first ascent to the Mountain. These two contrasting scenes form quite an object lesson; the one foreshadowing the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb” and the time when He will dwell with His own (Rev. 19:9), while the other is signified by markings of sorrow and mourning, resulting from the sin committed by the Nation. 

The variety of events crowding Parashat Ki Tissa illustrates, in microcosmic fashion, the topsy-turvy nature of Yisrael's relationship with her Elohim in years to come.  Finally, having had the "maseh'cha" (which we discussed above) distort their spiritual sight, the Israelites could not bear the glory which emanated from Moshe's face when he came down from the Mountain. He was therefore obliged to cover his face with a veil ("mas'veh"). "But we [on the other hand] all with our face having been unveiled, having beheld the glory of YHVH in a mirror [the "Torah of liberty"], are being changed into the same image from glory to glory, as from YHVH, the Spirit" (2nd Cor. 3:18 italics added). Truly something to be thankful for, and not to be taken lightly!



Thursday, February 25, 2021

Hebrew Insights into Parashat Tetzaveh – Sh’mot (Exodus) 27:20 – 30:10


Continuing from last week’s Parasha with its long and detailed instructions regarding the Mishkan which was to be constructed, the priests' vestments and their instatement are at the heart of this Parasha – Parashat Tetzaveh. This theme is flanked at each end by, respectively, instructions concerning the oil for the Menorah and the description of the Altar of Incense. But whereas Parashat Trumah started with a free-will offering for YHVH (Ex. 25:2), this one starts with a command to Moshe "to command the Children of Israel to bring [lit. “take”] pure olive oil beaten for the light, to set light perpetually" (27:20 italics added). This order is denoted by "tetzaveh" - "you shall command" - the root being tz.v.h (tzadi, vav, hey). “This type of command connotes instructions given by a father to a son (I Sam. 17:20), a farmer to his laborers (Ruth 2:9), and a king to his servants (II Sam. 21:14). It reflects a firmly structured society in which people were responsible to their right to rule by God’s command. The leader was then in a position to command the people and to expect their obedience”.  The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament further connects this root with  "tzi'yoon"1, which means a “signpost, a mark or a monument” as is found, for example, in Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) 31:21: “Set up road marks for yourself".  Thus “command”, as in “mitzva”, usually perceived only as a strict order or a dictate, has further and deeper implications.  Interestingly, “tetzaveh” is not the imperative form for “command,” but is in second person male, future tense (i.e. “you shall command”), which diminishes the intensity of this directive. 

The Mishkan, as it was named in the previous Parasha, is now designated, in the very beginning of our text, by a different title: Ohel Mo’ed (27:21). Last week we learned that the edifice of the sanctuary/Mishkan was going be a “tent” – ohel – but now with the addition of “mo’ed”  it becomes apparent that it will not only be a “mishkan” – a place of “dwelling” of the Almighty’s Spirit (see also 29:45-46) – but it will also be connected to the “appointed meetings” with Him (ref. 29:42,43). The wording in 29:45-46: “I will dwell among the children of Israel… that I may dwell among them”, reveals an even greater reality – that YHVH desires and promises to dwell in and among His people (hence the need for the perpetual daily burnt offerings, 29:38-42a)!

Last week we compared the Mishkan’s building instructions with the six days of Creation (ref. Ex. 24:16). This week we are also required to make a similar analogy. In Parashat Trumah the Menorah was listed in third place, while here the oil for the "perpetual light" is mentioned first, recalling of course the light mentioned in the beginning of the Creation account. The instructions for making the oil emphasize not only its purity and clarity (27:20, the word there being "zach", denoting both), but also that it is to be made by beating or pounding (the olives). This type of oil is therefore named "katit", the root of which is k.t.t. (kaf, tav, tav), meaning to “beat or crush".  Made, as it is by crushing and pounding, this oil is to be for a continual light (“ner tamid”). As such it reflects very clearly our unchanging Messiah (Heb. 13:8) Who is without sin and therefore pure (Heb. 4:15b), who was bruised and crushed (Is. 53:4), and is the Light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5). An analogous description of Him as the Anointed One (Who is also the Word, ref. John 1:1, and the way/path, ref. John 14:6) is found in Tehilim (Psalms) 119:105: "Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (italics added).2  

It was up to the priests, A’haron and his sons, who were later to be anointed with the anointing oil to "set" the oil and its lighting "before YHVH" (27:21). Afterwards Moshe was "to bring near A’haron… and his sons" to "himself" (literal translation for "summoning" or "take for yourself", 28:1). In the process of sanctifying the priests, Moshe was also told to, “take one bull and two rams without blemish, and unleavened bread, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil", to make them of "fine wheat flour" and to "put them into one basket" which he was, again, to “bring near" (29:1-3, the translations may omit “bring near”). Immediately after that, he was told once again "to bring near A'aron and his sons to the opening of the tent of meeting…" (v. 4, literal translation, emphasis added). In all three cases the verb is "karev", of the root k.r.v  (kof, resh, bet/vet), meaning to “bring near or close”. This root is also the root for "korban", “sacrifice” or “offering”. In 29:8 we are told that A'aron's sons were to be "brought near", as was the bull, which was to be slaughtered after the priests were to lay hands on it (v. 10). It is also in YHVH’s hand that the two trees/branches/sticks of Ezekiel 37:19 become one. But just before that (v. 17), when they are still in the hand of the prophet, the latter is told to “bring close” – ka’rev – those branches, one to the other (commonly translated “join”).

This is the first instance of the "laying of hands" – “samoch (, samech, mem, kaf/chaf), with the primary meaning of the verb being to “lean upon" or “support”. In the case of the "laying of hands", as is preformed here by the priests, there is an identification with the "korban" which is about to give up its life, symbolizing ultimate submission. Thus, the particular selection of verbs used here forms an introduction to the sacrificial system and to its significance. It is by virtue of the sacrifice that a “drawing near" to the Father can occur, followed by "leaning" and "relying" on Him. According to King David, “though [a man] falls, he is not cast down; for YHVH upholds - "somech" - his hand on him” (Psalms 37:24). In Tehilim 145:14 we read again:  “YHVH upholds all who fall”. 

The blood of the second ram, of the two that were to be slaughtered, was to be put on the priests' right earlobe, right thumb, and the right big toe (29:20). In their service to YHVH these servants' relationship with Him, was to be marked by listening and obeying (which is denoted by one and the same word in Hebrew), by doing His deeds, and walking in His paths.3

The priests' special vestments signified their unique position, while each of the several items with which they were attired had its own particular purpose. "And you shall make holy garments for your brother Aaron, for glory and for beauty" (28:2, 40). The word here for "beauty" is "tif'e'ret", of the root p.a.r (pey, alef, resh), which means to “beautify” and also a “turban”. Our High Priest says of Himself in Yishayahu (Isaiah) 61: "The Spirit of YHVH is on Me, because YHVH has anointed Me to… appoint to those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty - p'er - instead of ashes the oil of joy instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of the spirit of infirmity, so that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of YHVH, in order to beautify - lehit'pa'er - Himself" (vs. 1,3). Once clothed in “beauty” these ones render the beauty of holiness to YHVH, while exclaiming: "I will greatly rejoice in YHVH. My soul shall be joyful in my Elohim. For He clothed me with garments of salvation; He put on me the robe of righteousness, even as a bridegroom puts on – literally “ministers as a priest” - his ornament - p'er - and as the bride is adorned with her jewels" (Is. 61: 10 italics added). The clothing items in this verse: garments – b’gadim, robe - m’eel, and the “ornament” denoted by “p’er” are all mentioned also in Sh’mot 28:2, 4. Notice in particular how the Yishayahu text associates the bridegroom with the priesthood, thus clearly foreshadowing Messiah as the Bridegroom and High Priest.

Indeed these garments were “for glory and for beauty”, but if we pause to look again at “garment” – be’ged - we may discover an additional element. The root b.g.d (bet, gimmel, dalet) means not only “to cover”, but also… “to betray” (e.g. Ex. 21:8, Is. 33:1). What is the association here to the official attires? Is it because he who betrays (the priests not being exempt), or is unfaithful, like any other sinner, requires a “covering” to hide the guilt and shame of his betrayal? Similarly, the “robe” mentioned in 28:4 – “m’eel” - shares its root (m.a.l, mem, ayin, lamed) with “me’eela” which means “to deceive, cover up”, such as in Vayikra (Leviticus) 5:15, translated “trespass” or “unfaithfully”. Thus the priests clothe themselves with the said garments, symbolically covering their spiritual and moral nakedness, so that they can minister and interpose between an equally sinful people and a kadosh Elohim.

In 28:12 and 28:29 A'haron is told to carry the names of the sons of Yisrael (engraved in precious stones) whenever he enters the Holy Place, as a memorial on the shoulders of the ephod and on the breastplate of judgment over his heart, while the breastplate was also for "a continual reminder before YHVH" (italics added). Further, Moshe was told to "put the Urim and the Thummim into the breastplate of judgment; and they shall be on the heart of Aaron in his going before the face of YHVH. And Aaron shall bear the judgment of the sons of Israel on his heart before the face of YHVH continually" (v. 30 italics added). What is so meticulously to be prefigured here by A’haron was fully consummated by Yeshua (see also 28:38). Although there is no specific description of the “Oorim” and “Toomim” (as they are pronounced in Hebrew), the etymology of these terms is very interesting. "Oorim" is of the root "or" – light - albeit in plural form, as is "Toomim". The root of "Toomim" is "tom," meaning “integrity, perfection, complete, entirety, and finished”. In short, these items stand for "light and perfection, or completion". Once again, we see a picture of Yeshua, who is the Light, as well as the epitome of perfection. Another rendering of the Messiah’s figure is presented in the very spelling of these words, with the first letter of Oorim being ‘aleph’ (the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet), while the first letter of Toomim is ‘tav’, being the last letter. Thus Yeshua is seen here as the ‘aleph and the tav’, the “beginning and the end” (Rev. 1:8), the light of the first day of Creation, and the completion thereof; “for all things were created by Him… all things were created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16).

Golden bells and pomegranates (shaped ornaments) were to be attached alternately to the bottom of the High Priest's garment (28:33-35). The word for "bell" is "pa'amon", its root being p.a.m. (pey, ayin, mem) which means “foot, step, anvil, and time”. Unlike other words for Time, “et”, "zma'n", and “mo’ed”, which point to specific times, "pa'am" refers to "pulse" or "beat", and thus to Time's continuous motion. “Once” (as pertaining to time) is also “pa’am” (e.g. Gen. 18:2). With this meaning of “pa’amon”, making reference to the marking of the passage of time, it is interesting to note the function of its sound in this particular case. The bells were to "be heard in his [Aharon's] going into the sanctuary before the face of YHVH and in his coming out, that he [Aharon] should not die" (v.35, italics added). The pomegranates, shaped as they are with little crowns were used frequently as a decorative motif (e.g. Jer. 52:22ff).

Last week we noted that Moshe was told (literally) to clothe A’haron and his sons (28:41) recalls B’resheet (Genesis) 3:21, where we read: "And YHVH Elohim made coats of skin for the man and his wife, and clothed them". It was the actions of “the man and his wife” (sin) that made necessary the ministry of interposing between man and Elohim which was being entrusted now to A'haron and his sons, who too were “clothed” by YHVH.

The last article mentioned in this Parasha is the Altar of Incense. In 30:7-8 we learn that while attending to the altar, A'haron was also to attend to the lights:  "And Aaron shall burn incense of perfume on it morning by morning; when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it" (30:7). Thus our Parasha comes round full circle from its beginning (with the lights/lamps) to the end. "When he dresses the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it; which he did every morning when he went into the holy place, where the candlestick with its lamps was. These he trimmed and dressed, snuffed those that were ready to go out, lighted those that had gone out, supplied them with oil and wicks, and cleared the snuff dishes, and the like. Now near to the candlestick stood the altar of incense, so that when the priest looked after the one, he did the service of the other. Hence we learn that our intercessor and lamplighter is one and the same; he that was seen amidst the golden candlesticks dressing the lamps of them appears at the golden altar with a golden censer, to offer up the prayers of his saints" (emphasis added)4, whose prayers are, of course, compared to incense (see Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4).


             1 Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vol. 2, ed. R. Laird Harris,

                Moody Press, Chicago,  1980.

             2 "In this world you stood in need of the light of the Temple and other

                lamps are lit from its light. But in the world to come, by virtue of that

                lamp ["ner" - light], I shall bring you King Messiah who is likened to

                a lamp, as it is said (Ps. 132:17): "There I will cause to flourish a  horn

                for David, I will set a lamp for Mine anointed" (Tanhuma Tezaveh 8 –

                an ancient commentary). Quoted from New Studies in Shmot Part 2,

                Nechama Leibowitz, trans. Aryeh Newman. Eliner Library, Department

                for  Torah Education and Culture in the Diaspora. Hemed Books Inc.,

                Brooklyn, N.Y.

           3   Moses on the Witness Stand, Shlomo Ostrovski, Keren Ahava Meshichit,

                Jerusalem, 1976, 1999.

           4   Gill commentary, Online Bible.


Thursday, February 18, 2021


Parashat Trumah introduces us to several new terms and concepts that we have not encountered hitherto. "Truma", translated “contribution”, is derived from the root r.o.m  (resh, vav, mem) – meaning "high up, to lift up, to exalt". Having warranted such a term, this type of contribution was obviously held in high esteem by the Almighty. Furthermore, it also speaks of its Originator and His exalted position. The description of the potential “contributor” as a person whose "heart generously impels him", reinforces the significance of this offering. "Yidvenu" is the verb used here, meaning to “cause one to be generous", stemming from the root n.d.v. (noon, dalet, bet/vet), which is also: "willing, noble, volunteer, freewill offering". Copious rain, for example, is "geshem n'davot" (Ps. 68:9). Other examples of the usage of this word are found in Hoshe’a (Hosea) 14:4 where YHVH declares: "I will love them [Yisrael] freely" (italics added), and in Shoftim (Judges) 5:9 D'vorah describes the lawgivers of Yisrael, as those who "freely offered themselves among the people" (italics added). This contribution, therefore, was to be given freely or generously (see 25:3-7), and was to include gold and silver (being undoubtedly the gifts the Egyptians gave to the Hebrew people). The articles of “trumah” were intended for the building of the “holy sanctuary - mikdash - for YHVH” (v. 8), so that He will "dwell among them" (v. 8; cf. Ezekiel 37:26-28; 43:9b) – although the Hebrew – b’to’cham - may be read “in them”.

    The sanctuary in the desert is more often called "mishkan" (v. 9), meaning "a dwelling place". However, being its first time mention, it may have been necessary to clarify that this place was to be set apart and dedicated to the presence of YHVH, hence "mikdash".  “And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them”. (“ve’sha’chanti,” hence “mishkan” – dwelling place). “The text does not say 'that I may dwell in its midst,' but 'among them,' to teach you that the Divine Presence does not rest on the sanctuary by virtue of the sanctuary, but by virtue of Israel, 'for they are the temple of the Lord.’” To these words by the Zedah La-derekh Commentary, we add another. In referring to the same text, Malbim comments: "He commanded that each individual should build him a sanctuary in the recesses of his heart, that he should prepare himself to be a dwelling place for the Lord and a stronghold for the excellence of His Presence, as well as an altar on which to offer up every portion of his soul to the Lord, until he gives himself for His glory at all times".[1]

The Almighty says of Himself in Yishayahu (Isaiah) 66:1: “The heaven is My throne and the earth My footstool - where is the house that you may build for me?" (cf. I Kings 8:27). This sanctuary, therefore, is a place where the “creature” could have a measure of access to its Creator and experience His love, justice and forgiveness. The sanctuary is a tangible place of meeting (ref. Ex. 25:22) for the sake of human beings who are confined to time and space.

The first article that is to be built is the "aron" (25:10). We have already encountered this term (which means a “chest”, or an “ark”, and a sarcophagus – i.e. a stone coffin) in B’resheet (Genesis) 50:26, where reference was made to Yoseph's embalming and burial. This wooden case, overlaid with gold, was to be the Ark of the Testimony (25:16), bearing witness to YHVH's word, covenant, atonement and forgiveness with and to the Israelites. Shlomo Ostrovski is of the opinion that in this unique and important article two very distinct and different characteristics come together, as the acacia wood from which the ark was made originated from the plant world, while the precious metal of overlaid gold was derived from an altogether different source. The latter’s use was intended to magnify this special article, and thereby “elevate its status”.[2] Thus the ‘lesser’ is transformed by virtue of the ‘covering’ by the ‘greater’.  Interestingly, in the book of Hitgalut (Revelation) 11:19 there is also a reference to the ark, though in a different location: “And the temple of Elohim was opened in heaven, and there was seen in His temple the ark of his testament…”  

"You are to make a cover for the ark out of pure gold" (25:17). This "cover", translated in English “mercy seat”, is the familiar "kaporet" of the root k.f.r (from which stems "kippur" - "propitiation" and literally means “cover”). On this cover were to be placed two gold k'ruvim (cherubs). In the Assyrian language "kruv" (singular) is “to be gracious or to bless", with its adjective meaning "great or mighty". In Shmuel Bet (2nd Samuel) 22:11, we read that YHVH "rode on a k'ruv, and did fly, and was seen on the wings of the wind". Likewise, the k'ruvim were also placed as guards preventing entry to the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:24). Here on the other hand, their presence signifies accessibility to the Most High. It will be “from between the two cherubim” that YHVH will “meet” and “speak… about everything which [He] will give… in commandment…” (25:22). The k'ruvim were to be situated in such a way that their faces – panim - would be turned toward each other (v. 20). In verse 30 we read about "the table of showbread" being the table of "lechem hapanim", literally "bread of the face".

"Panim" stems from the root "pana" (p.n.h - pey, noon, hey), meaning "to turn". There are several other words (usually with an added preposition) connected to the same root, such as "in front of, before, toward, corner, attend to, undertake, take away and clear". "Panim", as are several other Hebrew words, always occurs in the plural form. Thus its very meaning and usage take into account the existence and presence of someone else, whom one is potentially facing (by turning one’s head). This is evident here by the description of the k'ruvim's position: “…and their faces [are turned] each toward its brother" (v. 20 literal translation). The "bread of the face" (v. 30) is a seemingly obscure term which requires an explanation. There are numerous instances where YHVH speaks of His Presence in terms of "panim" (although it may not be borne out by the English translations), as we saw for example in last week's Parasha, “…they shall not appear before Me [literally - My Face] empty-handed" (Ex. 23:15). The "bread of the face" therefore refers to YHVH's Presence which is turned toward His creatures, an image that clearly foreshadows the "Bread of Life" as epitomized in and by Yeshua.3

The way in which YHVH was to meet and speak between the cherubim remains the million and one dollar/euro (choose your currency) question. Our only clue are the respective meanings of the terms “kaporert”, “k’ruv/k’ruvim”, and “panim”, which point not to the physical dimension, but rather to the qualitative and spiritual aspect of this awesome “meeting”.

Following the descriptions of the Ark and the “Table of the Bread of the Presence", we now move on to the “lampstand - Menorah" (stemming from "nur - fire, light, shine". Root: noon, vav, resh. 25:23-30). The Menorah’s components, quite curiously, are not merely functional. At least five of its elements seem to be directly connected to the botanical sphere: "calyxes, knobs, blossoms (or flowers), branches and almonds". These features are all part of the almond tree. Let us bear in mind that in the desert, where these instructions were given and where the Mishkan was to be set up, there was not an almond tree in sight! In other words, here, for the first time, we encounter elements characterizing the Land of Promise (the ultimate goal of the People’s present circumstances) as they are included in the most important of edifices -YHVH's sanctuary. The Menorah is not the only article that points to the Land and to its characteristics. The others are also built right into the worship system and into the whole framework of the Israelites' relationship with YHVH (as we shall see in future Parashot/Parashas).

“The beautiful almond tree, whose white and pink blossoms are the first to emerge from winter dormancy, dominating the landscape of Israel at the end of the rainy season, passes very rapidly through several stages of growth”.4 What then is the connection of the Menorah to this plant? "Almond" in Hebrew is "sha'ked", related to the root sh.k.d (shin, kof, dalet), meaning "to watch, be diligent and insistent". In Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) 1:11-12 we encounter the imagery of the almond tree as related to the above terms: "And the word of YHVH to me was, saying, Jeremiah, 'what do you see?' And I said, 'I see an almond rod'. Then YHVH said to me, 'You have seen well; for I will watch over My word to perform it'”. We learn from Mishley (Proverbs) 8:34 that, "happy" is the person who is "watching – “lishkod” - daily at My threshold". Hareuveni points out that it is likely that "the knobs and the flowers of the Menorah were patterned after the cups of the almond flower or after the embryonic almond fruit still crowned with the calyx of the flower". Thus, the Menorah was to be a reminder of YHVH's faithfulness and steadfastness, as demonstrated by the natural phenomena of the Land of Yisrael.

There is yet another tree which is connected to the Menorah, one whose oil was to feed it, and that is the olive tree. In Yisrael the sight of the newly blossoming almonds in spring, strewn in the olive groves, is a reminder that YHVH "watches over His word to perform it", especially to the proverbial ‘olive tree’ - Yisrael (see Jer. 11:16; Rom. 11:17, 24).

As was already mentioned, the two k’ruvim above the kaporet (so called mercy seat), and also those woven on the veil and the curtains of the Mishkan (Ex. 26:31, 1) recall the ones mentioned in B’resheet (Genesis) 3:24, whose function (with the flaming sword) was to  guard the way to the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. But in addition to this feature, several other ones are similar to the one in the Garden. The entrance to the Garden as well as to the Mishkan was in the east side (Gen. 3:24; Ex. 26:22 - the far end of the Mishkan was to the west, thus the entrance would have been from the eastern side). We also saw above the Menorah’s similarity to a tree. Placed at the center of the Mishkan it may be linked to the Tree of Life “in the midst of the Garden” (Gen. 2:9). Man was put in the Garden to “work (la’avod) and keep (lishmor)” it (Gen. 2:15), while the Ko’hanim (priests) were also said to have to “keep” (tend) – lishmor – the Mishkan and its articles, and “to do the work of the Mishkan” (Num. 3:7-8). Lastly, Moshe was to make tunics for A’haron and his sons and then to clothe them (Ex. 28:40), with the same word for “tunics”  - ku’tanot - being used for the skin tunics that YHVH made for man and woman, with which He dressed them (Gen. 3:21). These associations point to the fact that in some way the Mishkan was a gate leading to a path that was to restore humanity back to the Garden.

The edifice of the sanctuary was a tent, "ohel", with a primary meaning (in some of the ancient languages of the Middle East) of “to settle down and be inhabited, settlement, and city". This temporary and collapsible structure, which was essentially made of cloth, skins and wooden poles, and housed a number of articles that were made of a variety of materials for diverse purposes, illustrates a very central scriptural principle. Twice in the midst of instructions relating to the tent's several components we read, “and it shall be one - echad" (26:6,11). This demonstrates that it is the varied components that make up the "whole", or the "one", as well as "oneness" and "unity”.

Most times “echad” is used to denote simply a singular “one” (e.g. Gen. 42:13), but undoubtedly the most well known occurrence of this word is found in the “Sh’ma”: “Hear Oh Israel, YHVH our Elohim is one Elohim” (Deut. 6:4). This eternal injunction and tenet of faith actually points to a union of plurality, since the word “Elohim” is the plural form of “el”. Thus, “echad” is not just a singular “one”, as is verified by other expressions such as: “one flesh” (Gen. 2:24); “one people” (Gen. 11:6); “So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, united together as one man” (Judges 20:11), and of course by our present example. However, “echad” also has a plural form: “achadim” found, for example, in Y’chezkel (Ezekiel) 37:17: “that they may become one (literally, “plural of one”, emphasis and italics added) in your hand”, speaking of the sticks of Yoseph and Yehudah. “Echad” also lends itself to “oneness”, as we see in Y’chezkel 21:16 (although, again, it may not show up in the English translation). However, the command there (addressing a sword): “hitachadi” – “unite yourself” - can also be read: “sharpen yourself”. This makes for a union between “one” (“ehcad”) and “sharpness” -“chad” - which is also a shortened form of “echad” (see Ez. 33:30), and indeed is the word for “one” in Aramaic. Finally, in creation the first day was pronounced not “first day”, but “one day” – yom echad (Gen. 1:5). In conclusion, true oneness is a pressed together, compacted union of many in one, portraying a sword-like sharpness (e.g. Zechariah 9:13). In the Brit Chadasha (New Testament) the ‘one who is made up of many’ is exemplified by the many-membered Body of Messiah. The concept of Echad well represents integration and inclusion (into oneness and wholeness; remember "shalem"?) typical of the Hebrew language and Hebraic thought.

Adding to the oneness of the Mishkan is the description of joining the curtains and the loops (26:3,5,6). The word for “curtain” here is “y’ree’a”, and for “loop” - “loo’la’a”, both being in the feminine gender. In joining them “one to another” the Hebrew employs anthropomorphism (personification) and reads: “a befriending (“joining” being of the root ch.v.r meaning to bind together and “friend”) of one woman (one curtain/one loop) to her sister (i.e. to another identical curtain/loop)”. In this way, even the technical instructions for the construction of the Mishkan exemplify oneness and relationship.

The boards that were to make up the structure of the Mishkan had to be held together with “tenons” (26:17): “binding one to the other…” Here again in Hebrew it is: “one woman to her sister…” while the (silver) sockets (v. 19) being a masculine noun, are called “adanim”, stemming from the root a.d.n (alef, dalet, noon) which means “sustaining, providing a base”. It is from this root that the word “adon” – master – is derived and hence Adonai – the Sustainer and the One who has set up the foundations and who upholds everything. In verse 31 we encounter the veil that was to enclose the Kodesh Kodashim (“Holy of Holies”), called “parochet” – a divider, separator. Ironically, the Egyptians were described as “making the children of Israel serve with rigor” (Ex. 1:13 italics added), which is the translation for “perech” – labor that signified separation, that is the discrimination that was inflicted upon them. Now they are told to make the “parochet” - an element in an edifice in the making of which they are once again to labor, but now not as slaves but as those who have been separated as a unique people in order to have a special relationship with the Adon/Master of the universe with whom they were to meet in this structure.

Three times in this Parasha we read that Moshe is told to make the articles and the Mishkan, “according to that which you were shown on the mountain" (25:40; 26:30; 27:8). When and where was he shown "the pattern"? If we refer to the end of last week's Parasha we may find the answer: "And the glory of YHVH dwelt on the mountain of Sinai. And the cloud covered it six days. And He called to Moses on the seventh day from the midst of the cloud… And Moses came into the midst of the cloud" (24:16, 18). Thus, the 'where' and 'when' are answered, but what was Moshe actually shown? “In six days the Lord made heaven and earth. The actual making of the Tabernacle and its furnishings He entrusted to man. Its design or pattern God similarly made in six days. On the seventh day He called to Moses, and Moses was shown the design of the Tabernacle and its furnishings on the mount”. The commentator further demonstrates this point by comparing B’resheet (Genesis) 2:1,2 to Sh’mot (Exodus) 39:32 - 40:33, revealing a similarity of terminology used in both accounts. Martin Buber, for example, discovered seven corresponding elements in key words, which are used in both accounts.5 Thus we may ask, does the pattern of the "Mishkan" in some microcosmic way reflect YHVH's creation, and if so, how?

This question will be answered partly in Parashat P’kudey, but also in our present Parasha there are some notable parallels:

Above were mentioned examples of the usage of “echad” (as we saw above), while in B’resheet 1:5 it says (as we have already noted above): “Elohim called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the (literally) one [echad] day.”

B’resheet 1:7 - “Elohim made (va’ya’as) the firmament…”

Sh’mot 25:8 - “And let them make (ve’a’su) Me a sanctuary”.

B’resheet 1:16 - “Then Elohim made (va’ya’s) two great lights…”

Sh’mot 25:10 - “And they shall make (ve’a’su) an ark”.

B’resheet 1:25 - “And Elohim made (va’ya’s) the beast of the earth…”

Sh’mot  25:23  - “You shall also make (ve’a’sita) a table”.

Additionally, as already mentioned, at the end of last week’s Parasha (Mishpatim) we read:  “Now the glory of YHVH rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud” (Ex. 24:16 italics added). In parallel it says in Sh’mot 20:11: “For in six days YHVH made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day” (italics added).


1 New Studies in Shmot Part 2, Nechama Leibowitz, trans. Aryeh Newman.

   Eliner  Library, Department for Torah Education and Culture in the Diaspora.

   Hemed Books Inc., Brooklyn, N.Y.

2 Moses on the Witness Stand, Shlomo Ostrovski, Keren Ahava Meshichit,      

  Jerusalem, 1976,  1999

3 See blogspots for 2 related articles

 4 Nature in Our Biblical Heritage, Nogah Hareuveni, trans. Helen Frenkley, Neot

   Kdumim  Ltd. Lod, Israel, 1996

 5 New Studies in Shmot Part 2, Nechama Leibowitz, trans. Aryeh Newman.

   Eliner Library, Department for Torah Education and Culture in the Diaspora.

   Hemed Books Inc., Brooklyn, N.Y.

 Most of the word definitions were extracted from: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Lexicon, Francis Brown Hendrickson. Publishers, Peabody, Mass. 1979.