This weeks reading, Tetzave, starts off relating the commandment that olive oil should be contributed by the Jewish nation for the Menorah and that it should be lit by the Kohanim (Shemot 27:20/21). The first drop of the oil that was squeezed out was to be used for the menorah, teaching us that only the most purest oil should be used for the menorah and in turn making us realize that we should all strive to be as pure as possible in all daily tasks in life. It also teaches us that just like oil floats to the top, so too when the Jews fulfil Hashem’s will, they rise above the nations.
Next up in the reading, Hashem commanded Moshe to consecrate the Kohanim with special priestly Garments. The Kohanim had a total of four vestments to wear, whereas the Kohen Gadol wore eight different vestments. (Shemot 28:4/43)
The following were the different garments; the shirt, the breeches, the belt, the turban, the robe, the apron, the breastplate and the headplate. Each of these vestments signified a certain atonement from a transgression the Jewish nation made, so by the Kohen Gadol wearing it, the Jews could be forgiven for the specific transgression they may have been guily of.
The ‘Belt,’ was worn over the heart and therefore atoned for improper thoughts of the heart. One should always strive to have ‘pure’ thoughts, and not to go into a position of ‘lust,’ which is one of three things that may take a person out of the world, we see Korach suffered from ‘lust’ in his pursuit for glory (Sanhedrin 110a).
The ‘Breastplate’, was worn, featuring 12 different colored gems. There was a different color for each of the 12 tribes. The Breastplate was worn to atone for the sin of perverted judgement since it was worn over the Kohen’s heart. False Judgment actually emanates from improper thoughts of the heart. In fact, if one falsely accuses someone of doing something wrong, it is proper for the accuser to give the victim a blessing in compensation. We learn at the start of the book of Shmuel, when the Kohen Gadol, Eli, falsely accused the mother (Hanna) of the future prophet, Shmuel, for behaving like a drunk, he gave her a blessing, which in turn led to the birth of the prophet Shmuel (Gemara Berachot 31).
The ‘robe’ was worn as an atonement for the transgression of Lashon hara (Erchin 16a/Zevachim 88b). The robe had golden bells and a pomegranate shaped wool hanging on the bottom of the garment, reminding us that all of an individuals words spoken should be golden, and one should think before they speak, as they shouldn’t say improper things.
The Parshah then goes on to relate how the Kohanim were consecrated for seven days (Shemot 29:37), the inauguration process would be complete on the eighth day, we will see the events of this day later on in Parshat Shmini in the book of Vayikra.
On each of the seven inauguration days, three sacrifices had to be offered; a bullock and two rams. The bullock was used as a sacrifice as it atoned for the possible sin of someone having donated stolen material to the Tabernacle or the Alter (Sifra). One has to be honest in the gifts and make sure they bought it from authentic and honest sources. It is improper to cheat and be too ‘shrewd’ in dealings, especially if it leads to trickery and loss to another party. The sages say that one of the first questions G-d asks a man after their life is, ‘did u act honestly in business? (Gemara Shabbat 31a)’
The parshah then relates the laws of the ‘Tamid’ (Continuous) offering, where a lamb had to be offered on the alter every single morning and afternoon (Shemot 29:38/46), the detailed laws may be learned in Parshat Pinchus in the book of Bamidbar.
The Parshah concludes relating the details within relation to the ‘Golden alter,’ which was made of Shittim wood and overlaid with pure gold (Shemot 30:1/10). Around the alter, was a golden rim, symbolising the crown of ‘Kehuna' (Shemot Rabba 34:3), one of the highest positions that Hashem awarded to his people. Incense was to be burned on this alter.
The Natural Haftorah for this weeks reading comes from Chapter 43 of the book of Ezekiel, regarding our long dark exile and the brilliant light awaiting us at the end of it.