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Torah Sparks

March 10, 2001 - 5761

Prepared by Rabbi Randall J. Konigsburg
Temple Sinai, Hollywood, FL

Edited by Rabbi David L. Blumenfeld, PhD
Department of Services to Affiliated Congregations

Annual Cycle: Exodus 27:20-30:10; Hertz Chumash, p. 339
Triennial Cycle III: Exodus 29:19-30:10; p. 346
Haftarah: Ezekial 43:10-27; p. 350

(27:20-28:30) Instructions concerning the oil for the Ner Tamid, the fashioning of the ephod and breastplate.

(28:31-39) The directions for the High Priest's uniform.

(28:40-43) The clothing of Aaron's sons, i.e., the ordinary kohanim.

(29:1-18) Instructions for the ritual consecrating Aaron and his sons as priests.

(29:19-37) Instructions for the consecration of Aaron and his sons during their seven days of inauguration.

(29:38-46) Instructions concerning the Tamid, the daily sacrifice.

(30:1-10) Instructions concerning the fabrication of the incense altar and its special function.

Discussion Theme 1: At Your Service

I will sanctify the Tent of Meeting and the Altar, and I will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve Me as priests (Exodus 29:44)

  1. (The discussion in the Talmud, Menachot 109a) reveals a conception of "service" which is not merely technical. The "work" part of slaughtering an animal is, in itself, not considered "service of G-d". Thus, even partaking in such "work" to idolatry does not disqualify the Kohen from continuing to serve G-d afterwards. "Service of the Lord" here must mean something which does not constitute a "stumbling block" to others. "Service" has to do with intention of serving, faith in the idol, and spreading of idolatrous teachings, rather than mere participation in the ritual of worship. "Service of G-d" is much more than mechanical ritual, and even participation in such mechanics does not automatically disqualify a person from returning to "service of G-d". If the Kohen hones the sense of "being a servant" of G-d, then the priest can return to serve G-d in honesty. (Rabbi Michael Graetz, Pinat Masortit #68 Feb. 28, 1996, published on the Internet)
  2. There is a saying of the Sages regarding the priestly vestments: "when their vestments are on them, their priesthood is upon them, when their vestments are not on them, so also is their priesthood not upon them." (Talmud Zevahim 17a). This emphasizes the distinction between the man and his function, that the individual is secondary with regard to his priestly role. The priest is defined by his clothes and by the acts of others who have made a priest of him. He is a vessel of holiness and his ability to transcend himself to fulfill his holy function is crucial. That is why the process of preparation in which he is so passive is important in creating holiness. It is a process which aids his transformation to priesthood. This is true for any role in which people represent others, particularly in public - he or she must rise above the personal in order to do in holiness what is given and must be done. (Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann, Iyunei Shabbat-Tetzaveh, Feb. 20, 1997 as posted on the Internet)

Discussion Sparks:

What is the crucial element in the religious "service of G-d"? Is it the character of the officiant, the clothing worn or the impressiveness of the ritual? When do we judge people by the clothing they wear? Would it make a difference to you if a judge did not wear a robe during a trial? Would that change the nature of the way we see the court and the way we respond to "his honor"? What are your thoughts about clergy (Jewish or non-Jewish) wearing robes during services? Since they act in response to a public "call" should they be sensitive to the wishes of the public in matters of clothing in general?

Discussion Theme 2: Leader of the Pack

I will abide among the Israelites, and I will be their G-d (Exodus 29:45}

  1. To direct their affairs without an intermediary, and they will not need to fear the heavenly signs, for they will be more honored before Me than the heavens whose conduct (movement) is directed through (the angels) that move them. And as a result (of all this) their eternity is ensured. (Sforno)
  2. The special presence of G-d in the midst of the nation will not be a mere abstraction. They will experience this nearness in practical terms. The whole tenor of their lives, physical and spiritual, will prove to them the nearness of G-d, even as he Himself declared that wherever He wishes His Name to be remembered; i.e. wherever He wishes that men should recognize and acknowledge that "G-d is there," He will come to us and bless us. It is in His blessing of our material existence that we are to experience the Presence of G-d... (S. R. Hirsch, Commentary on the Torah)

Discussion Sparks:

What does it mean that G-d "dwells among the people of Israel"? How do the above passages speak to the dynamic nature of the human/divine interaction?

We need the presence of G-d but, a la the famed theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel, do you think that G-d needs our presence?

Many of us sense G-d's presence through nature. Can you think of other ways that you sense His presence? How does it effect you? What are your thoughts on this matter?

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