Parshat Hashavuah Tetzaveh
By: Rabbi Nissim Mordechai Makor
In a nutshell: Parshat Hashavuah Tetzaveh talks about the special garments worn by the priests and high priest in the Tabernacle. Following that, we read G‑d's instructions to Moses regarding the seven-day inauguration for the Tabernacle. The portion concludes with a description of one of the vessels of the Tabernacle—the Incense Altar.
Verse 27:20 tells us “Now, you must command the Israelites to take to you pure, pressed olive oil for lighting, to keep the lamp burning continuously.” Immediately following the dedication of the Tabernacle [Mishkan]. The Torah records the commandment to light the lamps. What is the connection between the two?
The Likutey Halachot tell us that sin obscures the light of God and faith. The Jewish people built the Tabernacle to rectify the idolatrous sin of the golden calf, which obscured God’s light. Once this was accomplished, they aroused Divine Will instead of anger by lighting the lamps, expressing the desire that the light of God should never be extinguished within them.
Tetzaveh, (you must command), shares the same root as tzevet (join). By joining people in unity, you can cause the Menorah to shine God’s glory to the entire world.
The Shemos Rabbah asks why are the Jews compared to olives? The olive sits upon its branch. It is plucked squeezed, ground and crushed, and only then does It give its oil. So too, when the Jews endure suffering, they show their courage. The Likutey Halachot teach us that only after much self-sacrifice can a person merit to see his purity illumine his soul.
Tetzaveh (You must command) shares the same root as join. God commanded Moshe to join together the Jews in order to illuminate their souls with the Torah (the Ark). The Jews were commanded to bring Moshe pure olive oil i.e. the pure drops of goodness inherent in each individual. A person must keep trying to enter into holiness despite being “outside” that realm.
The investiture of the Kohanim [priests] was a onetime event, the concept which allowed it to happen is everlasting. For to enable Aharon and his sons to become Kohanim and to serve in the Bais Hamikdash, they had to begin afresh, with a new focus and aim to their lives. This underscores the idea of repentance [teshuvah] that a person, however distant from what he should be, can at any time review his lifestyle and make a commitment to begin again on the correct track. This is the ‘this is the thing’ of the verse that a new start is always possible, just as it was for the Kohanim in the wilderness.
When Hashem told Moshe to gather materials for the Tabernacle [Mishkan]. Hashem told him, “Do not even think about bringing materials of your own for the Tabernacle. I realize that you want to have a portion to the good deed, but your level is much higher than that of any of the donors. It is because of you that they are bringing. One who causes others to do is greater than those who do. If one causes others to do good, he is considered to be on higher level than one who merely does good on his own. When a person causes another to do good, he receives an equal portion of the reward in the World to Come for the good deed. This is because he caused the other to do the deed. But after he takes half of this virtue, he still has the reward for the effort involved in bringing others to do good. This is in itself is a great deed. It is for this reason that causing others to do good is greater than doing good oneself.
The verse’s Shema Yisrael and Borach [Blessed is he] Shem Koved, each have six words and 25 letters. These two verses are the embodiment of our faith in Hashem. Actually the second verse, “Blessed is …” only contains 24 letters. However, the verse itself can be added to the sum, adding an additional unit, and making it come out to 25.
There is another allusion in the verse, “You shall take two shoham stones and engrave [open] on them the names of the children of Israel.” [28:9]. This teaches that the entire merit that the High Priest has to enter the Holy of Holies and perform the Divine service is because the Israelites immerse themselves in the study of Torah.
The “two stones” allude to the two tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were written. The word Shoham is really Moshe, Hebrew for Moses, with the letters rearranged. These were therefore Moses stones, that is, the two tablets.
“On these stones, open the names of the children of Israel.” This alludes to the merit of the Israelites, when they open the books of the Torah and study them. If the books are not open, and are allowed to gather dust on the shelf, then there is no merit.
The colors of the stones associated with the twelve tribes were also the colors of their banners. We shall see that each tribe had its own banner so that it could be recognized from afar, as it is written, “Every man shall be by his banner, according to his paternal family” [Numbers 2:2]. Each tribe had a banner through which its ancestor could be recognized.
It was from this that the kings of other nations learned to have flags to represent their countries, with special colors.
These are the colors of the banners:
Reuben had his name engraved on a ruby, and his banner was red. On it was picture of the mandrakes that he brought his mother. Bereishes. 30:14
Simeon’s name was engraved on an emerald, and his banner was green. On it was a picture of the city of Shechem, because of what he had done there [Bereishes 24:25].
Levi’s name was engraved on an emerald on a tricolor crystal, and his banner was red, white and black. On it was a picture of a lion, because Judah was likened to a lion, as it is written, “Judah is a young lion.”
Yissacher’s name was engraved on a carbuncle, and his banner was sky blue. On it was a picture, and his banner was a dark blue. On it was a picture of the sun and moon, since the members of the tribe of YIssacher were great astronomers. It is thus written, “the sons of Yissachar who knew the understanding of times” Mishlei 12:33.
The name of Zevulun was engraved on a yahalom, which is a pearl, or according to others, a diamond. His banner was white. On It there was a picture of a ship. Zevulun did business with ships so that he could support Yissachar’s Torah study. Yaakov’s blessing was therefore, “Zevulun shall dwell on the seashore, he shall be a harbor for ships.” [Bereishis 49:17].
Dan’s name was engraved on a topaz, and his banner was the color of sapphire. On his banner there was a figure of a snake, since Dan was likened to a snake, as it is written, “Let Dan be a serpent on the path” [Bereishes 49:17].
Gad’s name was engraved on a turquoise, and his banner was mixture of black and white. On it there was the form of an armed camp, since Gad was blessed to be able to go to war with armed soldiers, as it is written, “Gad shall pursue a troop” [Bereishes 49:19].
Naphtali’s name was engraved on an ach’lamah, and the color of his banner was like a light red wine. On it was a figure of a gazelle, as it is written, “Naphtali is a messenger gazelle” [Bereishes 49:21}. This is because Naphtali was likened to a gazelle, as it is written, “Naphtali is a messenger” Bereishes 49:21. It is true that we wrote earlier that Naphtali’s name was engraved on a turquoise or sh’vo in Hebrew, and Gad was on the ach’lamah. Here, however, we are following a different opinion that Naphtali was on the ach’lamah and Gad was on the sh’vo.
Asher’s name was inscribed on a stone known as a tarshish, and his banner was the color of the tarshish. On it was inscribed an olive tree. Asher was blessed that in his inheritance olive trees would grow, as it is written, “Asher’s bread shall be olive oil” Bereishes 49:20.
Yoseph’s name was inscribed on an onyx, and his banner was jet black. On it were two sub-tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim. Also on it was a figure of the Egyptian capital, to teach that Manasseh and Ephraim were born in Egypt. On the banner of Ephraim there was the figure of an ox, because Joshua came out of Ephraim. He was likened to an ox as it is written, “The firstling of his ox is glory to him” [Devorim 33:17].
On the banner of Manasseh there was an aurochs, because from Manasseh came Gideon son of Yoash, regarding whom it Is written, “His horns are the horns of the aurochs” [Devorim
Benjamin’s name was engraved on a jasper, and his banner was of many colors in the banners of the other tribes. On it was the figure of a wolf, since Benjamin was likened to a wolf, as it is written, ‘Benjamin is a preying wolf” [Bereishes 49:27].
The verse 29:46 says “I am the Lord their G-d.” Hashem being truly our G’d depends on our being aware of and recognizing this fact. We are only worthy of bearing His name while we recognize Him as our G-d as mentioned at the beginning of this verse. Failing this, the result will be that the people will shake off the burden of the Torah, in which event they would “belong” to other gods. Therefore, we must always keep focused on the goal of being attached to Hashem and His Torah like glue forever and ever.
Yeshiva Pirchei Shoshanim