Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #20: Tetzaveh ( You are to order) Sh’mot (Exodus) 27:20-30:10
Haftarah: Yechezk’el (Ezekiel) 43:10-27
B’rit Chadashah: Philippians 4:10-20
With the instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle complete, the Torah moves on to those who will carry out the process of sacrifices and the daily activities within it. Where Moshe was not directly involved in the construction of the Tabernacle but was told what to tell the people of Israel, he now becomes an intimate part of preparing his brother Aharon and his descendants to inherit the perpetual priesthood.
We start with the absolute purity of the oil for the Menorah. This sets the proper precedent that like then, our service for G-d today must be done with a pure heart, untainted with any personal agenda for gain or stinginess. Accordingly, the oil had to be pressed and not crushed in a mortar to prevent any sediment. According to the Chumash, only the first drop was used, then the rest of the olive could be crushed, and the remaining oil used in the meal-offerings (Rashi).
The four sons of Aharon are named because they were the only ones to initially be anointed as Kohanim. Any children born to them would automatically be Kohanim. Any of Aharon’s grandsons such as Phineas would remain Levites(Ramban). However, later on Phineas is appointed as a Kohen in his own right by G-d (Num. 25:13).
It might seem this was the first designation of a priesthood by G-d. But this is not the case. Recall that initially the whole nation of Israel was called (Exodus 19:5-6). The establishment of the nation as a kingdom of priests was to be accomplished through the sanctification of all firstborn males (Exodus 13:11-13; 22:29, 34:19; Num 18;15), but was commanded first just after the death of the Egyptian firstborn at the time of the Exodus (Exodus 13;1-2).
The replacement of the firstborn as a nation of priests with the Levites begs the question of why? In Exodus 19:5 we discover the privlege of being a kingdom of priests depended on obedience to the covenant, just as us being included in the new priesthood described in 1 Peter 2:9 depends on our obedience to G-d’s Torah. Exodus 32 records the breaking of the covenant when the nation worshipped the golden calf. This act abolished their privileged position as a kingdom of priests. Instead, when Moshe asked “Who is on the L-rd’s side? Let him come unto me?” It was the sons of Levi that gathered themselves unto him and subsequently went out and killed 3,000 who continued to rebel.
Tumim (Tom), thought to represent light and completeness (Tom); also called the instrument of decision. This was a device used for obtaining G-d’s decision on important questions on which human judgement was too difficult to decide. Examples included military action, allocation of land, legal verdicts in the absence of evidence, and choice of leaders (Num 27:21; 1 Sam 14:37-42) as just a few examples. One theory about how this worked was that it consisted of two or more lots (Prov. 16:33) which the priest drew out of the Breast piece and which signified a positive, negative, or noncommittal answer, or indicated a particular message ( 1 Samuel 14:41. According to the Chumash ,the Breastplate was folded in half to form a pouch-like pocket. Moshe was to insert a slip of parchment containing the Name of G-d. This Name was called Urim, from the word “or,” light, because it would cause individual letters of the tribal names on the Breastplate to light up; and it was called Tumim, from the word “tamim, completeness, because, if read in the proper order, the lit up letters provided complete and true answers to the questions that were of national importance asked of G-d by the Kohen Gadol (Rashi from Yoma 73b). The Kohen Gadol had to somehow know what the combination of letters represented, because if placed in different order, could mean something different unless the Ruach caused the letters to light up in such a sequence, such a mistake was not a concern.
What happened to the Urim and Tumim? According to the Chumash , King Josiah realized that Israel was going to be conquered so he removed it from the Breastplate and hid it along with the Ark containing the Tablets and the anointment oil. Although the Temple service continued, there was a diminished level of holiness, and the Kohen Gadol could not present Israel’s urgent questions to G-d for a response. However, as Messianic Jewish believers, we know we have access to G-d just as Yahshua taught his talmidim “ But you, when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, don’t babble on like the pagans, who think G-d will hear them better if they talk a lot. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt. 6:5-8) with the specific prayer that follows in verses 9-13.
As the new priesthood, we need to learn how to address our G-d. Through His grace and mercy, He shows us the way, even providing a model prayer for us to follow. Let us approach YHVH/Yahshua with as much reverence and humility as did Aharon, his sons as Kohanim, and the Levites who ministered the Tabernacle. Our turn as the ministers of the next Temple is coming soon. Let us be ready!
Haftarah: Ezekiel 43:10-27
The Book of Ezekiel began when he was shown how the Shechinah, the Presence of G-d, was withdrawing from the Temple, leaving it an empty and desolate structure prone to imminent destruction by the Babylonian army. It is important for us to realize that although G-d removes His Presence from places, He will neither leave nor forsake those who love Him as evidenced by following His commands. This is a promise that is clearly stated in the Old Testament and the B’rit Chadashah: Deuteronomy 31:6; Deuteronomy 31:8; Joshua 1:5; 1 Kings 8:57; 1 Chron. 28:20; Psalms 37:28; Psalms 94:14; Isaiah 41:17; Isaiah 42:16; Hebrews 13:5.
Throughout Ezekiel’s “career” of warning the nation of the consequences of its falling away from G-d, G-d made it clear to him that Israel (all true believers) would remain His people, that He would share their exile, and that He would bring them home again. In the concluding chapters of the book, Ezekiel saw the vision, the architecture, and the dimensions, the laws of the Third Temple, and the reinstatement of the sacrificial system. Finally, he saw the vision of the Shekinah’s return; the same Shechinah whose departure he had tearfully witnessed 20 years earlier. Note that it is Yahshua who will return to the Third Temple for His Millennial Reign… Yahshua is G-d; Echad; One!
The chapter of the Haftarah opens with that vision. The Haftarah begins in the middle of the chapter, with Ezekiel’s vision of the Altar, upon which the reinstatement of the sacrificial system and the offerings that would cleanse the Altar, preparing it for its holy task. Therefore, this passage is consistent with our parashah, with its instructions for the Tabernacle and the Kohanim, and the procedure used for the offerings that would consecrate them and the Altar.
Interestingly, for certain parts of the Altar, Ezekiel uses “symbolic” names that are not used anywhere else in Scripture. “Harel” literally meaning “mountain of G-d,” refers to the Altar’s upper four cubits; “Ariel.” Literally meaning “lion of G-d.” to the site of the sacrificial fire atop the Altar; and “Azarah” meaning courtyard to the entire roof of the Altar, including the walkways at its sides for the Kohanim. The use of these terms should not be a mystery for the Messianic Jewish believer, for they all refer to Yahshua!
According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, the authors are of the opinion that Ezekiel’s temple-sketch is unique, presenting features not found in any of the temples actually built. The temple is, in truth, an ideal construction never intended to be literally realized by returned exiles, or any other body of people. It gives Ezekiel’s conception of what a perfectly restored temple and the service of YHVH would be under conditions which could scarcely be thought of as ever likely literally to arise Visionary in origin, the ideas embodied, and not the actual construction, are the main things to the prophet’s mind. We discuss this often; that we should strive to understand the concepts over specific scriptures as we learn Torah. Details we may forget. Concepts are more easily integrated and remembered. A literal construction, one may say, was impossible. The site of the temple is not the old Zion, but “a very high mountain” (Ezekiel 40:2), occupying indeed the place of Zion, but entirely altered in elevation, configuration and general character. The temple is part of a scheme of transformed land, partitioned in parallel tracts among the restored 12 tribes (Ezekiel 47:13-48:7,23-29), with a large area in the center, likewise stretching across the whole country, hallowed to Yahweh and His service (Ezekiel 48:8-22). Supernatural features, as that of the flowing stream from the temple in Ezekiel 47, abound. It is unreasonable to suppose that the prophet looked for such changes–some of them quite obviously symbolical–as actually impending.
We as Messianic Jewish believers can easily recognize that Ezekiel’s vision is not only possible, but prophetic. The Third Temple will be unique as he described. The terms previously mentioned that do not appear anywhere else in Scripture attest to the fact that the time during the Third Temple in which Yahshua himself will rule will incorporate characteristics consistent with His atoning sacrifice and iron rule that will follow. The future Temple will be built in the City of David and not where many mistakenly think on the mountain where the Mosque now stands. We do not need to concern ourselves with the possibility of incongruences of Ezekiel’s vision because we have the description of what is to come through the very Word of G-d; His Torah; the written and the Living Torah, Yahshua HaMashiach. We need no other confirmation.
B’rit Chadashah: Philippians 4:10-20
Exodus 29:18 reads “Then offer up the whole ram in smoke on the altar. It is a burnt offering for Adonai, a pleasing aroma, an offering made to Adonai by fire.”
Sha’ul refers to this type of offering as he praises the Philippians for the gifts they sent through Epaphroditus. He refers to their gifts as a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, one that pleases G-d well. Another reference to this type of offering is mentioned in Genesis 8:20-21 “Noah built an altar to Adonai. Then he took from every clean animal and every clean bird, and he offered burnt offerings on the altar. Adonai smelled the sweet aroma…” Therefore, we must ask ourselves, what is the significance of the burnt offering?
The ordinary translation in modern versions of the Hebrew “‘olah” ( ). This term does not mean literally “burnt offering,” but “what is brought up” or presented to the Deity, in this case Adonai. The name is a translation of the Septuagint rendering, which is itself based upon the descriptive phrase often attached to “‘olah” in the ritual prescriptions: “an offering made by fire unto the Lord” (Lev. 1:9). A synonym is , which defines the offering as complete; to be completed; perfect, or to be perfected i.e., when it is placed upon the altar, to distinguish it from the other forms of animal sacrifice (see I Sam. 7: 9). The burnt offering was the highest order of sacrifice in the Old Testament ritual. The bloodless offerings were made only in connection with it. This was a complete offering in which everything was dedicated to G-d. We do not know if the gifts sent to Sha’ul were in the form of animals/food, or money given with a pure heart. We read of other possible forms of unselfish sacrifice such as spiritual sacrifices of the saints, as praises and prayers called odours (Revelation 5:8) which are said to be acceptable unto G-d (1 Peter 2:5). Acts of beneficence are called sacrifices with which he is well pleased (Hebrews 13:16). Regardless, the gifts were sent to Sha’ul with pure hearts and Sha’ul reminds the people that this type of giving has significance beyond the physical recipient. Rather, the burnt offerings in whatever form were ultimately for the glory of G-d. Appropriately, Sha’ul ends this letter praying that G-d fill every need of those who love G-d and that G-d receive all the glory forever, a fitting conclusion to this teaching.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart