This week our parasha is Tetzaveh which means “you shall command” and covers Exodus 27:20 – 30:10. This parashas cover the unique garments, food, and anointing for the priests (Cohanim) as well as the altar of Adonai and the sacrifices.
We begin at the end of Exodus 27 with the command from Adonai for the Priesthood to keep lamps burning eternally outside of the Holy of Holies. The parasha continues with Exodus 28 which details the garments for Aaron as High Priest. Described in detail are the ephod, breastplate, robe, woven tunic, turban, and a sash.
The Ephod is described first as a sleeveless garment worn over the rest of Aaron’s clothing made of gold and finely twisted yarn of blue, purple and scarlet. Two large Onyx stones were mounted on the shoulders. Each of them had engraved six of the 12 sons of Jacob. These were to serve as a reminder for the High Priest of the Lord’s Covenant.
The Breastplate is described next, it was to be made in a similar way to the Ephod with gold and finely twisted linen. On the breastplate was precious stones each engraved with one of the twelve tribes. Each tribe had a unique stone and each were placed in gold settings. The chains of the breastplate were made of pure gold, like a rope the Torah tells us. It was carefully constructed with rings that connected to the rings of the Ephod so that it would not swing around while being worn. The breastplate was to be worn whenever Aaron, and those who would come after, entered the Holy Place. He was to have the names of the tribes over his heart and on his shoulders as a remembrance before the Lord.
The robe, woven tunic, and sash for Aaron is described towards the end of this chapter. They were all to be beautifully made and worn in the prescribed manner so that the High Priest would not be guilty of disobeying the Lord’s commands and dying. On the Turban was to be a gold plate bearing the inscription “Holy To The Lord”. This was to show Aaron’s responsibility for any violation of the priestly service and probably also to focus his mind on the great task he had been entrusted with. Tunics, sashes, and caps were also to be made for Aaron’s sons as well and in chapter 29 we see Aaron and His sons consecrated for their ministry of the priesthood.
In Exodus 29 we read that for seven days sacrifices of bulls and rams were offered before the Lord for Aaron, his sons, and the tent of meeting with the sacrificial altar. Aaron and his sons were washed and anointed with oil to set them apart as the Priesthood of Israel. The seriousness, deliberateness, and holiness of this consecration ceremony is very easy to see because in this chapter the exact way each sacrifice was to be offered along with how the priests were to dress are given in exact detail.
Our parasha ends in Exodus 30 with the construction of the altar of incense to the Lord. Every morning and evening Aaron was to offer incense to the Lord on this altar as he checked the lamps. No other offering was to be performed on this altar except the atoning sin offering during Yom Kippur.
Parasha Tetzaveh can be summarized in a single theological principle: Holiness. The word kadosh – “holy” is found throughout this parasha! It means to distinguish, to set apart that which serves God’s purposes from common things. We can see this principle of holiness when the Lord declared that Aaron and the chief priests after him would wear a plate on their headpieces that read “Holy to the Lord”. Their garments were considered holy, as were the sacrifices, and anointing oil described in these chapters. These items and sacrifices allowed the Aaronic priesthood to intercede before our Holy God on behalf of our people. The procedures outlined in these chapters were not empty ceremony but matters of life and death. Failure to follow the commands of Adonai would lead to death for the transgressor.
The holiness described in this parasha, the holiness found in the Aaronic priesthood was given by the Lord through the Mosaic Covenant. Aaron was declared holy by the Lord’s standard, not his own. This was a holiness that was to start with Aaron as our high priest and spread through his service and our obedience to all our people. If the Law of God was obeyed through the Sinai Covenant we would all be declared to be holy, set aside as a treasure of the Lord’s. We would also be a kingdom of priests, each of us in the ministry of the Lord. This declaration by the Lord in Exodus is repeated in 1 Peter 2, where those who are a part of the New Covenant are also declared to be a priesthood who also need to be Holy to the Lord.
While Aaron and us today are called to be holy, the history of Aaron recorded in the next parasha with the Golden Calf, and the history of our people recorded throughout God’s Word, shows how we failed over and over again to be priests that were Holy To The Lord.
But the Lord in His mercy knew that because of our fallen sinful nature we would fail in meeting the standard of holiness set forth in His law. This was not because the law was flawed in some way but because of our own lack of holiness. So He sent the Messiah, Messiah Yeshua, who through His Death, Burial, and Resurrection, has become the sinless and perfectly holy high priest we desperately need.
In the letter written to the Messianic Jews, Hebrews, the case is made clear for how Messiah Yeshua is a high priest of a higher level of holiness and greatness than the priesthood of Aaron. As we read in Hebrews 7:26-28:
Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.
Parasha Tetzavah makes it clear that to violate the Lord’s command for sacrifices and His priesthood would be to invite death. The only way to the Lord is through the way He has provided. So, for us today we must know Messiah Yeshua, and accept the grace and forgiveness of sin provided through His sacrifice and His ministry as our High Priest.
As we read in Hebrews 12:14, may each of us,” Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” May each of us experience the anointing and holiness that comes from being priests Holy To The Lord, through Messiah Yeshua.