While Parshat Terumah
deals primarily with the Tabernacle’s outer structure, Parshat Tetzaveh deals with
what is inside, its inner workings and the daily routine within its confines.
For this reason, one
section of the parshah
deals with the priestly garments, in which the Torah emphasizes: “And they
shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they enter the Tent of Meeting, or
when they approach the Altar to minister in the holy place, so that they not
bear iniquity and die.”
This is how they must comport themselves, and anyone who does otherwise puts
his life at risk.
The other section
deals with the Priests’ investiture, describing all the tasks that must be
performed inside the Tabernacle. Each part of the daily service that the
Priests will later perform in the Tabernacle is already represented in the
proceedings of the investiture days, although not necessarily in the same
Are all systems go?
The section on the
Tabernacle – the command, the order of the service, the construction,
the dismantling, and the actual performance of the tasks - repeats itself many
times, to the point where it becomes wearisome. In order to understand these
numerous minutely detailed repetitions, we must first analyze the nature of the
|This instrument’s only test is whether it really works.|
The Tabernacle is a
type of instrument whose function is to connect the earth with heaven. To
succeed in this task, it has to function properly, without any mishaps. This
instrument’s only test is whether it really works. If it was assembled
incorrectly, even if the error was only in the minutest detail, it does not
matter if one had the best intentions when assembling it – it will
not work; it will simply malfunction.
The construction of
the Tabernacle can be compared to the construction of a spacecraft. A
spacecraft is an extremely complex structure made of a multitude of parts, each
one of which must be perfectly precise. First of all, all the calculations must
all be correct. Then all the parts must be manufactured, and when construction begins,
everything must be done exactly according to plan. An entire team of experts
pores over each stage. One team checks the accuracy of the calculations;
another checks whether the work was done according to all the specifications of
the plans. Then an attempt is made to assemble all the parts, and even then
everything must be checked: Do the screws really fit? Are they in the right
place? Did anything fall out? Have any cracks developed? Once everything is
assembled, the whole apparatus must be dismantled to verify whether all is
truly in order. At the end of the entire process, after the arduous preparatory
process is finally complete, comes the moment when someone presses a button and
the real question arises: Will the spacecraft lift off or not?
In 1988, the Soviets
sent two satellites to study Mars and its moons. The satellites were operated
by solar energy, and for that purpose, they occasionally had to change their
wing angle according to instructions they received from Earth. A daily
communication lasting a few seconds was sent to them containing thousands of
commands in computer code. These commands had to be checked on a daily basis,
line after line, and then rechecked, so that no error should creep in. One day,
someone erred and entered one incorrect letter in one of the lines of the
program. Two days later, it was discovered that the satellite had shut down,
was unable to change its wing angle, had depleted its batteries, and all
contact with it was lost.
|An incredibly expensive spacecraft was lost, all because of an error in one word, in one line, which caused it to shut down|
Thus, an incredibly
expensive spacecraft was lost, all because of an error in one word, in one
line, which caused it to shut down. The device may still exist somewhere in
space, but it doesn’t do anything meaningful. It changed from an instrument
that could have been of great benefit to a worthless, insignificant object.
Likewise, after the
assembly and construction of the Tabernacle was finished, after the anointing,
the sanctification, and all the preparation, the Tabernacle had to rise
heavenward – its moment of truth. In this respect, the climax of the
construction of the Tabernacle is not in its “launch,” but precisely in the
days of investiture,
which, at first glance, appears to have been devoid of any suspense. After all,
the Torah merely describes the attiring of the Priests and the bringing of the korbanot.
In truth, however, there is a tremendous feeling of suspense that mounts with
each and every verse in the narrative.
The Midrash relates
that on each of the seven days of investiture, Moses would erect and dismantle
the Tabernacle twice. After months of building the Tabernacle, and even though
all appeared to be in order and the boards fit together, the Tabernacle was
dismantled and rebuilt again and again.
For Moses, the fact that the boards fit together was not sufficient; perhaps it
does not stand securely. They checked everything, dismantling and assembling;
everything is in its proper place. And yet the tension continues to mount: Does
it work or not?
On each of the seven
days of investiture, the Tabernacle was assembled, Aaron entered, bringing the korban and
slaughtering it. Each time, nothing happened – so the Tabernacle was
dismantled. It was impossible to know where an error might have crept in, so
once again everything needed to be checked from the beginning to determine what
might have been the problem. As Rashi and the other commentaries explain, it
was only on the eighth day, when Aaron entered the Tent with Moses and they
prayed together, that the heavenly fire finally descended upon the Altar. At
that moment, everything suddenly happened at once: “God’s glory was then
revealed to all the people. Fire came forth from before God and consumed upon
the Altar the whole offering and the fat parts. When the people saw this, they
became ecstatic and threw themselves on their faces.”
nation – all 600,000 men, and all the women and children as
well – waits with bated breath. The instructions for how to proceed
are complex and detailed; the more progress that is made, the more the tension
mounts. What will happen in the end? The Tabernacle is meant to be an
instrument that connects the earth with heaven. Will it achieve this goal? Yet
the final tasks that Moses, Aaron, and the Priests perform are precisely the
least dramatic: Is the Menora in place? Was the ram offered at the right time?
And then – “God’s glory was revealed to all the people,” fire
descends from heaven, there is contact and a connection. The same picture
appears at the dedication of the Temple as well, with all the suspense and the
sigh of relief at the end.
The Tabernacle was an
instrument whose every part was made with great precision. Everything had its
own specifications: where it should stand, what its function is, etc. This is
what makes the Tabernacle an instrument for receiving the Divine Presence. If it
is made a little differently, if the Menorah is placed even slightly to the
side, it will not work. Every one of these details forms the greater whole.
Importance of the details
describing the Tabernacle proceedings are so full of details that they are
often perceived as some of the most boring parts of the Torah. Yet these
details are repeated over and over again. Why does the Torah need to say
exactly how the pants should be and where exactly the bells should be attached
to the robe? The Torah also elaborates on the breastplate: It should have two
rings, to which something else is attached, and to this attachment another
thing is attached.
Why must the Torah
mention these things? To teach us how to attach one clasp to another, or how to
create gold settings? Even if these were indeed important details for us to
know, why repeat these details so many times and ensconce them in the text of
the Torah for eternity?
In truth, however,
this story is full of suspense, almost like a cinematic thriller. How will all
the intricate plans for the Tabernacle play out in reality? Did Bezalel make
everything precisely according to the instructions? Did he perhaps attach one
piece at the wrong angle, causing the whole enterprise to fail?
|This story is full of suspense, almost like a cinematic thriller. How will all the intricate plans for the Tabernacle play out in reality? |
When an ordinary garment
is sewn, it makes no difference whether the seam is placed a little to the
right or to the left of the proper design. But when a diving suit or space suit
is produced, if it is not sewn properly and as a result a small tear develops,
the result is catastrophic. This is not a children’s game, where someone
mistakenly moves a little out of position or three steps ahead without any
major consequence. Here, it is like an untrained homeowner who tries his hand
at complicated electrical repairs. Even if he has seen the electrician take a
certain tool, put it in a certain place, screw it in and turn it three times
with his hand, and successfully repair the problem, if the untrained individual
tries to imitate these steps he will likely electrocute himself. Every detail
in the parshah
is intensely serious. To go too far is a fatal mistake. As Aaron was told, he
should not enter the Sanctuary without wearing the robe, “so that he not die.”
In essence, the Torah is telling Aaron that this is not a test. He is dealing
with a mighty flame, with the holy of holies. The story of the death of Aaron’s
two sons relates to this very point. Nadav and Avihu, sons of the High Priest,
enter, thinking that they are dealing with a simple matter. But when they make
one misstep, they die as a result.
The Talmud describes
the terror surrounding the High Priest’s entry into the Holy of Holies on Yom
Kippur. He is forbidden to remain inside too long, so as not to frighten the
The Zohar comments that they would tie a rope to the High Priest’s foot, so
that they could pull him out if he dies while inside.
This is not because the place itself is frightening. The fact is that when
inspections occasionally had to be made, people used to look inside and
artisans would go in to perform renovations. If an artisan can enter, why is
everyone seized with such terror when the High Priest is inside?
|It is just like electricity; it depends on the situation|
The answer is that it
is just like electricity; it depends on the situation. On an ordinary day, it
is possible to go in and touch things without ill effect. On Yom Kippur,
however, all the fuses are lit, the current is flowing, and those who enter
risk their lives.
Inside the Tabernacle
contains two vital components for forming the connection between heaven and
earth. The first component is the vessels, and in Parshat Teruma we saw how they
are made and what they are made of. The second component, the Tabernacle’s
inner dimension, is the person who uses it. The Tabernacle is not an empty
instrument; it is an instrument that depends on the people who operate it. The
staff can consist of several thousand Priests, as in Second Temple times,
or – as in the case of the Tabernacle – it can be a limited
staff of several individuals.
In Parshat Tetzaveh
we see that there are functions that are indispensable for the Tabernacle’s
overall structure to work and achieve its purpose; without them, it simply does
not respond. The entire parshah deals with service in the
Sanctuary – the inner proceedings of the Tabernacle. What allows the
system to operate is the inclusion of the human component, the people
themselves, who are charged with ensuring that the walls do not remain merely
walls but much more than that.