Parashat Tetzaveh

His Design Alone

There are a number of key themes running through the building ‎and equipping of the Mishkan (tabernacle), the altar with its ‎incense and impact on the senses designed to remind us of the ‎need for constant prayer, and the eternal light filling the area with ‎light indicative of G-d’s presence eternally with us. We also now ‎read of commandments to make garments for Aaron, for the ‎priesthood. The Mishkan in all its glory and beauty would be ‎ineffectual if the priesthood didn’t take up their role and calling ‎and function before the Lord as they should. Aaron as the first ‎High Priest had very special garments made for him. And again, ‎we notice, these were commanded by G-d and made for him, he ‎didn’t do this himself. The garments that marked him out in his ‎special role were designed in Heaven and made on earth. G-d ‎gave him this calling, and G-d equipped him with the garments to ‎fulfil it. ‎

What then is the point of this beautiful construction and the ‎specially clothed priests? The point is that G-d has designed the ‎place where He is to be worshipped as something wonderfully ‎beautiful and visually powerful, as also those called to function ‎there. The articles and clothing are declared to be ‘things of ‎glory’. But the critical point about this is as Maimonides also saw, ‎that the articles were to bring G-d that glory not man. This was ‎not to exalt a person, nor even the place in itself as if somehow ‎the garments or construction had some external mystical ‎qualities. No, the visual impact was to evoke a response in ‎people to worship G-d and give HIM all the glory. Once again we ‎see that the visual external things are so designed by G-d to ‎lead us into a closer walk with Him and give Him glory. And ‎these things are GIVEN by revelation by G-d to us, they are not ‎things we design or have input into, we are shown, commanded, ‎told how to do it.‎

We live in an age where we have lost the sense of all this. ‎People don’t connect any more with the fact that G-d has the ‎right to lead us into worship and give Him the glory in the ways ‎that He alone wants. He takes the external, visual prompts ‎seriously as they reflect on Him. It does MATTER where we ‎worship, how we worship, with what we worship. When man gets ‎his hands on these things, rather than listening to G-d, he fails to ‎see the deeper connections, trivialising that which actually has ‎huge importance.‎

And the importance is this: G-d gives us designs, garments, ‎buildings, talents and gifts which are meant to be used for His ‎glory alone. It all comes FROM Him and we are to function within ‎it as He designs and sets out. In fact, this is made even clearer ‎in the text this week. When G-d calls for the ordination of Aaron ‎and his sons He doesn’t tell them how grand they will look all ‎dressed up, how much respect they’ll get from the people ‎because they look so special. No, He doesn’t focus on the ‎garments at all because those are for Him alone. The focus in ‎the ordination is somewhere else. The Hebrew used here for ‎ordination is ‘limaleh yadim’, to fill the hands. The traditional ‎understanding is very instructive here, that the hands of the ‎priests would be full of the offerings being brought by the people ‎to the altar of HaShem. In other words, the ordination was ‎directly linked with serving the people, allowing them to worship ‎and offer sacrifices to the Lord. Literally, the priests and leaders ‎of the people would have their hands full with that job!!‎

We see this reflected in the offerings commanded at the ‎ordination too, unleavened bread. Unleavened bread reminds us ‎of servitude, being a servant or slave. We keep the Matzah even ‎today during Pesach precisely because it reminds us that we ‎were slaves to sin and have been bought to now be the servants ‎of G-d in righteousness. At Shavuot we eat leavened bread in ‎the offering because we have been set free to follow G-d in the ‎commandments He gave. Also, the priests had no means of ‎support for themselves, they were directly dependant on the ‎offerings given by the people to live; this represented again the ‎fact that they served the people. As the priests served the ‎people and so served G-d, they led the people closer to G-d. A ‎crucial and critical role to have, and one that is very serious. If it ‎worked, then G-d would get all the glory, which was and is His ‎desire even today.‎