Friday, February 7, 2014

Shabbat Thought: Parasha Tetzaveh

Each week in the Synagogue, a different portion of scripture is studied.  The Torah (Old Testament) is broken into portions which are read over the course of a year.  At the end of the year, it starts over again so the Bible is read annually. 

This week's Parasha is Parasha Tetzaveh from Exodus 27:20-30:10.

You shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.  You shall speak to all the skillful persons whom I have endowed with the spirit of wisdom, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him, that he may minister as priest to Me. -- Exodus 28:2-3

In this parasha, God starts to give directions on setting up the Tent of Meeting, and what the Priests are supposed to do.  I'm struck once again at how kind and loving God is toward the people.  He is about to transform a family that has been a people of slaves for hundreds of years into His chosen people.  The text itself seems extremely technical and boring. But beyond the detailed instructions of making the Temple items is the notion that there needed to be artisans to create such things.  God does not merely give directions to the priests, He gets His people involved in creating the new nation.
Although Aaron and the priests get mentioned by name in the Scripture, think about the people needed to get such things implemented. This portion mentions: olive oil specially made for the lamps, sacred vestments for Aaron and his sons, sacrifice of bulls and other animals, fire offerings to God, sacrifices to be eaten (both bread and meat), and an ark made from wood. 

At the very least, there would need to be specialists for making oil, tailors and seamstresses, jewel workers, metal workers for the gold in the garments, shepherds, butchers, fire tenders, cooks, carpenters, lumberjacks. Just by looking at the things God asked them to make, we can assume these specialists existed.  Then, there's all the people who would clean, teach, manage others, or maintain the homes.  God quickly gives a formally slave people tasks to keep them busy and focused on Him.

In the modern world, all too often, a church or synagogue focuses on central personalities.  It is important to have leadership and figures in the front, but each person, no matter how small the role may seem, is key to building the Kingdom of Heaven.  1 Corinthians 12 compares the body of Messiah with the human body.  Each part is needed.  

For the body is not one part, but many. If the foot says, “Since I’m not a hand, I’m not part of the body,” is it therefore not part of the body? And if the ear says, “Since I’m not an eye, I’m not part of the body,” is it for this reason any less part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the parts—each one of them—in the body just as He desired. If they were all one part, where would the body be? But now there are many parts, yet one body. -- 1 Corinthians 12:14-20 (TLV Version)

When I lead the congregation as cantor, I am doing what is comfortable and what God has called me to do.  When someone else washes the dishes after lunch and wipes down the counters, they are often doing what is comfortable for them, and what they are called to do.  I am thankful for those who are able to do what seem to be smaller tasks.  They're not smaller, just not as noticed.  Sometimes, you really need to read in between the lines to see, but they're there.

Are you being the part of the Body that you need to be?  God wants YOU to do what you can do.  Often times, that is an area in which you're gifted.  And sometimes, it's a season. It may mean that right now, you sit with your baby at home nursing and quietly pray.  It may mean that you sing with a music group.  It may mean that you refill the toilet paper. What can you do to play your part?

I wrote an addendum as I was thinking about what I'd written.  Pop over here to read it.


  1. Beautifully written and stunning interpretation of the Word. I'm glad you are owner of the gift God has blessed you with in cantoring. We often look around and see what others are doing and think we should do that too, but He has chosen us specifically for a special task. Rejoice in His calling!

  2. Thank you for your encouraging words.Thanks for stopping by to read more! I really appreciate it.