Upon Whom do we Focus our Attention?
Adar 11 5780
In this portion Tetzaveh (You shall command), I’d like to talk about the oil that brought light inside the Mishkan and the vestments of the priests which were meant to draw our attention. The special oil that the priests had to make would burn continuously and had to be completely pure so that there would be no smoke within the Mishkan which had no windows. This pure oil would provide light in the darkness of the Tent of Meeting. It alludes to bringing clarity.
The priests had to wear royal, elaborate vestments which were not meant for their own benefit or the Creator’s rather to have the people focus upon them. The Cohen represented the people to the Creator signifying how we are to present ourselves before Him. We are used to putting on a façade for others, where we are more concerned about our appearance than who we really are. The Creator was not impressed with the vestment of the priests rather He wanted them to acknowledge that they were sinful people. They had to present offerings first for themselves before they could represent the people. The vestments signified that the Creator would cover their personal sins when they “came clean” to Him.
We all have our methods of acting, performing before others. This portion is reminding us to be ourselves, to be clear and direct. It doesn’t mean that we need to be rude or insulting but that we need to be kind while being honest. The Torah wants to make us understand that clarity is very important, to speak with transparency. We need to be the same no matter who we are with. When we do wrong, we need to acknowledge it. The support of our friends is important especially when they let us know the areas we need to improve. Instead hypocrisy has become the rule of the day. Here the Creator is teaching us to keep our light going and to be light to others. We cannot be light to others if we are not honest. We may think that if we tell people the truth, we are going to hurt them. It all depends upon how we deliver that truth. Are your intentions to build up the person or to bring them down? Kindness goes a long way.
The vestments of the High Priests were meant to get us to focus upon the Creator and away from the pagan priests of Egypt. When we would look at them, we would be directed toward the principles of the Creator instead of the merciless pagan practices. When we saw the light of the Mishkan, the menorah lit with pure oil, it was to remind us that we have the responsibility of being light to the world, clear with ourselves first and then with one another. It was a weaning process and still is for each of us who have been affected by the darkness of our past and are being brought into the light of His Presence.
It is easy to look at this portion Tetzaveh from a mystical perspective by scrutinizing each element, but as your rabbi, it is more important to help you see what the Creator is teaching us in a practical sense to apply to our lives. There is a tendency today worldwide toward the enthronement of man; it is called “humanism”, a philosophy in which we remove ourselves from any influence of our Creator. The people of Israel, who were called to be “light to the nations”, also suffer from this attitude whereby they believe that if you believe in man, you have to deny the Bore Olam. The truth is quite the opposite…the closer we are to the Creator, the closer we are drawn to our people.
Our Rabbi Yeshua, when asked “what is the greatest commandment?”, summed up the Ten Commandments by saying “Love YHVH your God with all your heart, soul and resources and love your neighbor as you love yourself.” He was telling us that humanity is the center of His creation, having been given the role of supervisor of all that He created on earth from the time of Adam and Eve. It all begins with us, with a clear understanding of who we are. If we are not strong, we cannot be strong for others; if we are not clear with ourselves, how can we be clear for others? Today we live in confusion, not knowing who we are and why we were made? How many of us truly know our areas of talent, our gifts? The reason we don’t is because we are more worried about what we can receive than what we can give. We end up doing things that are very unsatisfying.
Many years ago, I had a friend who loved the martial arts and had won many medals in various competitions. Without knowing him, you would see a man who appeared to be very timid and humble. Whenever he was insulted, he never reacted and only stood up to defend someone who could not defend himself. Although he was capable of beating up anyone, he never started a fight. He knew what he had inside and didn’t need to show off like those who are insecure bullies.
I have found in my many years of counseling that the people who have more problems growing are those who cannot acknowledge that they have done something wrong. It is always easier to blame others than to take responsibility for our part in the situation. That is what I call “victim mentality”. It is prevalent in the world today within its various movements. The Creator has given us to tools to deal with injustice instead of thinking that we are victims and powerless. As followers of Torah, we need to speak up against immoral issues. The book of Proverbs 31:8 -9 ח פְּתַח-פִּיךָ לְאִלֵּם; אֶל-דִּין, כָּל-בְּנֵי חֲלוֹף . ט פְּתַח-פִּיךָ שְׁפָט-צֶדֶק; וְדִין, עָנִי וְאֶבְיוֹן “Open your mouth for the dumb, in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy”. This is telling us to speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves, such as for the unborn baby. For too long, we have been too quiet. It is time to cry out for the principles of the Creator which teach justice, mercy and taking care of the weak.