Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

My Photo
Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Parshat Tetsaveh

The Mizbeach HaKetoret – Part 2

In last year's Sedra Short, we noticed how the Incense Altar appears to be a forgotten item. The command to build it is mentioned at the end of Parshat Tetsaveh, after God has completed Hs instructions for building the Mishkan, totally out of place.

We brought the explanation of the Sephorno, that the Mizbeach HaKetoret is not an integral part of the Mishkan, but merely a medium to allow Israel to being the gift of incense to God.

I would like to bring the Ramban's explanation. If we recall, the purpose of the Mishkan was to allow Israel to approach God, however, approaching God could be fatal!! If that is the case, the whole purpose of the Mishkan is contradictory and implausible. How could Israel approach God if that approach would kill them?!!

This is where the incense comes in, according to the Ramban.

The Incense Altar sits immediately in front of the curtain that separates the Holy from the Holy of Holies. Behind the curtain unimaginable holiness lies. Should anyone enter, they would be incinerated by the holy fire.

Yet, that is exactly what the High Priest is meant to do on Yom Kippur!! Therefore before entering the Holy of Holies, the Kohen must light the incense. When the incense burns it creates smoke. Once the smoke has become a thick cloud that fills both the Holy and the Holy of Holies, the Kohen Gadol can remove the parochet and enter the Holy of Holies. What does he see? Nothing!! The whole area is covered with the thick cloud of incense. It protects the Kohen from God's presence and He can therefore approach God and live.

In this manner, Aharon used the incense to save Israel when a plague swept out from God killing the people. Aharon took a fire pan and "placed the incense on it and atoned for the people. He stood between the dead and the living, and the plague ceased" (Bemidbar 17:12:13).

On one side of Aharon, the plague came from Good killing the people, but on the other side, was the incense acting as a barrier, blocking God's presence from harming anyone else.

Therefore, while every other item in the Mishkan was designed so that God "can dwell among the children of Israel" (Shemot 29:45), and are therefore, included in God's instructions to build the Mishkan, the Mizbeach HaKetoret was designed to allow Israel to approach God.

As Ramban explains, God will rest in the Mishkan without the Altar of Incense. It is therefore, not part of the Mishkan's grand design. Therefore, even though it is in the inner sanctum and closer to the Holy of Holies than any other object, its instructions were only given once the items that fitted the Mishkan's main purpose was completed.

Last years' Sedra Short on Parshat Tetsaveh, entitled: "The Mizbeach HaKetoret " appears at

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home