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Friday, March 6

The Weekly Shtikle - Tetzaveh

In general, of the two parshios that deal in depth with various technical details, parshas Terumah is dedicated to the architectural detail of the Mishkon and related structures whereas parshas Tetzaveh deals primarily with details relating to the Kohanim. This exception that proves this rule is found at the end of this week's parsha. After all the procedures pertaining to the Kohanim have been discussed, the Torah details the golden altar that was placed inside the Mishkon. One would have expected this to be dealt with in parshas Terumah, when the Torah dealt with the Menorah and Shulchan. Instead, it is mentioned here.


Meshech Chachmah offers an explanation for the placement of the instructions for the golden altar. Every one of the structures and utensils had a specific purpose. If any of the structures were missing, their purpose could not be performed. If the Menorah was not present, the lighting could not take place. In the absence of the outer altar, the sacrifices could not be slaughtered and offered. A Kohein certainly could not perform any service without the proper garments. In this, the golden altar differed. The principal function of the golden altar was for the "ketores," incense. The gemara (Zevachim 59) teaches that if the altar is not present, one may still offer the incense in its proper place. The golden altar is excluded from all the other components to show its uniqueness in this respect.

The GR"A offers an insight into this issue which may shed some light on the reasoning behind the above law. The primary purpose of the entire Mishkon undertaking was for HaShem's Divine Presence to rest on the nation. This is stated clearly at the very beginning (25:8) of the instruction and stated once again at the end (29:45) "And I will dwell amongst B'nei Yisroel..." Everything within these two statements shared the same purpose. However, the golden altar, which is mentioned afterward, was not for the purpose of affecting the Divine Presence. The principal role of the golden altar was atonement. The daily incense was an atonement offering. The incense was also used in emergency situations to halt the breakout of a plague. Indeed, it is here that we learn that the Kohein Gadol was to sprinkle blood on the golden altar once a year on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. Since the golden altar served a different purpose than the rest of the components of the Mishkon, it is separated and dealt with on its own.

Have a good Shabbos. Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah!

Eliezer Bulka


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