Thursday, March 30, 2023

Report from the Land


It is commonly believed that each of the two previous periods of an independent Israelite/Judean state (in the David-Solomon era, and the Hasmonean dynasty in its initial phase) lasted for about 70 years. When the independent state of Israel was approaching its 70th year anniversary, and ever since, there were those who expressed some concern as to the condition of our present society, detecting similarities to those that brought down the two previous Israelite entities, not least of which are (and were) internal rifts.

The present crisis meets us on our 75th year of independent statehood, while it seemed that in spite of deep disagreements in several arenas, somehow our society was until now able to keep itself from disintegrating, each faction fully engaged in living according to its respective choice of lifestyle, with the occasional friction erupting when one side infringed upon the other's comfort zone.

However, since the last election something has broken within Israel. It is as though a hand grenade has been tossed in our midst and its shrapnels are scattering everywhere. The present government's attempts at implementing its desired policies, especially in the area of the judiciary, were not put up on its pre-election platform in a way that would have made its plans plain and clear.  Thus, a large portion of society, including some of those who were in favor of the coalition parties that form this government, has been taken by a bewildering surprise. Moreover, the speed at which these laws are being put forth and the attempt at passing them appears to be at an all-time record (although now they have supposedly halted temporarily the planned reform). Additionally, because each of the coalition's parties is mostly interested in its own agenda, they have to be accommodated in ways that defy logic and usefulness for the country as a whole. Thus, all kinds of extra positions and structures are created so as to placate different politicians, with a great financial burden and at the expense of efficiency and proper administration. And as if all of this were not enough to rouse great concern and discontent, some of the highest positions in the current government are held by individuals who have been convicted in the past or are at this very moment involved in judicial litigation. Therefore, more laws have to be passed in order to legalize their participation in the political game (and that includes the Prime Minister).

For three months now there have been growing protests all over the country, mostly generated by great fear of losing freedoms in many aspects of life; of a weakened judicial branch; of religious cohesion, and in short, loss of democracy. While changes do need to be introduced into the courts, especially the supreme court, the condition of the present government, by its very nature, is such that one wonders if it is capable of righting any wrongs.
At the same time, we also hear that unbeknownst to most of the well-meaning protesters, outside elements (some of which don't have our best interests in mind) are involved in funding the protests and are only too happy to stir up the pot. In fact, the American president, unabashedly, made a demand that our government rescinds some of its proposals.

Brother is pitted against brother, to the point that many even find this term offensive. Violence has started to erupt and life, in general, is disrupted to the point that even military security is in danger of being compromised.

All this is happening while the enemy looks on and laughs. Leaning heavily on man's leadership via politics, for justice, physical protection, high moral standards, etc. is proving to be futile. It is nothing but a broken reed, "which if a man leans on, it will go into his hand and pierce it" (2nd Kings 18:21).

Our restoration to the land and the very many victories and achievements that have been attained was very seldom attributed to the Elohim of Israel. Therefore this scripture comes to mind:  "For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns -- broken cisterns that can hold no water" (Jeremiah 2:13). It seems that we in Israel cannot say too soon: "It is better to trust in YHVH than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in YHVH than to put confidence in princes" (Psalm 118:8-9).  The following words also need to echo in our hearts: "Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help.  His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish.  Happy is he who has the Elohim of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in YHVH his Elohim" (Psalm 146:3-5). And more, "Who among you fears YHVH, Who obeys the voice of His Servant? Who walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of YHVH and rely upon his Elohim" (Isaiah 50:10), for "Blessed is the man who trusts in YHVH and whose hope is YHVH" (Jeremiah 17:7). Please pray with us that many in our land will realize that our only hope is the Elohim of  Israel, and turn to Him with all their hearts. 

Hebrew Insights into Parashat Tzav – Vayikra (Leviticus) 6:8 – 8 (Hebrew Scriptures 6-8)


"Command Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘this is the law of the burnt offering…’” (Lev. 6:9), are YHVH's words to Moshe at the beginning of our Parasha, named after the imperative form for “command - "tzav". "The law (of the burnt offering)" is rendered "torah", making the usage of this word here, “binding instructions”. This is one of several examples of the way this multi-faceted term is utilized. The usage of the term “the torah of the…” offering/sacrifice, instead of when “a person” or “a soul” offers or sacrifices, indicates that here the issue at hand is the work of the priests as it pertains to sacrifices and offerings, and not to the general public as we saw last week.


But before attending to the subject matters included in the Parasha, let us pause and look at an all-important word that appeared three times in last week’s Parashat Vayikra (in Lev. 4:3, 5, 16, being its first appearing in Scripture), and once in ours (6:22). This word is “mashi’ach”, translated “anointed”. In Hebrew, however, there is a clear distinction between “anointed” in verb form (such as in 6:20), which is literally “to coat with oil”, as well as the adjective form such as in Sh’muel Bet (2nd Samuel) 3:39 where David declares:And I am weak today, though anointed (“mashu’ach”) king”, AND the noun: “Mashia’ch”.  In order to illustrate the difference, we can take, for example, the verb “to appoint”. An “appointed person” is an adjective, whereas “appointee” is classified as a noun. Similarly, “mashi’ach” is not someone who has been merely smeared or coated with oil, whether for a singular function or several functions or even for a permanent position or calling. “Mashi’ach’s” function and nature, his very being, are all embodied in this calling. And even though this term was used regarding the priests (or the people of Yisrael -  “m’shi’chim” – plural, in Ps. 105:15), these were obviously not The Messiah.  Yet this rendering was employed with the long-term view to the coming of the one and only “Mashi’ach” –  the Anointee if you will.    


Back to the Parasha’s topics, with the main one being the listing of the various sacrifices/offerings, with added specifications. The interaction and connection that exists between them is one more feature introduced in this Parasha. Thus, we read about the meal offering - "mincha" (6:17b): “It is most holy, like the sin offering, and like the guilt offering" (italics added). In verse 25, it says about the sin offering ("chatat"): "This is the law [torah] of the sin offering: In the place [the north] where the burnt offering is killed, the sin offering shall be killed before YHVH" (italics added). Likewise, regarding the guilt offering ("a'sha'm"): “In the place where they kill the burnt offering, they shall kill the guilt offering" (7:2, italics added), and again in 7:7: "As a sin offering is, so (is) a guilt offering. One law [torah] is for them. The priest who makes atonement by it, it is his" (italics added).


It says about Messiah Yeshua, who "knew no sin" that He was "sin for us" (2nd Cor. 5:21). And although there are parallels to Yeshua's sacrifice in each of the sacrifices and offerings, this statement emphasizes His role as the "korban chatat". This offering is "most holy", and what's more, "the priest who offers it for sin shall eat it" (Lev. 6:26). Thus, the proverbial partaking of Yeshua's body, as He admonished His disciples to do, is an act that denotes the priesthood of those who do so.

In summation, the meal offerings' holiness is identical to that of both the sin and guilt offerings, all of which are denoted by the term "kodesh kadashim" - holy of holies – i.e. the "holiest of all".  The animals for the sin and guilt offerings are to be killed in the same place as the burnt offering.  Similarly, both the sin and guilt offerings are to have one "torah," according to which they actually belong to the priest who makes the atonement of these two offerings. Thus, status (of holiness), place, and ownership are the three common elements shared in some way by all four of these sacrifices/offerings.


These three attributes may be quite easily related to the person of Yeshua, to what He has accomplished, and hence to the benefits that we derive thereby:


1. Holiness: The Holy One and the Just” (Acts 3:14 in reference to Yeshua, italics added). "According to as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, for us to be holy and without blemish before Him in love" (Eph. 1:4, italics added).


2. Place: "I am going to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2, italics added). “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28 italics added).


3. Ownership by the Priest: "I am the Good Shepherd, and I know those that are mine, and I am known by the ones that are mine" (John 10:14, italics added).  "I guarded those whom You gave to Me" (John 17:12, italics added). "Of those whom You gave to Me, I lost not one of them" (John 18:9, italics added).  “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Yeshua the Son of Elohim” (Hebrews 4:14 italics added).


Following the instructions for the "guilt offering" is the "torah of zeh’vach sh’lamim”, or the law of the sacrifice peace offerings (7:11-21), which appears to stand on its own. However, its conspicuous placement after the mention of the "guilt offering" may be significant. Last week, in Parashat Vayikra, we noted that the "guilt offering" was accompanied by reparations for damages incurred (5:6-8). Peace and reconciliation cannot take place before one is relieved of one's guilt (through YHVH’s provision, such as making good for damages).  We also noted that "sh'lamim" is of the root sh.l.m, meaning "complete or whole", as well as "peace, reconciliation, and payment". But the actual term for "peace offering" - sh'lamim - is rendered in the plural form. This is not surprising, as this type of sacrifice includes three different aspects or categories: thanksgiving, vow, and a freewill offering (7:12-16).


Thanksgiving is "toda", from the root y.d.a (yod, dalet, hey) connected to "hand" or “arm” – “yad” (and confession, as we observed last week). Interestingly, in quite a few cases carrying out a vow is conveyed as "paying the vow/oath" - "shalem neh'de'r" - making use of both these terms (“peace/whole/pay” and “oath”) together (e.g. 2 Sam. 15:7; Ecc. 5:4; Is. 19:21*; Jonah 2:9). The freewill offering is termed "n'dava", which is a word we encountered in Parashat Trumah (in Ex. 25:2). The root n.d.v. speaks of generosity and free giving. “Vow as "neh'de'r (n.d.r) is connected to another root, n.z.r, which is the root for "nazarite", being the adjective for 'he who is bound by a neh'de'r - oath' (see for example Numbers 6:2). The root n.z.r also appears in our Parasha. In 8:9, toward the end of the Parasha, we read about the consecration of A'ha'ron and his sons: "And put the miter on his head, and on the miter, on its front, he put the golden plate, the holy crown; as YHVH commanded Moses." The "holy crown" here is "nezer ha'kodesh", the “crown of holiness”.  Since the nazarite is a person who is "consecrated or dedicated" (having taken a vow, a nehd'er), the root n.z.r appears to be a fusion of that which pertains to a priestly ministry (even as the priests were to wear this crown) and at the same time also referring to a crown, an item associated with royalty. Does the term “nezer”, therefore, allude to the office of king-priest, particularly as it was to be fulfilled in Yeshua? (Ref. Zech. 6:13. See also Hebrew Insights into Parashat Va’yechi, re Genesis 49:26).


"As to the flesh of the sacrifice of the thanksgiving peace offerings, it shall be eaten in the day of his offering. He shall not leave of it until morning" (7:15). This idea engendered a variety of comments on the part of the sages and rabbis. Maimonides, writing in The Guide for the Perplexed- part 3, proffers the following reason: “‘The offerings must all be perfect and in the best condition, in order that no one should slight the offering or treat it with contempt’. And according to Sefer haHinuch: ‘There is an allusion [here] to our trust in God; a man should not begrudge himself his food and store it for the morrow, seeing that God commanded to utterly destroy sanctified meat after its time, when no creature - man or beast - is allowed to partake of it’”. This point of view is comparable to the way the Israelites were supposed to regard the manna.2 Notice that the Pesach lamb also had to be consumed without leaving its remains overnight (Ex. 12:10). In addition, if the offerer was to partake of the peace offering, he had to be ritually clean or else be cut off from his people (ref. 7: 20, 21). Similarly, in 1st Corinthians 11:20-34, we read that those who were breaking bread together were not to do so “unworthily, [such] that one will be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread, and let him drink of the cup; for he who is eating and drinking unworthily eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord" (v. 27-29).


Some more on “zeh'vach sh'lamim" (sacrifice of peace offerings) and its above-mentioned traits… This offering may be seen as an analogy to Yeshua's perfect (shalem) and "one [time] offering… [that] has perfected the ones being sanctified for all time" (Heb. 10:14, italics added), who are thereby able "through Him… [to] offer up a sacrifice of thanksgiving to Elohim always, that is, the fruit of the lips…” (Heb. 13:15, italics added).


"Any person who eats any blood, even that person shall be cut off from his people" (7:27). In last week's Hebrew Insights we looked at Vayikra 17:11, regarding the “blood which makes atonement for the soul". It also says there that, “the life is in the blood". And while Mankind - "adam" - is of the earth ("adama"), he is also of blood, which is "dam".  Man cannot partake of the very substance which is divinely designed to both give him life AND cover his sin and iniquity.


In chapter 8, dealing with the consecration of the priesthood, one of the words used for "consecration" is "milu'im" (vs. 22, 28,29,31,33), of the root m.l.a (mem, lamed, alef), meaning "full, to make full or fulfill”, and by implication "consecrate", as is seen in verse 33: "…until the days of your consecrationmi’lu’ey’chem” are fulfilledm’lot. For He shall consecrate – ye’maleh - you seven days" (italics added). The connection of "maleh" (singular form) to consecration seems rather obscure. Yet when looking at the items pertaining to the act of consecration, in verses 25 and 26, all of which were to be placed on the palms of A'ha'ron's hands and his sons’, we get a glimpse of the connection between 'making holy' and 'full.'  This is how it is described in the Gill Commentary: "And thou shalt put all in the hands of Aaron, and in the hands of his sons" [&c.], which accounts for the use of the phrase, filling the hand for consecration". Gill goes on to say - "For all the above things of the ram, bread, cakes, and wafers were put into their hands when consecrated, denoting their investiture with their office: all things are in the hands of Messiah, relative to the glory of God and the good of his people. Their persons are in his hands, and all grace and blessings of it for them; a commission to execute his office as a priest is given to him.  And as it was proper that he also should have somewhat to offer (Heb. 8:3), his hands are filled, and he has a sufficiency for that purpose, as Aaron and his sons had".3  And to that, we add: “And out of His fullness we all received, and grace on top of grace. For the Torah was given through Moses, and grace and truth came through Messiah Yeshua" (John 1:16,17, italics added).


 The Parasha ends with A’ha’ron and sons doing as they were commanded, that is sitting for a complete seven days and nights at the door of the Tent of Meeting, thus fulfilling the “charge of YHVH” (8:35) for their sanctification - “milu’im” (again, literally, “fullness” or “completion”). This charge takes us back to Sh’mot (Exodus) 40:34-38, and seems to actually be a continuation of the said passage which describes the coming down of the cloud of glory upon the completion of the Mishkan.


Lastly, another interesting encounter with the term “fulfill” or “fulfilling” by the “hand” is found in Divrey Hayamim Bet (2nd Chronicles). At the inauguration of the (first) Temple, Shlomo addressed YHVH, and then “turning around”, he blessed Yisrael saying: “Blessed be YHVH the Elohim of Israel, who spoke by his mouth to David my father, and with [or by] his hands fulfilled…”  (6:4, literal translation).  The question whose hands did the “fulfilling” (as in Hebrew verse 4 is ambiguous) is answered by Shlomo in verse 15 of the same chapter: “… You spoke by Your mouth, and with Your hand You fulfilled [it, on] this very day” (literal translation).  And as we saw above (in John 1:16), YHVH does not only do the fulfilling, He is also grants the FULLNESS.



*.  “Then YHVH will be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know YHVH in that day and will make sacrifice [ze’vach] and offering [mincha]; yes, they will make a vow [neh’der] to YHVH and perform [shi’lemu]”. Although this text from Isaiah 19:21 is referring to Egypt (a repentant Egypt, we may add), notice the usage that is made here of the same terminology that appeared in last week’s Parasha and also in the present one.


2. New Studies in Vayikra Part 1, Nechama Leibowitz, trans. Aryeh Newman. Eliner Library, Department for Torah Education and Culture in the Diaspora. Hemed Books Inc., Brooklyn, N.Y.


3. Gill Commentary, On Line Bible.


Friday, March 24, 2023

Grafted In

 Romans 11 presents a term that is used nowhere else in Scripture – "grafted in". Paul's usage of this agricultural term has raised a variety of theological interpretations, some of which are quite confusing. Not being evolutionists, there is no need for us to understand the meaning of this term from that viewpoint. But if we were to apply this particular theory to prove that a branch from an orange tree can be grafted into an olive tree, we would also need to make use of their theory of time. Thus, perhaps in a billion years of someone in every generation taking on the task of grafting in another branch, after the previous one dies, such a mutation would emerge successfully. Or, maybe, we could apply another one of their theories, that from an original tree that came up out of the primordial soup and its seed contained all the future species of trees.

 Enough of the nonsense! Let’s look at the Truth!  YHVH created everything after its kind (see Genesis 1:11-12). In this case, we are looking at an olive tree whose seed produces roots, trunk, branches, leaves, and fruit after its specific kind. Torah (the Word) forbids sowing different seeds in the same field (Lev 19:19; Duet 22:9). Yes, there will be varieties depending on the soil, weather, and other conditions but this species will always remain an “olive tree”.   Every botanist knows that inside a seed is an embryo that contains all the chemistry to produce after its kind. But even scientists (in the nano branch) realize that those chemical particles in themselves cannot create any given design; it takes the presence and power of the “word of life” that was in the echad (ONE) day (see Gen 1:3-5). The only way these chemicals are able to come together is through the Spirit of the Word of life, in other words, by intelligent design. There is an original blueprint in every seed and tree in the forest, and that blueprint is the spiritual birthmark of its origin.

So, if we stay true to the Word of Life (Yeshua), then we will not be grafting orange branches or any species, other than an olive branch into its own root. If we stick to this horticultural reality, amazing revelation will open up as to the faithfulness of a covenant-keeping Elohim, but even more so, the identity of His people (Israel) will shine forth.  The faith (of Abraham) is the birthmark that identifies the branches that belong to the olive tree of Jacob.  YHVH never changes and neither does His Word of Life - Yeshua.   

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Hebrew Insights into Parashat Vayikra - Vayikra (Leviticus) 1-6:7 (Hebrew Scriptures 1-5:26)


This week's Parasha shares its title with the Book's title, which means "And He called - to Moses", continuing with, “and YHVH spoke to him out of the Tent of Meeting, saying…" (literal translation).  The Hebrew syntax of this opening verse is somewhat awkward and obscure. Let us try to find out why. The book of Sh’mot ended with (literal translation): “… so Moses finished the work.  Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of YHVH filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of YHVH filled the tabernacle…  the cloud of YHVH was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys” (Ex. 40:33-35, 38 italics added). Given the fact that during this season Moshe found himself unable to enter the Tent of Meeting because of YHVH’s glory, hearing suddenly the sound of his name would have startled and bewildered him. If written from his vantage point, this strangely formulated text “and He called to Moses, and YHVH spoke to him…” could express his uncertainty as to the source of the sound, until he gathered his wits about him and realized Who was calling him.

"Any man, if he brings an offering of you…" (v.2) starts the long and detailed discourse on the sacrifices. It is quite significant that the laws of the sacrifices begin with the word 'man', “to teach that man is the subject and not the object of the sacrifice”, says Seforno. He continues elaborating thusly: "If he brings an offering of you", that is, from your very selves, with a confession and with due submission, in the spirit of the Psalmist's, 'The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit' (51:17), for the foolish who offers sacrifices without proper humility will find no acceptance".[1] "Brings an offering" is condensed into one word - yakriv -  rooted in k.r.v (kof, resh, vav), which we have already encountered in Parashat Tetzaveh (in Ex. 29:1), and means to “bring near", sharing its root with "korban" - "an offering" or a "sacrifice". Clearly, the purpose of the offerings is primarily to draw the worshipper near or close to YHVH, albeit? according-to-His-stipulations. At the same time, this verse could also be read to mean that, that the offering is "of you". Someone (presumably the priest) is offering you" to YHVH.

The first type of offering presented here is the "olah", the burnt offering, a noun that originates with the root a.l.h (ayin, lamed, hey) for the verb “aloh” - meaning to “go up or ascend"; or in a different conjugation, to “raise, elevate, or lift up". Thus, the burnt offering is that which is lifted up to YHVH. The animal is to be “tamim” - "whole, perfect, or faultless". Noach, who "walked with Elohim" was declared "tamim" in his generation (Gen. 6:9); Avraham was told by YHVH, "walk before Me and be tamim" (Gen. 17:1). In Parashat Tetzaveh we examined the Oorim and Toomim (Ex. 28:30), that were to be carried "before YHVH", noting again that the meaning of "toomim" is "perfect." Hence, that which is to be brought before YHVH (or anyone who walks with or before Him) is to be "perfect" or "whole" (again, according to His specific requirements). Consequently, that which was to be "lifted up" (the olah - the burnt offering, along with the peace offering, 3:9, sin offering 4:3, and the guilt or trespass offering, 5:15) had to be in that state or condition, being a reflection of the offerer’s heart attitude, as we shall soon see.

This "korban tamim" had to be brought to the door of the Tent of Meeting, "that he may be accepted - lir'tzono - before YHVH" (1:3 italics added). The question arises here, 'who is being accepted?' Is it the sacrifice, or is it the one making the sacrifice? The answer offered by Prof. Nehama Leibowitz is as follows: "Accepted does not refer to the offering but to the offerer. Acceptance is not an automatic result of the sacrifice; it alludes to the intention that prompts the offering and the spirit in which it is brought. God's will is not swayed by the offering, and He is not thereby "forced" to draw nearer to man. Rather, the offering expresses man's desire to purify himself and come closer to his Creator".[2] As we can see, "bringing up" (offering) the "korban" marks the process of reform or internal change, and is expressed by an outward action. "Acceptance" is also denoted by an external act of the offerer's hand, as it lays on the offering itself (1:4). In Parashat Tetzaveh we noted the purpose for the "laying of the hands" ( of the root to “lean" - Ex. 29:10), as "an identification with the korban which is about to give up its life, denoting ultimate submission”.

After the animal is slaughtered, its blood sprinkled, its skin removed and its body parts arranged on the wood, the priest was to wash its "entrails and legs". In Hebrew the entrail is called "kerev" (1:9). The "kerev" (or "k'rava’yim" in plural) is the "inward parts". We have just observed that the noun and verb for "offering" and "to offer", respectively, are of the root k.r.v, meaning "near or close", and so are the "inward parts", all of which appear to symbolize the "drawing near" to YHVH on the part of the offerer who himself undergoes a genuine inward change. The "legs" here are "k'ra'ayim", which is of the root k.r.a (kaf, resh, ayin), meaning to “kneel or crouch”, and is the word used for the two front bending legs of the animal, thus creating an allusion to the required attitude of submission and humility.

When all is cut up properly, washed, and burnt up by the fire it produces "a sweet savor to YHVH" (1: 13). A smell of any kind is always a harbinger. This aroma, therefore, symbolizes the change that has taken place within the person who puts his confidence in YHVH (by relying and leaning on Him), and who is humbly drawing near Him. The smell’s “soothing aroma” is “rey’ach ni’cho’ach”. The latter stems from the root (noon, vav, chet) that we encountered in Parashat Noach (Gen. 6:9 – 11:32), where we learned that it is the root for “rest” and connected to the protagonist’s name – Noach – who himself brought an offering – an “olah” – which in B’resheet (Genesis) 8:21 is said to have sent off a “soothing aroma”. It follows, then, that the aroma is indicative of the fact that an issue has been settled and brought to rest. In Romans 12:1 we are told “to present [our] bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to Elohim”. It is only natural, then, that 2nd Corinthians 2:15 adds that, “we are to Elohim a sweet savor of Messiah” if indeed we have genuinely offered ourselves up to Him.

The next offering is the meal offering, "mincha" (2:1), which is thought to be of the root m.n.h (mem, noon, chet), meaning "a gift or a tribute".[3] Ka’yin (Cain) brought a "mincha" to YHVH (Gen. 4:3, 4). This type of offering, as it is presented here, is made up of variable mixtures of grain, oil, frankincense, and more, and is always baked or fried without leaven or honey (could the latter prohibition be associated with the honey being derived from an insect?), although there are somewhat different stipulations required when it is offered as a first fruit (ref. 2:14-16). "A soul, if it should offer…" (2:1) is the introductory phrase to the "mincha" regulations, as well as to the sin offering (4:2) and guilt offering (4:27). The term "soul" (“nefesh”) rather than "a man" (although not always reflected in the translations) which was used regarding the burnt offering, may point to the place from where the person's true intents issue forth. This is particularly appropriate in the case of the “mincha”, as it was the only offering that all could afford – including the poor.

Following the "mincha" is the "peace offering", "zeva'ch sh'lamim" (3:1). The word used here for the offering is no longer "korban" but "zeva'ch", which is "slaughter for sacrifice". Quite appropriately our Patriarch Ya’acov is seen offering a “zeva’ch” when he and Lavan (Laban) were reconciled, making peace with each other (Gen. 31:54). "Shlamim" is of the root sh.l.m (shin, lamed, mem), meaning "whole, complete, or full”, being also the root meaning of "shalom" – “peace” - from which the word for "payment" is derived. Thus, when He cried out "it is finished" (John 19:30), Yeshua the Perfect ‘Ze'vach’ who paid the full and necessary price, so that we may have peace with YHVH, summarized-His-tremendous-undertaking-in-one-word.

Next is the sin offering which denotes a korban offered for sins committed inadvertently - "korban chatat" (4:2ff.). Chatat is of the root ch.t.a (chet, tet, alef), and primarily means to “miss a goal or a mark". But as is often the case in Hebrew, the same root can apply to another word - opposite in meaning - creating one of the language's characteristics of dynamic tension and paradox. Thus the root ch.t.a, used in a different conjugation, also forms a verb that means to “cleanse or purify" (e.g. Lev. 14:49, 52; Num. 19:12, 13). Hence the cure is contained within the very affliction itself. Prof. Nechama Leibowitz points out that in the case of this type of "missing the mark", as presented here, "the offerings imposed on the leaders of the people involve a greater burden than those required of the ordinary people".[4] Let us examine some of the relevant verses: "If the anointed priest shall sin so as to bring guilt on the people" (4:3 emphasis added), as compared to 4:13: "And if the whole congregation of Israel shall err" (emphasis added), and compared again to: "When a ruler sins… and is guilty" (4:22 emphases added). The usage of the various terms here, as they relate to the respective parties, speaks for themselves.


The remains of the sin offerings were to be burnt "outside the camp" (Lev. 4:12,21). Similarly, in Hebrews 13:11-13 we read: "For the bodies of those animals whose blood the high priest brings into the sanctuary as an offering for sin are burned outside the camp.  Therefore Yeshua also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach".

In dealing with the sin offering, a singular new term is introduced - confession. The first 13 verses of chapter 5 enumerate the various offenses which, aside from incurring the need for a sacrifice, also require a confession (ref. v. 5) - "vidu'y", of the root y.d.a (yod, dalet, hey). The root "yada" stems from "yad" – “hand” - and its basic meaning, therefore, is to “cast or throw". Many times, it is used in connection with casting stones. However, it is also the root of "thanksgiving" and "praise" (hence the name Yehuda). Just as the word for "teaching" (from which we get the noun “Torah”) stems from the act of "shooting" (an arrow), so do these terms of “thanking, praising, and confessing”, issue forth from a root denoting activity. It is no wonder that the hand is symbolic of all of these expressions, as it is able to stretch forth and reach further than any other part of the human body - thus rendering it an instrument of communication. This root and its derivatives shed light on the society which made use of them, demonstrating its vibrant relationships and animated? communicativeness.


Lastly, the Parasha deals with "guilt offerings", which were also to be offered upon sins being committed inadvertently. But in this case, before making the sacrifice, reparations had to be paid (5:14-6:7). By the same token, Yeshua says: “If you offer your gift on the altar, and remember there that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go. First, be reconciled to your brother [compensate him for what your behavior has caused him to suffer or lose], and then come, offer your gift" (Mat.5:23,24). “Committing a trespass” is the term used for this individual, and in Hebrew “tim’ol ma’al”. In the recent Parasha of Tetzaveh (ref. particularly Ex. 28:1ff), we noted that the clothing of the priests is connected to this verb, “ma’al”, which speaks of “unfaithfulness and treachery”, since “m’eel”, the “outer garment” was worn by priests, and other high ranking individuals [5]. (Another such term, “ba’god” is identical to “ma’al”, while “begged” is, again, an “outer garment”). Do these connections of disloyalty to articles of clothing suggest the proverbial nakedness of the unfaithful individual who at the same time tries to hide his faults under a covering, this especially being the case among persons of high rank (as 4:3ff, 22-26 point out? In Hebrew Insights into Parashat Tetzaveh, it was suggested that the priests clothe themselves with the said garments, symbolically covering their spiritual and moral nakedness so that they can minister and interpose between an equally sinful people and a kadosh Elohim”.


Surprisingly (as it predates Yeshua’s ultimate sacrifice), the trespasses in the last category are all marked by actions that without question are committed knowingly, either by lying, extortion, false swearing, and theft (6:1-5) and yet atonement and forgiveness are also made possible for these intentional sins.

As mentioned, in all of the last three types of offerings, we observe faultless ("tamim") animal sacrifices. There is no mention of laying hands on the animals in the course of performing the "guilt offering", but it exists in the case of both the peace (3:2,8,13) and sin offerings (4:4,15ff). In all cases (except for the meal offering), blood is involved: "for it is the blood which makes atonement-for-the-soul"

Notice that only clean animals fit for consumption were to be offered up to YHVH. Therefore, whenever offerer and priest would share in eating the sacrifice,
both parties would be partaking of YHVH’s-table.

Finally, in chapter 2:13, in the passage dealing with the "meal offering", we read: "And every offering of your food offering you shall season with salt, and you shall not let the salt of the covenant of your Elohim be lacking from your food offering; you shall offer salt with all your offerings". Yeshua makes reference to this perpetual salt covenant in Mark 9:49-50: “For everyone will be salted with fire, and every sacrifice will be salted with salt. Salt is good, but if the salt becomes saltless, by what will you season? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another". Being who we are in Yeshua, we are rendered a salted sacrifice burnt by fire unto the peace (completeness, fullness) which He made "by the blood of His cross" (Col. 1:20), sealing the covenant for all eternity.

[1] New Studies in Vayikra Part 1, Nechama Leibowitz, trans. Aryeh Newman. Eliner Library, Department for Torah Education and Culture in the Diaspora. Hemed Books Inc., Brooklyn, N.Y.

2 Ibid

3 Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vol. 1, ed. R. Laird Harris, Moody Press, Chicago, 1980.

4 New Studies in Vayikra Part 1, Nechama Leibowitz, trans. Aryeh Newman. Eliner Library, Department for Torah Education and Culture in the Diaspora. Hemed Books Inc., Brooklyn, N.Y.

5 The New Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Lexicon, Francis Brown Hendrickson. Publishers, Peabody, Mass. 1979.







Friday, March 17, 2023

YHVH's Dynamic Duo

"Ephraim was a trained young heifer that loved to thresh, and I stroked her fair neck; I will harness Ephraim, Judah will plow; Jacob will harrow [break up ground] for himself" (Hosea 10:11).  

In the above verse, YHVH is painting for us one of the most beautiful pictures of the two sons of Jacob working together to prepare the ground for planting. Ephraim is seen here as a young heifer that has been running wild, breaking and tearing up the ground, trampling and destroying the grass that the herd is grazing on.  But at one stage she calms down and is taught by the gentle strokes of a yoke that is placed around her neck, in preparation to pull the furrowing tool.  Apparently farrowing comes after the initial plowing, with the farming implement that is used being more like a disk or cultivator which breaks up the clods of ground that had already been plowed by a stronger animal, like a mature ox or bull.  Thus, this young heifer would be strong enough to pull an ancient drag-like tool over the surface of the field.

Next, Judah is given the task of "putting his hands to" the tool that Ephraim (the heifer) is pulling and together they are preparing the earth for planting seed.  What kind of seed have they been growing in their field until now?  Skipping over verse 12, let us read verse 13 which gives a clear indication as to what the brothers' joint field has yielded.  "You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped injustice, you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your power and in the multitude of your warriors". While this may still be the case in our day, two thousand years ago YHVH set in motion a covenant that would restore and reverse the kind of harvest that those two had produced in the fields of the hearts of men. This is why there is a remarkable verse inserted between verse 11 (which was our opening verse) and verse 13.  YHVH has not given up on them even though, as recorded in Ezekiel 36, they defiled His land with their idolatry, and thus were cast away into the nations where they continued to profane His Holy name, spreading their wicked ways under every green tree as stated in Jeremiah 2:20: “When on every high hill and under every green tree you lay down, playing the harlot”.

Yet, after all the years of idolatry and harlotry, YHVH promises Ephraim and Judah that He would turn everything around (read Ezekiel 36:22-38).  “Thus says Adonai YHVH: 'It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came'” (Ezekiel 36:22). 

The Biblical prophets are the ones with whom YHVH has entrusted His perfect plan.  Hosea, of course, is no different. Thus, our text (10:11) continues to inform us that when the two brothers are joined in the act of "harrowing" (breaking up ground) they are, quite suddenly, addressed as "Jacob" – "Jacob will harrow for himself" (a similar transformation is recorded in Zachariah 9:13). In other words, they are now one unit, Jacob/Israel. It is at this point that they are ready to obey YHVH's word, which up until now they never heeded, nor were they able to do so. So Elohim addresses them, saying: "Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground; for it is time to seek YHVH that he may come and rain righteousness upon you".  

If we are in the day in which YHVH is pouring these rains of righteousness, if this the time, let us seek Him, as urged to do by the same prophet:  "Come, let us return to YHVH; for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us; he has struck down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know, let us press on to know YHVH; his appearing is as sure as the dawn; he will come to us like the showers, like the spring rains that water the earth" (Hosea 6:1-3).

Hebrew Insights into Parashot Va'ya'khel and P'kudey - Sh'mot (Exodus) 35-40:38


The two Parashot* that are before us, seal off the book of Sh'mot. Both of them focus on constructing the Mishkan, its utensils, and the priests' garments, and reiterate the calling of the two artisans who were in charge of the work. However, because the instructions in our text describe (or report) the actual implementation of the work (in ‘real-time’), they are animated with a sense of activity. The act of contribution, for example, is fraught with enthusiasm and vitality, while everyone appears to be doing his utmost within his (or her) means and capabilities.

Just before examining these accounts, let us pause to look at yet another injunction regarding the Shabbat. In this instance it appears to be a prelude to the construction of the holy edifice, with an emphasis on keeping the Shabbat set apart by not doing any manner of work (including kindling of fire): "… everyone doing work in it shall be put to death" (ref. Ex. 35:2,3).  In all likelihood, this was to serve as a reminder to the Israelites that even the building of the Mishkan does not supersede the Shabbat rest.

Va’yak’hel: “And he [Moses] gathered…” is rooted in k.h.l (kof, hey, lamed) - “to gather unto – for the purpose of executing the plan. And as we shall see shortly, a plan is definitely being set up here. In 35:10 an invitation is issued for "every wise-hearted one among you, let them come and make all which YHVH has commanded" (emphasis added). Such an open summons had not been announced previously. The People of Yisrael respond with gusto. They are both contributing to and participating in the work itself. The camp is bustling with activity. The skilled and the unskilled, the rich and the poor, the rank and file together with the leaders – all are doing their part.

Let us now simply follow the text, taking note of the activity, the mass inclusion of the entire community, and the spirit of eager willingness and generosity that pervaded the camp. Additionally, notice the frequent repetition of “heart”. "And all the congregation of the sons of Israel went out from Moses. And they came, everyone whose heart was lifted up, and everyone whose spirit made him willing. They brought the offering of YHVH for the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. And the men came in together with the womeneveryone willing of heart. They brought in bracelets, and nose rings, and rings, and ornaments, every gold article, and everyone who waved a wave offering of gold to YHVH. And everyone with whom blue was found, and purple, and crimson, and bleached linen, and goats' hair, and rams' skins dyed red, and dugong skins, they broughtEveryone rising up with an offering of silver and bronze, they brought the offering of YHVH; and everyone with whom was found acacia wood for any work of the service, they brought. And every wise-hearted woman spun with her hands; and they brought spun yarn, blue, and purple, and crimson and bleached linen. And all the women whose hearts were lifted up in wisdom spun the goats' hair. And the leaders brought the onyx stones and stones for the setting, for the ephod and for the breast pocket, and the spice, and the oil for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the incense of the perfumes. And every man and woman whose hearts made them willing to bring for all the work which YHVH commanded to be done by the hand of Moses; the sons of Israel brought a willing offering to YHVH…” (35:20-29, emphases added).

As mentioned, this action-packed passage is characterized by the willingness and eager participation of everyone involved. A similar atmosphere is also echoed in chapter 36, where Betzal'el and Ohali'av (Aholiab) and all the ones endowed with Elohim-given wisdom and a desire to do the work, take the contributions from the people: "And they took every offering before Moses which the sons of Israel had brought for the work of the service in the holy place, to do it. And they brought to him still more willing offerings morning by morning. And all the wise men came, those doing every kind of work for the sanctuary, each one from his work they were doing” (36:3, 4 emphases added). Here we see the cooperation between the lay people and the experts, all of whom were providing abundance of such magnitude, to the extent that Moshe was told: “The people are bringing more than enough for the service of the work that YHVH commanded to do" (v. 5). Moshe therefore "commanded, and they caused it to be voiced in the camp, saying, 'Let neither man nor woman make any more offering for the sanctuary’; and the people were held back from bringing" (v. 6).

The wisdom, skill, and expertise with which the work was carried out clearly did not originate with the expert artisans themselves. In 35:31, 32, 34 we read: “And He has filled him [i.e. Betzal’el] with the spirit of Elohim [can also be read, “the Spirit of Elohim filled him”] in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge… to devise designs. And He has put in his heart that he may teach” (emphases added). Betzal’el’s protégé, whom he was teaching, was Ohali’av from the tribe of Dan. Having been endowed from above with the skillfulness and ability to carry out the work, Betzal’el, true to his name, appears to be residing “in the shadow of the Almighty”. As we noted last week, the assistant’s name expresses a similar concept, since Ohali’av means, “my tent is the Father”. Thus, the artist engaged in crafting the Mishkan (Tabernacle), declares, by his very name, Who is the real Abode!

But let us return to the earthly Mishkan… The specifications for the Ark of the Covenant, the Table of Showbread, and the Lampstand are listed in 37:1-24. In Hebrew these three articles are “a’ronshulchan, and menorah” – rendered literally as, “cabinet/closet/chest (e.g. 2nd Kings 12:9,10), table, and lamp” (e.g. 2nd Kings 4:10); a comfortable abode, under any circumstances, especially in the desert! But what about a washbasin for a quick freshening up and maybe a mirror to make sure every hair is in place? The account in 38:8 does not fail to point out the basin, and the mirrors out of which it was constructed. In addition, although not mentioned in the Parasha’s text specifically, there is another term used elsewhere for the Ark of the Covenant. It is a “ki’seh” – a “chair”, which is also the Hebrew word for “throne”. The “Ark of the Covenant” is YHVH’s seat of glory, and was described so in Yisha’yahu (Isaiah) 6:1, in reference to Shlomo’s (Solomon’s) Temple, and also in Y’chezkel (Ezekiel) 43:7, regarding the future Temple.

The making of the bronze basin (or laver) and its base captivates our attention, as they were made from "the mirrors of the [women] who congregated at the opening of the Tent of Meeting" (38:8). Much has been said about the symbolism of the mirrors plating this basin, where the priests were to wash their feet and hands (that is, to consecrate themselves) before approaching the Altar, as an allusion to one of the steps on the progressive path of faith taken by the Believer. However, in the scene at hand we encounter women who have assembled, “tzov'ot”, by the entrance of the Mishkan. The verb and root tz.v.a (tzadi, bet, alef) is also used for “army” and “hosts”, such as in "YHVH Tzva'ot". In Shmuel Alef (1st Samuel) 2:22 we find once again this "army of women" by "the opening of the Tent of Meeing", although in a very different (and negative) connotation.  In T’hilim (Psalms) 68:11-12 we read: "YHVH gave the word; great was the company - tza'va - of those who proclaimed [female gender] it; Kings of armies ("tzva'ot") flee, they flee, and she who remains at home divides the spoil".  Last week we saw the People of Yisrael in their frenzy to make the golden calf, using gold earrings worn by their "wives, sons and daughters" (Ex. 32:2). This week, many of the same people are contributing to the Mishkan, and some of the donations are of the very same materials that were used for the abominable image. The women who had contributed the mirrors, thereby giving up their vanity, are seen here drawn to the house of YHVH forming a company, literally an "army", which “proclaims His Word” and is therefore far mightier than even that of "kings of armies" (ref. again to Ps. 68:12). Hence, according to the Psalm, their reward (or "spoil") is also far greater. Were these women motivated by a desire to repent and atone for the recent terrible sin committed so callously by the People of Yisrael?

Have you ever wondered about the following statement? "Let them make me a sanctuary – mikdash… according to all that I show you, according to the pattern of the mishkan and the pattern of all its furnishing, just so you shall make it" (Ex. 25:8-9)? What did Moshe see up in the mountain? When comparing the details described in Parashat Trumah, as we hear YHVH giving instructions to Moshe there is a notable difference to the present instructions. Although in both cases there are several comparisons of the structure of the edifice to body parts, in the 'original', as we noted in that parasha, there were some outstanding comparisons there not only to body parts but to very special human relationships (e.g. 26:3, 17). Is this difference an indication of what Moshe actually saw on the mountain?

When all was said and done, the work was considered a genuine collective endeavor of national scope. Not many years prior to this event, these same people had over them taskmasters who "worked them relentlessly" (Ex. 1:13). Now, the Nation as a whole is engaged in a totally different “work”, the “avoda” of the Mishkan, the avoda – worship, and service - of YHVH. Did they ever reflect back on those dark days, considering in awe their currently changed circumstances and status?

Whether they did or not, the transformation that had taken place was quite amazing! In Egypt they were treated as a faceless mass, having suffered the loss of individual identity to the point that they were referred to in single person (e.g. Ex. 1:11,12 Parashat Shmot, literal translation). By comparison, in 36:10 – 37(, the work performed in the Mishkan is also described in single person. However, against the backdrop of the preceding descriptions, the picture set before us here is entirely different. If the oft-repeated “and he made” are in reference to Betzal’el, we are left with no doubt that he had the full and active support, and participation of the People as a whole. But, if the reference is to more than one person - it would signify unison. Once again, just as we observed in Parashat Trumah (in 26:6-11), the Mishkan itself was to be made of a great variety of components, yet was to be “one” (36:13, 18). This was also the case with the People of Yisrael, who was (and is) to portray the eternal principle of ‘diversity within unity’, so well illustrated by our text.

After the description of the Nation’s willing participation in the preparations of the Mishkan, Parashat Pkudey, the last in the book of Sh’mot, continues to elaborate on the inventory of materials for the sacred edifice and the priests’ official garments. “Pkudey” means “that which was taken into account/visited”, or “these are the accounts”. But it is not only the Mishkan’s inventory that is counted or listed; the term is also applied here to the congregation itself (38:25, “pkudey** ha’eda” – “those of the congregation who were taken into account/visited”). The meaning of the root p.k.d. aside from counting, visiting, and commanding, originates with “invest with purpose or responsibility”.1 Thus, while in Parashat Va’yak’hel emphasis was placed on the congregation as a “kahal”, a crowd, a mass, host, whose parts (namely the individuals who make it up) have no significance in and of themselves, the term “pkudey” stresses the fact that the congregation has no existence apart from the individuals who make it up. Hence, each and everyone has been “visited” and “taken into account” in order to make the half shekel payment (ref. 38:25,26, and also as we noted last week).2 Let us try to read the opening verse (21) as closely as we can to the Hebrew original: "These are the itemized/counted [articles] – p'kudey - of the Mishkan, the Mishkan of the testimony/witness which was itemized/counted/supervised – pukad - by the mouth of Moshe…" The repetition of "Mishkan" and Moshe's involvement in overseeing it as a whole, stresses the fact that the inventory of its items alone was not sufficient. The oneness of the Mishkan has already been noted in the previous parashot (Ex. 26:6,11; 36:13).

Therefore, in the present Parasha, the itemized items seem to be of no significance in and of themselves, but only as part of the "Mishkan of the testimony". In 39:32, we read the following: "And all the work of the tabernacle of the congregation was finished (“vate’chal”), and the sons of Israel did according to all which YHVH commanded Moses; so they did” (emphasis added). In B’resheet (Genesis) 2:1-2 it says: “And the heavens and the earth were finished (va’ya’chulu), and all the host of them. And Elohim finished (va’y’chal) His work which He had made…” (emphases added). Another parallel to the Creation process is found in 39:43: “And Moses saw (“va’yar”) all the work, and behold they had done it…. and Moses blessed them”. This may be compared to the oft-repeated “and Elohim saw…“ (in B’resheet 1) and also to B’resheet 1:28, where in reference to the creation of man and woman it says, “and He blessed them” (emphasis added). In 40:33 it says, “And he raised up the court all around the tabernacle and the altar, and hung up the screen of the court gate. So Moses finished (va’yechal) the work (m’lacha)” (emphasis added). Compare this to B’resheet (Genesis) 2:2: “And on the seventh day Elohim ended (va’yechal) His work (m’lacha) which He had done…”

The term “tabernacle of the testimony” meets us in 38:21 and is echoed in 40:3 by the “ark of the testimony”, whereas last week in Parashat Ki Tissa we encountered the “tablets of the testimony” (Ex. 34:29). “Testimony” is “edut” - “a witness” or “evidence”. The reason, therefore, for the existence of the Mishkan, the ark and that which it contained (that is the “tablets”) appears to be in order to validate YHVH’s covenant with His people. “Ed”, witness, and “edut”, testimony, witness, or evidence, originate with the root ayin, vav, dalet (a.o/u.d), whose primary meaning is to “endure, continue, repeat”, and by implication “to establish facts.”3 “Od” is therefore “more and continually” and “ad” is “perpetuity”, while “edot” are YHVH’s “decrees”. The witnesses (whether human, inanimate objects, decrees, or even Time itself) are incorporated into the perpetual and firm arrangement to which they are testifying, in this case, YHVH’s everlasting Covenant.

Earlier, in Parashat Trumah, we examined the association of the shape of the Menorah (Ex. 25:31-39) to the flora of the Land of Yisrael. A similar relationship is thought to exist here too. ”And he gave the table into the tabernacle of the congregation, on the side of the tabernacle, northward outside the veil; And he put the lampstand in the tabernacle of the congregation, opposite the table, on the side of the tabernacle southward…” (40:22, 24, emphases added). The placing of these articles in the directions specified above was not coincidental.

The fifty-day period between Pesach and Shavu'ot is when the flowers of the olive open and the kernels of wheat and barley fill with starch. Thus, the productive fate of these crops is determined during that season which [in the land of Israel] is characterized by multiple changes and climatic contrasts. Scorching southern winds, which bring with them extreme dryness and heat, alternate with cold winds from the north and west which generate tempestuous storms containing thunder, lightning and rain. The northern wind is most beneficial to the wheat, if it blows during the wheat's early stages of ripening; yet the same wind can wreak havoc on the olive crop if the buds have already opened into flowers. Olive blossoms need successive days of dry heat. Both crops then require just the proper balance of the heat waves and cold northern winds, making the fifty-day season (the ‘Omer counting’) a very important yet precarious season. The Talmudic sages explained that this phenomenon is symbolized by placing "the table in the north and the Menorah in the south." The showbread, which represents the wheat and barley, faced the direction of the north wind. The Menorah, lit with olive oil, faced the direction of the southern wind. Placed together in the Holy Place, they symbolize the plea to the One Creator that each wind would come at the right time.4 

Obviously, it is only YHVH Who is able to hold all the elements of His Creation in the perfect balance required. Thus, He is seen using (more than once) the Land of Yisrael and the diversity of its natural conditions as an instrument for building and maintaining the relationship with His People, as well as for instructing and chastising them. And, as we have already observed, this concept is implemented well before the Israelites even enter the Land of Promise!

Among the various parts of the high priest’s regalia was “the plate of the holy crown of pure gold” and on it “an inscription like the engraving of a signet: HOLINESS TO YHVH” (39:30).  In 39:6 we read, similarly, about the two onyx stones that were placed on the high priest’s shoulders, with the names of the tribes etched on them.  In this way, the high priest would approach YHVH on behalf of His people.  “An engraving (or “etching”) of a signet” is rendered “pituchey chotam”- literally “the engravings of a seal”.  Digging a little deeper, we discover that whereas “chotam” is a seal, “pituchey” (engravings of…) originates from the root (peh, tav, chet) meaning “to open” or “opening”.  So, how is it that a “seal” and an “opening” signify the onyx stones as well as the engraving upon the high priest’s crown?  Do these two seemingly opposing terms allude to something beyond that which meets the eye? In Revelation Chapter 5 Yeshua is seen as worthy of opening a special “book” and breaking its seals.  What was it that enabled Yeshua to carry out this most important task, which no one else could execute? Having given up His life, He redeemed for His Father those who are to be kings and priests who will reign on earth. Our High Priest stood before the Father with the proverbial onyx stones on His shoulders and the golden band with “Holiness unto YHVH” on His forehead. Qualified to open the sealed book of redemption, He was displaying His ultimate task of presenting to His Father those whom He had purchased by His blood, opening the way by enabling them to be “the sealed servants of Elohim” (Revelation  7:3 italics added).

The two Parashot, Va’yakhel, and Pkudey complement one another. Whereas Va’ya’kehl informs us about the making of the vessels of the Mishkan, Parashat Pkudey “pours” content and meaning into them: The tablets are placed in the Ark of the Covenant, the bread is laid on the Table of Showbread, the wicks are lit in the Menorah, and the incense is burned. We are also informed, of course, in detail about the making of the vestments of those who were to officiate in YHVH’s abode, i.e. the priests. Interestingly, the materials used for these garments -“gold, blue, purple, and scarlet and the fine woven linen” - were also used in the making of the Mishkan itself.


* Parashot – plural for “Parasha” – “Parashat…” Parasha of…

(e.g. Va’yak’hel)

** The letter “pey” may also be pronounced “fey” depending on

its placement in a given word.

1 Etymological Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew, based on the commentaries of Samsom Raphael Hirsch, Matityahu Clark, Feldheim Publishers, Jerusalem, - New York, 1999.


3 Etymological Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew

4 Nature in Our Biblical Heritage, Nogah Hareuveni, trans. Helen Frenkley, Neot Kdumim Ltd. LodIsrael, 1996.