This week’s parashah is one of the Torah’s most difficult to read and to understand. Called “Tetzaveh” you will find it in the Book of Exodus 27:20-30:11. The section provides the reader with a great number of details concerning the High Priest’s (Ha’Cohen Ha’Gadol) clothing. Reading the section in English translation, we cannot help but wonder if the section has any spiritual value or is relevant in any way to our age. Reading the original Hebrew, however, reveals a great number of insights not only into the text but also into some of life’s deeper meanings.
The portion begins with the highly unusual Hebrew phrase “V’Atah Tetzaveh/You shall instruct”. The Hebrew reader will note the strange sentence construction. Normative Hebrew would express this idea with some verbal form of the imperative voice: either the formal imperative: “tzaveh” or the less formal “tetzaveh” but not with an expressed subject plus verb as in the case of “V’atah tetzaveh”. This phrase might better be translated as “Now concerning you (Moses), you will command the people to …”
Furthermore, although the text does not state his name, Moses is always present. Is the text creating a spectrum (range of options) with the idea of greatness on one side of the spectrum and humility on the other side? We see this same contrast in the issue of clothing. The Hebrew word for clothing “beged” is derived from the verb root b.g.d meaning: “to hide something, to be treasonous”. Do we use clothing to make ourselves appear greater than we are or to create a cover-up; a way to hide the body’s defects? Does clothing enhance who we are or hide the weak helpless mammal we call “humanity”?
This week’s portion is not so much about clothing as it is about the tensions found within all of our lives. It addresses our moments of emptiness and of fullness, our times of playfulness and of seriousness, the power of office and the weakness of power. The section teaches us the creativity of words and the power found in the voice of silence.
When we view this week’s parashah through the lens of the Hebrew language this section is no longer a tale of clothing, but rather offers us a Biblical view on life. This week’s section instructs us that life is never consistent; it is always filled with challenges. Life is not the apparent, but what lies below the surface. It reminds us that all of live two lives, the life that we want others to see and the life that we hide not only from others but also from ourselves.
From this portion’s perspective; a successful life is one in which we learn to accept the good with the bad. Do we measure our success in life by what we have, or by what we have learned to live without? What do you think?
Youtubes of the week:
Jewish Music from Around the World.
From the Russian Shtele (villages in the Pale of Settlement):
From The Soviet Era:
Living Free in Israel: