This parashah takes place while Moshe (Moses) is up on Mt. Sinai receiving instructions from YHWH Himself! (See Exodus 24:18 and 32:1.)
In this particular lesson we get yet another inkling about how adamant YHWH (Yahweh/The Creator) was concerning obedience to His holy Commands. He did not allow any "half heartedness" and certainly no reinventing of His instructions. Any veering from the Truth and instructions could lead to death - and that is reinforced throughout the Bible. We are to be dedicated to Him in every area of our lives. Note, for instance, the command to keep "the lamp burning continually....before ADONAI" which is a permanent regulation through all the generations of the people of Israel" (Exodus 27:20-21). This command cannot be kept today because there is no temple (although it seems that this could be done in the world's synagogues, as a token to demonstrate a willingness to obey).
In reading the next chapters, we get a sense that the there is "something divine" about the role of the cohanim (priests) that goes way above and beyond the roles of today's priests and pastors for whom their chosen profession is basically "just a job." Please read the following very powerful passages:
Exodus 28: 1 "You are to summon your brother Aharon and his sons to come from among the people of Isra'el to you, so that they can serve me as cohanim - Aharon and his sons Nadav, Avihu, El'azar and Itamar. 2 You are to make for your brother Aharon garments set apart for serving God, expressing dignity and splendor. 3 Speak to all the craftsmen to whom I have given the spirit of wisdom, and have them make Aharon's garments to set him apart for me, so that he can serve me in the office of cohen. 4 "The garments they are to make are these: a breastplate, a ritual vest, a robe, a checkered tunic, a turban and a sash. They are to make holy garments for your brother Aharon and his sons, so that he can serve me in the office of cohen. 5 They are to use gold; blue, purple and scarlet yarn; and fine linen.
In Exodus 28:36-38 we read about the Mitre/Turban worn on Aharon's head, which was representative of the Helmet of Salvation, Ephesians. 6:17.
The office of cohen was YHWH-appointed and set apart to serve HIM, which was passed on by blood, not through the "ordination" of man! Halelluyah! Compare that to many of today's man-ordained pastors who have no clue what true holiness means and who feel that, because they are "covered by the blood of Jesus" they can behave however they want and be forgiven all transgressions and teach their own opinions instead of what the Word says.
Examples are people like Jose Luis DeMiranda who has managed to convince myriad peoples that he is both "Christ and Antichrist"; and you can Google Pastor Ted Haggard of a "mega-church" (New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado), a married man who fell from grace after it was discovered that he was "seeing" a homosexual prostitute....He has since started a brand new church in Colorado Springs designed to attract the homosexual population....
These links will help you to get a mental picture of what the cohens might have looked like: Tetzaveh, Kohen and Priestly Garments.
Exodus 29: 9...The office of cohen is to be theirs by a permanent regulation. Thus you will consecrate Aharon and his sons.
Note, the office of cohen is a permanent regulation! This office is limited today because there has been no Temple since 70 A.D., but once the Third Temple is rebuilt, cohens will once again be restored their full functionality.
Exodus 29: 29 "The holy garments of Aharon will be used by his sons after him; they will be anointed and consecrated in them. 30 The son who becomes cohen in his place, who comes into the tent of meeting to serve in the Holy Place, is to wear them for seven days.
Let's briefly discuss the use of the word "consecrate" which is reiterated throughout this parashah:
The Mishkan (Tabernacle) is to be a holy place if YHWH is to reside there. So consecration of the things used in His presence is important. From Wiki: "Consecration is the solemn dedication to a special purpose or service, usually religious. The word 'consecration' literally means 'to associate with the sacred'."
See the literal meaning? "To associate with the sacred." That is awe inspiring! Knowing that all the accoutrements of the sacred garments being made for Aharon and his sons, and that even the material things (the altar with its horns, pans, etc.) must be specially prepared to be in the presence of YHWH makes reading these Parsha readings more interesting as we discover this is not "just a list" of things! This is a very intentional effort to be prepared to be in the presence of YHWH - to be worthy of that honor and be set apart.
The rest of Chapter 28 describes the garb to be worn by Aaron and his sons, including the Urim and the Tumim.
Basically, the Urim "lights" and Tumim "perfections" were gemstones carried by the High Priest of Israel on the ephod/priestly garments. They were used by the High Priest to determine YHWH's will in some situations. Some propose that YHWH would cause the Urim and Tumim to light up in varying patterns to reveal His decision; while others suggest the Urim and Tumim were kept in a pouch and were engraved with symbols identifying yes/no and true/false.
In Exodus 28:30 The Urim represents Y'shua. Urim means lights and is mentioned in the Tanach 7 times. Y'shua is the light of the world... Ephesians 5:8 "We are children of light"...We have to be Urim, Lights reflective of the glory of YHWH! The Thumim means "perfection/complete truth". According to Numbers 27:21 (also Exodus 28:30 and Leviticus 8:8) the Urim and Thumim were used in seeking divine guidance from YHWH. YHWH's will is for us to seek His truth in His word which is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105).
A couple of times we see the phrase, "so that he/they won't die" - intended to reveal how very powerful and awesome it is to walk into the Presence of YHWH (part of which we have borrowed from next week's parashah):
Exodus 28: 35 Aharon is to wear it when he ministers, and its sound will be heard whenever he enters the Holy Place before ADONAI and when he leaves, so that he won't die.
Exodus 28: 43 Aharon and his sons are to wear them when they go into the tent of meeting and when they approach the altar to minister in the Holy Place, so that they won't incur guilt and die. This is to be a perpetual regulation, both for him and for his descendants.
Exodus 30: 20 when they enter the tent of meeting - they are to wash with water, so that they won't die. Also when they approach the altar to minister by burning an offering for ADONAI, they are to wash their hands and feet, so that they won't die. This is to be a perpetual law for them through all their generations."
Please read Exodus 29:29-45. Can you imagine this kind of ceremony lasting 7 days? Seven days of slaughtering animals and using their blood to atone for sins....This was surely YHWH's way of showing His people how very serious He was about sacrifices and what it meant!
Notice in Exodus 30:20 the need to be CLEAN in His Presence! YHWH demands holiness on every level. For instance, we read in Exodus 29:10-28 how to properly prepare and the animal sacrifices which are a "pleasing aroma, an offering made to ADONAI by fire." While the aroma of meat cooking on the fire is quite pleasant, the smell of fresh blood and raw meat in the butchering phases, is not. If you've ever had occasion to be around freshly-butchered animals, you know how sickening those smells can be. Therefore, the preparation of these burnt offerings had to be a major, unpleasant ordeal for those doing the actual killing and butchering.
Why YHWH demanded the killing of innocent animals for sin and guilt (etc.) offerings is something only HE can explain in-depth. Surely, it was meant to drive home the idea that there are NO exceptions to the idea that sin results in death! Remember, YHWH explained that "life is in the blood":
Leviticus 17: 11 - For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life.
Deuteronomy 12: 23 - But be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat.
The thing is, the men who were doing the actual slaughtering in those days surely FELT to their very cores the awesome implications of mankind's sins with every pain-filled bellow and scream from those animals - and then the resulting odors....But yet, it had to be done, because YHWH ordered it. There is so much that we, today, cannot understand or even comprehend about these ancient rituals, but you can bet the Hebrews who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years did!
And try to picture this: Not only was "Israel" required to slaughter these animals, but they had to take some of the blood to "put on the horns of the altar with their fingers" and to "splash on all sides of the altar" etc. Aaron and his sons were to lay their hands on the head of the ram of consecration before it was slaughtered, and its blood was to be put on the lobe of Aaron's right ear, on the lobes of his sons' right ears, on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the big toes of their right feet"....And then along with other internal organs and the fat from the ram, its right thigh along with one loaf of bread was to be given to Aaron and his sons to wave them as a wave offering in the presence of ADONAI before being burnt up in smoke on the altar....(See Exodus 29:19-28.)
The application of blood to various body parts had a huge significance! The blood of the ram applied to the Cohen's ear signified he would hear the Word of Elohim; the blood applied to his thumb signified he would rightly carry out the duties of a Cohen; the blood applied to the toe signified the Cohen would walk in the paths of righteousness according to YHWH's commands. Just as Y'shua's blood is applied to our hearts so we may hear YHWH's word, and carry out our daily duties bringing glory to Him and walking daily in His Word....
What was the significance of the RIGHT ear, thumbs and feet? The Hebrew word yamin (right) is associated with strength. The right hand in biblical times was seen as the seat of one's power. Hence, the many references to God's right hand (Exodus 15:6, Psalm 98:1, Matthew 26:64). The right hand also denotes the south or a southern direction (when facing east, which is the past - west is the future - Psalm 89:12). Even the Hebrew language is read from RIGHT to LEFT. The "right" represents YHWH, while the "left" represents man....In other words, commands straight from YHWH to man!
Yes, YHWH was very explicit about His commands. Israel knew better than to disobey any of His Mitzvot - and in the below we see one command that was ultimately (as we will see in a later parashah) broken by the sons of Aaron and resulted in their immediate deaths:
Exodus 30: 1 "You are to make an altar on which to burn incense; make it of acacia-wood. 2 It is to be eighteen inches square and three feet high; its horns are to be of one piece with it. 3 Overlay it with pure gold - its top, all around its sides, and its horns; and put around it a molding of gold. 4 Make two gold rings for it under its molding at the two corners on both sides; this is where the carrying-poles will go. 5 Make the poles of acacia-wood, and overlay them with gold. 6 "Place it in front of the curtain by the ark for the testimony, in front of the ark-cover that is over the testimony, where I will meet with you.
7 Aharon will burn fragrant incense on it as a pleasing aroma every morning; he is to burn it when he prepares the lamps. 8 Aharon is also to burn it when he lights the lamps at dusk; this is the regular burning of incense before ADONAI through all your generations. 9 You are not to offer unauthorized incense on it, or a burnt offering or a grain offering; and you are not to pour a drink offering on it. 10 Aharon is to make atonement on its horns once a year - with the blood of the sin offering of atonement he is to make atonement for it once a year through all your generations; it is especially holy to ADONAI."
Leviticus 10: 1 But Nadav and Avihu, sons of Aharon, each took his censer, put fire in it, laid incense on it, and offered unauthorized fire before ADONAI, something he had not ordered them to do. 2 At this, fire came forth from the presence of ADONAI and consumed them, so that they died in the presence of ADONAI.
Of course, those who know Scripture recognize that Yeshua laid down His life and martyred Himself as our Final Sin Sacrifice. Because of this, we no longer have to kill innocent animals. However, this does not mean that ALL the sacrifices are covered.
(NOTE: Our use of the term "martyr" is intentional because traditional Jews love to point out that "G-d never required human sacrifice!" Well, Y'shua wasn't a "human sacrifice" because nobody "sacrificed" Him. He was a Divine Sacrifice who willingly went to the cross/stake. As a human being, He had the choice to obey YHWH or not. As we see time and time again, He CHOSE to obey. He KNEW who He was....)
Today's Haftarah reading echoes our Torah portion:
Ezekiel 43: 10 "You, human being, describe this house to the house of Isra'el, so that they will be ashamed of their crimes. And let them measure accurately. 11 If they become ashamed of all they have done, show them the elevation and plan of the house, its exits and entrances, all its details and decorations, and all its specifications, its design and its Torah. Sketch it for them to see, so that they can observe the entire design with its specifications, and carry them out.
12 This is Torah for the house: the whole surrounding area on the mountaintop will be especially holy. This is Torah for the house." 13 These are the measurements of the altar in cubits (a cubit here is defined as a normal cubit [eighteen inches] plus a handbreadth [three inches]): the base, one cubit [twenty-one inches] deep and one cubit wide; with the molding surrounding it at its rim about a hand-span [nine inches] in width. The height of the altar is thus: 14 from the base on the ground to the lower ledge, three-and-a-half feet, with the width twenty-one inches; from the lower ledge to the upper ledge, seven feet, with the width again twenty-one inches. 15 The hearth measures seven feet [high], with four horns on top of the hearth.
16 The hearth is a square twenty-one feet on each of its four sides. 17 The ledge measures a square twenty-four-and-a-half feet on each of its four sides; the molding around it ten-and-a-half inches [across]; and its base twenty-one inches [larger than the rest, all the way] around. Its steps face east. 18 He said to me, "Human being, Adonai ELOHIM says, 'These are the regulations for the altar when the time comes to construct it, offer burnt offerings on it and splash the blood against it: 19 you are to give to the cohanim, who are L'vi'im descended from Tzadok and who approach to serve me,' says Adonai ELOHIM, 'a young bull as a sin offering.
20 You are to take its blood and put it on the four horns of the altar, on the four corners of the ledge and on the molding all the way around; this is how you will purify it and make atonement for it. 21 You are also to take the bull which is the sin offering and have it burned up at the designated place [on the grounds] of the house, outside the sanctuary. 22 On the second day you are to offer a male goat without defect as a sin offering, and they are to purify the altar as they purified it with the bull. 23 When you have finished purifying it, you are to offer a young bull without defect and a ram from the flock without defect. 24 You are to present them before ADONAI, and the cohanim will throw salt on them and offer them as a burnt offering to ADONAI.
25 Every day, for seven days, you are to prepare a goat as a sin offering; they are also to prepare a young bull and a ram from the flock without defect. 26 For seven days, they are to make atonement for the altar and cleanse it; in this way they are to consecrate it. 27 When these days are over, then, on the eighth day and afterwards, the cohanim will present your burnt offerings on the altar and your peace offerings; and I will accept you,' says Adonai ELOHIM."
Consecration is directly associated with us, as well! After all, what is "being set apart" for if not to "serve YHWH"? If YHWH did not want Aharon or his sons in His presence until they were fully consecrated, then what makes us think He wants us in His presence in our unholy condition of our filthy daily lives? We must make an effort to keep ourselves clean in mind, spirit, actions, and surroundings if we expect YHWH to welcome us in His presence.