Some of you have probably yawned your way through the last few parashahs. The thing is, the more we study Torah, the more we realize that we are provided so many "mundane" details about the Tabernacle and all the work that went into it because, in part, it was YHWH's way of revealing Himself to us. Every little detail, including the various colors had special meaning. Everything concerning YHWH's people and their Tabernacle and the items in the Tabernacle were designed to be "set apart" and holy. Here's an example:
Exodus 39: 22 He made the robe for the ritual vest; it was woven entirely of blue, 23 with its opening in the middle, like that of a coat of mail, and with a border around the opening, so that it wouldn't tear. 24 On the bottom hem they made pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet, and woven linen; 25 and they made bells of pure gold, and put the bells between the pomegranates all the way around the hem of the robe - between the pomegranates, 26 that is, bell, pomegranate, bell, pomegranate, all the way around the hem of the robe for service - as ADONAI had ordered Moshe.
27 They made the tunics of finely woven linen for Aharon and his sons, 28 the turban of fine linen, the splendid headgear of fine linen, the linen shorts, 29 and the sash of finely woven linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, the work of a weaver in colors - as ADONAI had ordered Moshe. 30 They made the ornament for the holy turban of pure gold; wrote on it the words, "Set apart for ADONAI," like the engraving on a seal; 31 and tied a blue cord on it to fasten it to the front of the turban - as ADONAI had ordered Moshe.
So, what changed over the years? Where and how did "set apart" end up being "flashy" and "all about us" (i.e., many churches today)? For instance, while my husband and I were members of a Messianic synagogue years ago, some female pastor set up her church in the strip mall next to us. Being a "good neighbor" she sent our tiny congregation a written invitation to attend her "grand opening."
The first thing one noticed upon entering the place was a large, brightly-lit cross that reached from floor to ceiling, surrounded by huge statues of angels (many were obviously "female" angels which we found strange because according to the Scriptures there are no female angels....).
The place was decorated in gold and white (including the pastor's "throne" and the fenced-in area that held an entire orchestra); and the curtains were made of heavy, wine-colored material that must have cost a small fortune. Naturally, one couldn't have the dregs of society entering this "holy place" and we quickly learned that the required dress for members of the congregation for every service was evening gowns and tuxedos. (They had to look good while they were being paraded to the front of the church, row by row, to drop their checks into the big, gold pot perched there in front of the pastor's throne.) Needless to say, that was the ONLY time I entered that particular church, and I'm very sure that YHWH's Presence has never been there.
Moving on, we continue to get a glimpse of how much the people adored God as they did their best to obey His every command. We're not told about the exact passage of time that it took to build the Tabernacle, but it must have been an extraordinary feat for people who possessed only hand tools. This is what makes the following passage extremely powerful - just put yourself in Moshe's place and try to imagine how he must have felt when the people had accomplished all that ADONAI had ordered:
Exodus 39: 42 The people of Isra'el did all the work just as ADONAI had ordered Moshe. 43 Moshe saw all the work, and-there it was! - they had done it! Exactly as ADONAI had ordered, they had done it. And Moshe blessed them.
WOW! What a spectacular sight it must have been for Moshe! For once, the whole community was "in synch."
Earlier, in Exodus 38:26, we learn the amount of silver given by the community from a total of 603,550 men 20 years old and older. This gives us an idea of the number of people for whom Moshe was responsible, considering that number excluded everyone's wives and children under 20 years of age! (Remember, back then the families were large, as there was no such thing as "birth control.") Just think how difficult it was to communicate orders to a group of this size, in a time when there were no electronic gadgets such as telephones or computers! Everything was by word of mouth either on foot, or via horseback!
It is interesting to note that the Hebrew society celebrated certain points in their lives. For instance, once a man turned "20 years old" he was expected to become a contributing member of society. At age 50, men (specifically the Levites) were expected to retire:
Numbers 1: 2 "Take a census of the entire assembly of the people of Isra'el, by clans and families. Record the names of all the men 3 twenty years old and over who are subject to military service in Isra'el. You and Aharon are to enumerate them company by company.
Numbers 4: 1 ADONAI said to Moshe and Aharon, 2 "Take a census of the descendants of K'hat, who are among the descendants of Levi, by clans and families, 3 all those from thirty to fifty years old; these will enter the corps doing the work in the tent of meeting.
Numbers 8: 24 "Here are instructions concerning the L'vi'im: when they reach the age of twenty-five, they are to begin performing their duties serving in the tent of meeting; 25 and when they reach the age of fifty, they are to stop performing this work and not serve any longer.
What an emotional time it must have been when YHWH's visitation came! Try to put yourself "there" as you read the following:
Exodus 40: 12 "Then bring Aharon and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and wash them with water. 13 Put the holy garments on Aharon, anoint him, and consecrate him, so that he can serve me in the office of cohen. 14 Bring his sons, put tunics on them, 15 and anoint them as you anointed their father, so that they can serve me in the office of cohen. Their anointing will signify that the office of cohen is theirs through all their generations." 16 Moshe did this - he acted in accordance with everything ADONAI had ordered him to do.
There are some interesting things to note about the scripture above: Aaron got to remain YHWH's priest, despite the fact that he participated in making the golden calf (Exodus 32:1-10) - which he had lied about when confronted, suggesting "they" made him do it! YHWH's grace allowed him to continue to be a priest (Exodus 32:21-24) - yet Moshe, as we find out at the end of Torah - didn't get to see the Promised Land, simply because he had been guilty of striking the rock, instead of TALKING to it, as instructed. (See Exodus 33:19 - where YHWH says He would "show favor to whomever I will, and I display mercy to whomever I will")....But let's read on:
Exodus 40: 16 Moshe did this - he acted in accordance with everything ADONAI had ordered him to do. 17 On the first day of the first month of the second year, the tabernacle was set up. 18 Moshe erected the tabernacle, put its sockets in place, put up its planks, put in its crossbars and set up its posts. 19 He spread the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering of the tent above it, as ADONAI had ordered Moshe. 20 He took and put the testimony inside the ark, put the poles on the ark, and set the ark-cover above, on the ark. 21 Then he brought the ark into the tabernacle, set up the curtain as a screen and concealed the ark for the testimony, as ADONAI had ordered Moshe.
22 He put the table in the tent of meeting on the side of the tabernacle facing north, outside the curtain. 23 He arranged a row of bread on it before ADONAI, as ADONAI had ordered Moshe. 24 He put the menorah in the tent of meeting across from the table, on the side of the tabernacle facing south. 25 Then he lit the lamps before ADONAI, as ADONAI had ordered Moshe. 26 He set the gold altar in the tent of meeting in front of the curtain 27 and burned on it incense made from aromatic spices, as ADONAI had ordered Moshe. 28 He set up the screen at the entrance to the tabernacle. 29 The altar for burnt offerings he placed at the entrance to the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, and offered on it the burnt offering and the grain offering, as ADONAI had ordered Moshe.
30 He set the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar and put water in it for washing, 31 so that Moshe and Aharon and his sons could wash their hands and feet there - 32 so that they could wash when entering the tent of meeting and when approaching the altar, as ADONAI had ordered Moshe. 33 Finally, he erected the courtyard around the tabernacle and the altar and set up the screen for the entrance to the courtyard. 34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of ADONAI filled the tabernacle.
35 Moshe was unable to enter the tent of meeting, because the cloud remained on it, and the glory of ADONAI filled the tabernacle. 36 Whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Isra'el continued with all their travels. 37 But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not travel onward until the day when it was taken up. 38 For the cloud of ADONAI was above the tabernacle during the day, and fire was in [the cloud] at night, so that all the house of Isra'el could see it throughout all their travels.
It must have been awesome to experience all this first-hand!
This completes the Book of Exodus. Stern's Complete Jewish Bible contains the following words at the end of each book of the Pentateuch, a traditional citation: Hazak, hazak, v'nit 'chazek! (Be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened!)
Before we leave you today, we would like you to consider reading a passage that was not included in today's readings, but fits right in to show the Glory of YHWH and His awesome power. Take a look at this powerful prayer by King Solomon:
1 Kings 8: 27 "But can God actually live on the earth? Why, heaven itself, even the heaven of heavens, cannot contain you; so how much less this house I have built? 28 Even so, ADONAI my God, pay attention to your servant's prayer and plea, listen to the cry and prayer that your servant is praying before you today, 29 that your eyes will be open toward this house night and day - toward the place concerning which you said, 'My name will be there'- to listen to the prayer your servant will pray toward this place. 30 Yes, listen to the plea of your servant, and also that of your people Isra'el when they pray toward this place. Hear in heaven where you live; and when you hear, forgive!
31 "If a person sins against a fellow member of the community, and he is made to swear under oath, and he comes and swears before your altar in this house; 32 then hear in heaven, act, and judge your servants, condemning the wicked, so that his way of life devolves on his own head, and vindicating the one who is right, giving him what his righteousness deserves. 33 "When your people Isra'el sin against you and in consequence are defeated by an enemy; then if they turn back to you, acknowledge your name, and pray and make their plea to you in this house;
34 hear in heaven, forgive the sin of your people Isra'el, and bring them back to the land you gave to their ancestors. 35 "When they sin against you, and in consequence the sky is shut, so that there is no rain; then, if they pray toward this place, acknowledge your name and turn from their sin when you have brought them low; 36 hear in heaven, forgive the sin of your servants and of your people Isra'el - since you keep teaching them the good way by which they should live - and send down rain on your land, which you have given your people as their inheritance.
37 "If there is famine in the land, or blight, windstorm, mildew, locusts or shearer-worms; or if their enemy comes to the land and besieges them in any of their cities- no matter what kind of plague or sickness it is; 38 then, regardless of what prayer or plea anyone among all your people Isra'el makes - for each individual will know what is plagueing his own conscience - and the person spreads out his hands toward this house; 39 hear in heaven where you live, and forgive, and act, and, since you know what is in each one's heart, give each person what his conduct deserves (because you, and only you, know all human hearts), 40 so that they will fear you throughout the time they live in the land you gave our ancestors.
when he comes from a distant country because of your reputation 42 (for they will hear of your great reputation, your mighty hand and your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house; 43 then hear in heaven where you live, and act in accordance with everything about which the foreigner is calling to you; so that all the peoples of the earth will know your name and fear you, as does your people Isra'el, and so that they will know that this house which I have built bears your name.
44 "If your people go out to fight against their enemy, no matter by which way you send them, and they pray to ADONAI toward the city you chose, toward the house I built for your name; 45 then, in heaven, hear their prayer and plea, and uphold their cause. 46 "If they sin against you - for there is no one who doesn't sin - and you are angry with them and hand them over to the enemy, so that they carry them off captive to the land of their enemy, whether far away or nearby; 47 then, if they come to their senses in the land where they have been carried away captive, turn back and make their plea to you in the land of those who carried them off captive, saying, 'We sinned, we acted wrongly, we behaved wickedly,' 48 if, in the land of their enemies who carried them off captive, they return to you with all their heart and being and pray to you toward their own land, which you gave to their ancestors, toward the city you chose and toward the house I have built for your name;
49 then, in heaven where you live, hear their prayer and plea, uphold their cause, 50 and forgive your people who have sinned against you - forgive their transgressions which they have committed against you, and give them compassion in the sight of their captors, so that they will show compassion toward them; 51 for they are your people, your inheritance, whom you brought out of Egypt, out of the flames of the iron furnace. 52 "May your eyes be open to the plea of your servant and to the plea of your people Isra'el, so that you will hear them whenever they cry out to you. 53 For you made a distinction between them and all the peoples of the earth by making them your inheritance, as you said through Moshe your servant when you brought our ancestors out of Egypt, Adonai ELOHIM."
54 When Shlomo had finished praying all this prayer and plea to ADONAI, he got up from in front of the altar of ADONAI, where he had been kneeling with his hands spread out toward heaven, 55 stood up, and raised his voice to bless the whole community of Isra'el. He said, 56 "Blessed be ADONAI, who has given rest to his people Isra'el, in accordance with everything he promised. Not one word has failed of his good promise, which he made through Moshe his servant. 57 May ADONAI our God be with us, as he was with our ancestors. May he never leave us or abandon us.
58 In this way he will incline our hearts toward him, so that we will live according to his ways and observe his mitzvot, laws and rulings which he ordered our fathers to obey. 59 May these words of mine, which I have used in my plea before ADONAI, be present with ADONAI our God day and night, so that he will uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Isra'el day by day. 60 Then all the peoples of the earth will know that ADONAI is God; there is no other. 61 So be wholehearted with ADONAI our God, living by his laws and observing his mitzvot, as you are doing today."
Oh, what an awesome God we serve!