Torah Notes March 2012
March Torah Notes
Here is just a taste of the Torah you can look forward to in the month ahead. For the real thing, be sure to join us each Shabbat morning at 9 am in the Library for a lively discussion of the meaning and implications of the weekly portion. All are welcome. No previous experience required.
March 3 Tetzaveh Exodus 28:31-29:18
We learn in this week’s parasha about the Ner Tamid, the eternal light, and the priests’ special clothing. Then we are told of the consecration ceremony for the priesthood. Tikvah Frymer-Kensky teaches that Tetzaveh “presents us Aaron and the priests as part of the sanctuary, as the bearers of its purpose.” She goes on to explain that God’s sanctuary cannot stand empty for the purpose of the Tabernacle is to bring humans into contact with God. Aaron and the priests are the people’s representatives. But coming into contact with the most holy is fraught with danger. Aaron, the High Priest, must be properly prepared and protected from uncontained holiness. Contact with pure holiness results in instantaneous death. Like a spacesuit, Aaron must wear a “holysuit” that allows him to endure what humans normally could not. This parasha teaches that we come into the realm of holiness only in the “holysuit” God gives us.
March 10 Ki Tissa Exodus 31:18-33:11
This portion of the Torah begins with God’s instruction to Moses to collect a half-shekel from every one over 20 years of age when he takes a census of the people. The skilled artisan, Betzalel, is appointed as the chief supervisor over the making of all the sanctuary furnishings and even the priestly garments. God reminds Moses of the importance of Shabbat, which celebrates the covenant between God and Israel. Our attention then focuses on what has been transpiring at the foot of the mountain while Moses is learning the Torah. Moses comes down the mount carrying the two tablets with the commandments. When he sees the people dancing around a golden calf they have made, he smashes the tablets in anger. Moses, worried that God will abandon the people, asks for and receives a sign from God that God will not depart. God directs Moses to return to Mt. Sinai and carve two new tablets. The portion ends with commandments regarding Passover, Shavuot and Shabbat. When Moses returns to the people after the second 40 days on Mt. Sinai, his face is glowing and radiant.
March 17 VaYakhel-Pekudei Exodus 37:17-39:21
We read a double portion this week so that we complete the entire Torah reading during the year.
Va’Yakhel repeats the commandments to observe the Shabbat, placing special emphasis on not doing any work on that day. Moses then asks the Israelites to donate precious gifts for the building of the tabernacle. Moses appoints Betzalel and Oholiab, skilled artisans, to oversee the construction of the tabernacle. Moses learns that the people are bringing too many gifts and they have to be told to stop bringing donations. Work then begins on the mishkan.
Pikudei describes the records kept of all the work and materials used in the construction of the mishkan, as well as all the donations given by the Israelites. When the mishkan is completed, Moses and the Israelites celebrate by anointing it. God’s Presence fills the sanctuary and leads the people throughout their journeys. With this Torah portion, the Book of Exodus comes to a close. Chazak, Chazak v’nitchazek. Be strong, be strong and let us be strengthened by one another.
March 24 VaYikra Leviticus 3:1-4:26
The Book of Leviticus begins here with the Torah portion VaYikra, which describes the five different kinds of sacrifices to be offered in the sanctuary. The sacrifices include: olah/burnt offering, minchah/meal offering, zevach shelamim/offering of well-being, chatat/sin offering, and asham/guilt offering. The manner in which each offering is to be made is described in detail.
March 31 Tzav Leviticus 7:11-38 Shabbat HaGadol
Shabbat HaGadol (the Great Shabbat) is the Shabbat just prior to Passover and takes its name from the special Haftarah of Micah, which speaks of the great and awesome final redemption. Even before we tell of our redemption from Egypt in the past, we look forward to the final redemption, which will be heralded by Elijah the prophet.
The Torah portion Tzav expands on the various sacrificial offerings discussed last week in Vayikra. Details are given as to how the offerings were performed. The ordination of Aaron and his sons as priests and the dedication of the first sanctuary is also described.