Shmuel Polin
ניט מיט שעלטן/לאַכן קען מען די וועלט איבערמאַכן

Parshas Tetzaveh, Haftorah and Shabbos Zachor


Before we enter into this week, let us remember the messages of Shabbos Zachor. In a few days we will read in our Megillah how the enemies of the Jewish people sought our destruction in Persia.

Every year we remember when our enemies sought to eliminate us.

Every year brings a new Haman.

The Amalekites are not yet gone.

May next year be the year our vision of no hate, no bigotry, and no anti-Semitism is fulfilled.


Tetzaveh drash

This week we read in Parshas Tetzaveh of G-d telling Moses and Aaron some of the more elaborate details of how they may tend to the everlasting flame of the menorah, which Aaron will tend from morning to evening.

Afterwards, the priestly garments of the kohanim are described in great length. The colors the plates, threads and linens are described. “Ornate” or even “royal” are words that come to mind when describing the priestly clothing. It sets them apart. They are beginning an important chapter in the formation of their function and identity.

Included in this chapter are detailed instructions on the seven-day initiation of Aaron and his four sons, Nadav, Avihu, Eleazer and Itamar. The instructions also required the sons to build an altar for incense.

Take note, in these sections the indulgences of the priestly cloth come only after a commitment is made to feed the everlasting flame. One commitment is unfulfilled without a commitment to the other. May these messages resonate with us moving into this week’s reading.

Haftorah drash

Ezekiel 43:10–27.

In this week’s haftorah, the prophet Ezekiel describes a vision of a new temple and alter in Jerusalem. Ezekiel described the divine retribution of the misgiving, for Israel was to blame for the temple’s destruction. He recounted to the Jewish people his vision, and he hoped it would make them ashamed of the deeds that caused the temple’s destruction. He specifically states, “And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, let them know the form of the House and its scheme, its exits and its entrances, and all its forms, and all its laws and all its teachings….”  Ezekiel then describes his vision of the temple at length. Following this, Ezekiel’s vision also describes the altar of the temple. The alter described parallels our description of the alter from this week’s parsha. Both descriptions seem to mimic one another at points.

However, the similarities extend beyond this. In his vision, Ezekiel not only describes in detail the new temple’s altar, he also describes its seven-day inauguration ceremony and the offerings that will be brought each day of that special week. In many ways, the seven-day inauguration ceremony also parallels the seven-day initiation of Aaron and his four sons in this week’s parsha.

What meaning may we derive from this? For most progressive Jews, these visions are fundamentally juxtaposed to the message of our movements. I am not going to pretend the verses are anything less than problematic.

However, I would like to suggest we need texts like this. We need to read them because they are problematic. Our interaction with the text is critical because of our tendencies against sacrifices and animal cruelty. These texts help ground us in progressive movements. They remind us why we are who we are. Sometimes we need a reminder. This week’s haftorah could not be more relevant to this.

About the Author
Shmuel Polin is a fourth-year rabbinical student at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR). A Greater Philadelphia/New Jersey native, he completed his B.A. at American University in Washington D.C. where he studied Jewish Studies and International Studies. He also completed both an M.A. in Holocaust and Genocide Studies and an M.A. in Jewish Studies from Gratz College of Melrose Park, Pennsylvania. His thesis focused on the depiction of European antisemitism in 1930's-1940's American and foreign cinema. Shmuel has years of experience of teaching Hebrew School at Kehillat HaNahar of New Hope, Pennsylvania, leading as a student rabbi at Beth Boruk Temple (Richmond, Indiana) and Temple Israel (Paducah, Kentucky), and also working for Israeli non-governmental organizations. Currently living in Cincinnati, he is finishing up his studies at HUC-JIR, while serving as the rabbinic intern of Adath Israel and as the student rabbi of Beth Boruk Temple.
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