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   by Jacob Solomon

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The Parasha's main concerns are the priests' garments, and the consecration services for the Tabernacle. Its last section, however, reverts full circle to the main theme of the previous Parasha - the Tabernacle - with its detailed instructions of Golden Altar for the twice-daily incense offering. This Altar was not the main one, but much smaller, placed right by the partition separating the Holies and the Holy of Holies (30:6). And the Parasha concludes by relating the Golden Altar to another, less frequent, practice - the Tabernacle (and later, Temple) service on Yom Kippur:

Aaron shall bring atonement upon (the Golden Altar's) horns once a year… from the… sin offering of the Atonement… once a year throughout your generations; it is the Holy of Holies to G-d (30:10).

Thus the final verse of this Parasha dealing with the Tabernacle relates to Yom Kippur, whose details are outlined in Leviticus 16 (c.f. verses 2, 29, and 34). The directives for the building of the Tabernacle are crowned with a powerful link to the Yom Kippur service. There, the High Priest enters the Holy of Holies with the special ceremonies on the Golden Altar immediately outside. The reason for this sudden, 'seasonal' change in direction may be as follows:

After describing the Yom Kippur service in detail, the text declares:

This day shall atone and purify you. You will be cleansed from all your sins before G-d (Lev. 16:30).

The Sforno writes that special abstinences of Yom Kippur combine with High Priest-conducted special Temple service of that day to achieve atonement (for individuals, and for the nation as a whole). The Yom Kippur Temple service and its exclusive offerings and ceremonies may only cause His pardoning of our sins if people improve themselves and become worthy of His Forgiveness. That only happens where people sincerely repent - 'before G-d' - it is He that knows our true thoughts. And even then, Yom Kippur covers offences that are 'before G-d' - sins not affecting our relationships with other people. The sins that do are only waived after doing one's best to put the situation right.

It is the final connection with Yom Kippur that gives a new slant to the purpose of the Tabernacle, and indeed the synagogue. Our traditions are not vested in buildings per se - however beautiful they may be. The Tabernacle and its associated artifacts and garments did not just stand for 'honor and glory' (28:2), but for the 'still small voice' (c.f. Kings I 19:12-13) given in the form of hint (for the cognoscenti) at the end of a Parasha that one must constantly examine one's shortcomings and strive to do better: in the spirit of Yom Kippur.

Perhaps that is why the opening verses of the next Parasha deal with the final artifact - the laver and its stand (30:17-21) - the washing symbolizing the spiritual new start at the termination of Yom Kippur…

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site:

Also by Jacob Solomon:
From the Prophets on the Haftara

Test Yourself - Questions and Answers


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