Parashas Tetzaveh, Part 2

The last section of this week’s parashah deals with the golden altar for offering the holy incense (ketores). The last verse of the parashah reads as follows (Shemos 30:10): “Aharon shall bring atonement upon its horns once a year [on Yom Kippur – see Vayikra 16:18–19]; from the blood of the sin-offering of the atonements, once a year, shall he bring atonement upon it for your generations – it is holy of holies unto Hashem.”
The Midrash remarks (Yalkut Shimoni, Tetzaveh, end):
“Aharon shall bring atonement upon its horns ….” And juxtaposed to this (Shemos 30:12, at the beginning of parashas Ki Sissa): “When you take a head count (ki sissa es rosh) [of the Children of Israel] ….” In regard to this it is written (Mishlei 10:20): “The tongue of the righteous is choice silver.” This alludes to the Holy One Blessed Be He, Who [carefully] chose his language and said to Moshe “ki sissa.”
The point of language here is that the Hebrew phrase “ki sissa es rosh,” which refers literally to a census – a head count – can also be rendered as “when you raise up the heads.” We have to understand what the message behind this choice of language is. We will present the Maggid’s explanation, as given in his commentary on the parashah in Ohel Yaakov.
The Maggid begins with another Midrash on this week’s parashah, Shemos Rabbah 38:1. The Midrash applies to Aharon and his sons the following verse (Tehillim 119:89): “For eternity, Hashem, is Your word set in the heavens (ba-shamayim).” The Midrash says that we should read the word ba-shamayim homiletically as ka-shamayim – “like the heavens.” The Maggid connects this Midrash with another Midrash that lists a number of historically prominent figures (Esther Rabbah Pesichta 10). This Midrash notes that Aharon was the head of the line of kohanim. The Maggid explains that the term “head” indicates a point of origin – a source point. Hashem established Aharon as the source of holiness associated with acts of religious service. Just as the sun shines down from the heavens and suffuses the world with light, Aharon’s influence emanates down to all future generations. Aharon is the “holy of holies” – the prime source of holiness.
But Hashem imposed a condition on drawing from Aharon’s influence – we must be worthy of doing so. This is the point behind the juxtaposition of the verse about the Yom Kippur service and the verse beginning with the words “ki sissa.” Hashem was telling Moshe that the people must undergo a process of spiritual elevation in order to tap into the reservoir of holiness that Aharon generated through his service. Let us, then, uplift ourselves, so that we may benefit from this precious legacy.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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