Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
  LifeLine
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Tetzaveh

by Rabbi Yaakov Menken


"And you shall make an Altar, a place to burn incense; you shall make it from acacia wood." [30:1]

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, zt"l, notes that the other articles in the Tabernacle were described in the previous parsha, Terumah, whereas the Incense Altar is only mentioned here. This is even more puzzling because still later, in Vayakhel and Pikudei (the final weekly readings of the Book of Exodus), the Torah tells us that Betzalel, the inspired craftsman, made this Altar, and then made the Altar for sacrifices - and similarly, G-d commanded Moshe to have the Incense Altar and Sacrificial Altar brought into the Tabernacle, in that order. If the Incense Altar was to be constructed first, why was the command given so much later?

Clearly, the Torah "waited" to mention this Altar for a reason. Rabbi Feinstein says that G-d was waiting until Aaron was designated the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest, before mentioning the Altar. This, Rabbi Feinstein explains, is because of the lessons we can learn from the smell of the Incense - and how they relate to Jewish leadership.

The smell of the incense used in the Tabernacle and then the Temple was quite powerful, and one could detect the scent a long distance away. The Talmud in Tractate Tamid says that they could smell the incense from the Temple as far away as Yericho.

Secondly, odors - whether good or bad - come upon a person even against his will. One can look away from something, but it is hard to avoid a scent without moving away from it. The Talmud in Tractate Pesachim discusses the prohibition against deriving pleasure from idolatry, and the Sages argue whether a person violates this prohibition if the smell of incense (offered to idols) comes into the room, and s/he doesn't leave - even without any intention of going closer to the smell.

Finally, certain smells are like an early warning system - such as the smell of spoiled food, or, for that matter, the unique odor of melting silicon which is part and parcel of our electronic era. A perceptive person must be on the alert, ready to respond to the signals provided by these scents.

Rabbi Feinstein says that a Jewish leader must have three similar attributes. First of all, he must be able to influence his students even when they are far away. His reach should be so powerful that he motivates them even against their will. And finally, he himself must be alert and perceptive, knowing which directions are appropriate and positive. To mix metaphors, the Talmud in Tractate Tamid says, "Who is wise? He who sees the likely outcome of events (literally: that which will be born)."

This explains why the Torah waited for the designation of Aaron as High Priest before mentioning this Altar. Furthermore, it explains why the actual construction and installation took precedence over the Sacrificial Altar - because the quality of a positive influence over others, encouraging them to move upward, is far more significant than merely performing obligatory sacrifices!

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Yaakov Menken


 






ARTICLES ON HAAZINU AND ELUL / ROSH HASHANAH:

View Complete List

Let the King Be Proud
Rabbi Chaim Flom - 5767

Focusing Our Prayers
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5760

Found Innocent
Rabbi Label Lam - 5763

ArtScroll

Rav Gedaliah Schorr on Revealed and Hidden Manifestations of G-d
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5767

An Ear For Teshuvah
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5760

The Bond that Ties - Prayer
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5756

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Joyful Service
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5761

The Shofar: A Wake-Up Call
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5755

Gentle Wake-Up Call
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5760

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Month of Elul: The Power of Repentance
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5758

The Uniqueness Of Rosh HaShana
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5771

To Hear and To See
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5765

> Judge Me Tender, Judge Me Sweet
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5760

A Slice of Time with Honey on the Side
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5757

The Healer Is On-Call
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5770

Those are the Questions?
Rabbi Label Lam - 5765



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information