When the Torah gives instructions about the building of the Mishkan, it usually uses words like “VeAsu,” “VeAsita” and “Taaseh,” which are fairly indirect commands all meaning “and make.” However, in our Parashah, different wording is used. For example, the Pesukim of “VeAtah Tetzaveh Et B’nai Yisrael VeYikchu Eilecha Shemen Zayit Zach,” “And you shall command B’nai Yisrael, and they shall take for you pure olive oil (Shemot 27:20), “VeAtah Hakrev Eilecha Et Aharon Achicha,” “And you, bring near to yourself Aharon your brother” (28:1), and “VeAtah TiDaber El Kol Chachmei Lev…VeAsu Et Bigdei Aharon,” “And you shall speak to all the wise hearted people…and they shall make the clothing of Aharon” (28:3) all use the more direct language of “VeAtah…,” “and you…”. Why does Hashem directly command Moshe regarding gathering oil for the Menorah, appointing the Kohen Gadol, and preparing the Bigdei Kehunah? What makes these tasks so important that Moshe is specified as the only one capable of performing them?
Rav Elchanan Sorotzkin says that since these three objects represent essential parts of Judaism, therefore Moshe, the leader of the Jewish people, needs to do them. The oil represents the light of Torah which is constantly bathing the world with its pure light. Just as the oil of the Menorah has to be sealed by the Kohen Gadol, a spiritual leader, to attest to its purity, so too the Torah has to be completely free of outside influences which might interfere with its purity. The Torah here is telling us that Torah learning should always be done under the supervision of a Torah leader of B’nai Yisrael.
The next commandment to personally appoint the Kohen Gadol is symbolic of the appointment of Torah leaders from generation to generation within B’nai Yisrael. Since the Torah must remain unadulterated, its leaders must remain pure as well. This is evidenced by the Kohanim Gedolim who purchased their position during the late period of the second Beit HaMikdash, causing tremendous spiritual damage. These Kohanim were not appointed by people like Moshe, but by corrupt leaders who were not dedicated to Torah values. Here the Torah is highlighting the terrible outcomes that will occur if B’nai Yisrael’s Torah leaders do not remain committed to Hashem. Therefore, Hashem by asking Moshe, His most loyal servant, to appoint the Kohen Gadol, the precedent was set of keeping the leadership pure.
The last job assigned to Moshe is the preparation of the Kohen’s clothing. Just as Korbanot atone for our sins, the clothing of a Kohen atones for us as well. If a Kohen lacks the proper clothing, he is disqualified from performing the service in the Mishkan. This emphasis on the clothing teaches us the importance of wearing the proper clothing in our lives. We have to wear the clothes that identify us as Jewish: Kippah, Tzitzit, and Tefillin. If we don’t wear these, we disqualify ourselves from being able to properly learn Torah.
This parshah also includes the commandment of remembering Amalek – the nation that needlessly attacked B’nai Yisrael in the desert. Because of the attack, Hashem commanded us to eradicate the nation of Amalek both physically and mentally. The Torah conveys that Hashem will also eliminate the memory of Amalek from the world in the Pasuk, “VaYomer Hashem El Moshe Ketov Zot Zikaron BaSeifer VeSim BeOznei Yehoshua Ki Macho Emcheh Et Zecher Amalek MiTachat HaShamayim” “Hashem said to Moshe, ‘write this in the book and relay it to Yehoshua because I will erase the memory of Amalek from under the heavens” (Shemot 17:14).
Rav Nachum Mordechai Friedman asks that if God joins us in this endeavor to forget Amalek, why has it become so difficult to defeat Amalek and other nations similar to it? He explains that it is a two-sided agreement between God and us. Hashem will erase the memory of Amalek by physically destroying the nation and other similar nations only if we, the Jewish people, destroy the internal “Amalek,” our evil inclinations and Yeitzer HaRah. Once we destroy our internal bad, God can destroy our external and physical enemies.
Prepared by Devorah Abenhaim