June 20, 2024
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Parshat Tetzaveh

The haftarah selection for this week’s parsha is somewhat unique, as most of the haftarot of parshiyot connected to the construction of the Mishkan are taken from those perakim that discuss the building of the first Beit Hamikdash by Shlomo Hamelech. This week, however, the haftarah is taken from Sefer Yechezkel, which describes the navi’s vision of the third Beit Hamikdash. In the final nine chapters of Sefer Yechezkel the navi details the magnificence of Bayit Shlishi, the Beit HaMikdash that would be built during the Messianic era. This week’s haftarah, taken from the 43rd perek of that book, focuses upon the obligation to build the Mikdash precisely as described by the prophet and ends with a detailing of the ritual that would be followed during the Chanukat HaMizbe’ach, the inaugural service of the outer mizbeach. It is this section of the haftarah that creates yet another connection to our parsha in which we also read of the ritual to be followed during the seven inaugural days of the newly constructed Mishkan.

Although our rabbis were troubled by some of Yechezkel’s descriptions of the laws and the service in this “Messianic Mikdash,” as they seemed to conflict with the laws found in the Torah regarding the avoda (the Temple service) and the kohanim, they nonetheless chose this selection—perhaps because it completes a triad of readings: the parshat hashavua, which discusses the construction of the Mishkan, the haftarah read for the last parsha of Terumah (when it does not coincide with any of the four special maftir readings), which details Shlomo’s efforts in building the First Temple, and this haftarah, which highlights the future Beit HaMikdash.

Yet, beyond the obvious differences between the description given in the parsha and those given in the haftarah, there is also a subtle difference that we could easily overlook—but should not. HaRav Yehuda Shaviv, z”l, turns our attention to the stated obligation of the people regarding the holy altar, the mizbeach. In the Torah the Israelites are commanded “v’kidashta oto,”to sanctify the mizbeach, while the haftarah tells us that the job of the Jews in the future would be “v’tiharta oto,” to purify the mizbeach. Quite beautifully, Rav Shaviv explains that the desert generation had just witnessed the great theophany at Har Sinai and stood upon a level of holiness rarely achieved by any human being. The purpose of the Mishkan, therefore, was to eternalize that experience and, by so doing, to raise the nation from their profane existence to one of constant sanctity.

The Jews of the future, however, would be those who had just left the Diaspora, a life lived in an atmosphere of impurity and contamination. It became the function of that generation, therefore, to first bring the nation out of that state of contamination and into the state of purity. And lest one believe that the future Temple would, therefore, be less regarded, Rav Shaviv reminds us of the rabbinic dictum (Brachot 34b) that the level upon which penitents stand cannot be reached—even by the completely righteous ones.

How fortunate that we have the opportunity to read this haftarah and remember that, despite the trials and tribulations we had to undergo throughout our history, despite the challenges and the failures, we are confident that, in the end, we will emerge triumphant, purified by the future Beit Hamikdash and standing on an even higher plane than the tzaddikim of the preceding generations.


Rabbi Neil Winkler is the rabbi emeritus of the Young Israel of Fort Lee, and now lives in Israel.

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