Tezaveh (You Shall Command) – Exodus 27:20 – 30:10
This week’s portion begins with the end of Exodus chapter 27 and includes the instructions for Aaron and their priests in their worship roles — their clothes, the sanctification process they will go through, and some instruction regarding the altar, the incense altar and the “tent of meeting.” It is the instruction with regard to this “tent” that I would like to focus on this week.
In discussing the regular daily sacrifice, Scripture refers to the place where it will be brought: “at the entrance to the ‘tent of meeting’ before G-d that I will meet with you there to speak to you there. And I will meet there with the Children of Israel and it will be sanctified in my glory.” (Exodus 29:43-44). I have purposely placed the words “tent of meeting” in quotations, because it is the translation of these words that I want to discuss.
The actual Hebrew words for tent of meeting are “Ohel Moed.” Ohel means tent and Moed usually means time. In fact, it is this same word that is used to introduce the festivals of G-d in Leviticus 23:4: “These are the times of G-d, to be considered holy, which you will call them in their times.” In essence, however, the word “moed” has been used to refer to the holidays and is interchangeable with the word for festival. From the verse in Leviticus, therefore, we see that the word Moed really means time, but it is used to refer to festivals.
In the scripture in our portion, however, the word is also used to denote meeting, as the end of verse 42 and verse 43 make clear, for the words for meeting, come from the same root as moed.
Clearly, then, there is a connection between these words — meeting, time and festival. And the whole concept of “Ohel Moed” or the tent of meeting encompasses all of these meanings.
Ohel Moed is in the Tabernacle and it is the place where G-d and the Jewish people meet. It is where G-d speaks to Moses, and it is where sacrifices are brought to G-d by the priests on behalf of the people of Israel. And these sacrifices are brought at specified times. And the festivals occur at specified dates and times.
Meeting G-d, it seems, is intimately involved with time. It is not a chance meeting, but one that is determined by G-d, according to His time and at the place of His choosing. In fact, the word meeting itself is a word that tends to denote time, place and connectedness between two people. In this case, meeting G-d refers to time (at His choosing, or during the festivals), place (Tabernacle) and connectedness (meeting between G-d and His people.)
Interestingly, the word Moed, or festival, has also been adopted to refer to the newly created holiday of Israel Independence day. On that holiday, we greet each other with the traditional greeting of “happy Moed” or happy holiday. In doing so, perhaps we recognize that the creation of the state of Israel was not just a happy occasion, but an occasion where G-d and His people meet — on the holy ground of the Land of Israel, where we walk together, G-d and His people, through miraculous occurrences towards the ultimate redemption.
What an amazing thought contained in just one word!
Shabbat Shalom From Samaria,
Director, Israel Office