In Essays

Parsha Tetzaveh | Dress to Impress and Slaughter Your Bull

Photo by Denis Oliveira on Unsplash

Explore Jewish heritage with an amateur Jew’s commentary on Parsha Tetzaveh, Exodus 27:20 – 30:10. Click here to read last week’s, Parsha Terumah.

I have to be honest. The Torah is starting to drag for me, and as a result, I’m starting to get behind on my Parsha writing. This is the first entry that hasn’t been posted before the Parsha would’ve been read in its current cycle.

To be fair, I was in Greece for a week. I did read the Parsha before going, took some notes, and started writing, but just couldn’t muster the energy (or interest) to get something posted before leaving. But had it been an interesting Parsha or at least surrounded by more interesting Parshas in the Torah, maybe I would’ve gotten something out. Alas, I’m left playing a little bit of catchup, forcing myself to hammer this out when I’d much rather be working on another project. Just being honest, Torah. Please don’t smite me.

Anywho, Parsha Tetzaveh starts with God appointing Aaron (Moses’s brother) as a priest. He then describes in needlepoint detail how Aaron should be dressed. Here’s what Aaron must rock: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a fringed tunic, a headdress, and a sash.

I’ll give God this much; His wardrobe sounds comfy.

I’ve read/listened to some commentary on how the text is about how you should present yourself for certain occasions. This, to me, seems like another example of the rabbis and other interpreters really wringing the text for meaning. I’m not saying it isn’t there, but the lessons––if that’s really what it is––just doesn’t resonate with me in the same way as, for instance, Joseph preparing Egypt for the famine when he could’ve prepared for helping his neighbors, too.

Then we get plenty of instructions on how to perform ritual slaughter. “Cut up the ram into sections, wash its entrails and legs, and put them with its quarters and its head. Turn all of the ram into smoke upon the altar. It is a burnt offering to the Lord, a pleasing odor, an offering by fire to the Lord.”

This “pleasing odor” business comes up a few times in this Parsha. If He wanted a pleasing odor, couldn’t He have just gotten some incense at whatever the Bed, Bath, and Beyond of the day was? Also, why does He need a pleasing odor? What smells is He trying to cover up? This is when I can’t help but picture Jim Carrey’s Ace Ventura wafting his arm after coming out of the bathroom: Do NOT go in there!

I imagine from this we could get a lesson on how promoting certain scents in your environment (like burning incense) can change the ambiance or vibe of your surroundings. I haven’t heard the take, but I’m sure it’s out there. If nothing else, I’ve learned that the Bible can be twisted to find meaning for just about anything. Cynics will immediately think of religious extremism, but it’s done for the boring bits, too, like this Parsha on how to dress to impress and slaughter your bull.

Onward with Parsha Ki Tisa.

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