Weekly Torah Section: Tetzaveh Exodus 27:20-30:10, Haftorah: Ezekiel 43:10-27
The story of Purim is told through the scroll of Esther. First, as most of you know, there was much discussion when the cannon was being formed as to whether to include the book of Esther or not. Do you know why? The name of G-d is never mentioned in the book. It is implied but not specifically mentioned.
What I want to talk about concerning the book of Esther is connected with our present world and how good and evil are perceived. We live in a world that okays the killing of the unborn, suicide bombers are looked at and praised as heroes and martyrs. Israel’s fence is condemned but the one built on our border with Mexico is a good idea. Situational ethics holds sway in our world. The line between good and evil has become blurred or erased all together. I think the story of Purim has something to teach us on this.
Let us start in the garden of delight or the Garden of Eden. In the beginning, in Genesis 3:11, G-d rebukes Adam and Eve for eating from the tree of knowledge. Interestingly the Hebrew word Haman appears here in this verse exactly as it does in the book of Esther. It appears in verse 11 of Genesis 3 between G-d and man. What was the actual problem here in Genesis? Surely it was not a prohibition against knowledge. In Proverbs wisdom is praised. This could not mean G-d is against knowledge per se. Rather, I think here the problem was that G-d was forbidding knowledge of good and evil in that we are not allowed to decide, on our own, what is good and what is evil. That decision is G-d’s alone. Good and evil must be decided by a higher authority.
So now, to the story of Esther. First in Esther 1:11 the king wants his queen to come before a drunken mob (in Hebrew she is described as good to look at). Queen Vasthi refused. In Esther 1:19 it was deemed good to banish her for her refusal to appear. These decisions were seen as good by the king. In Esther 2:4 the king adopts a system to choose a new queen. He does so based on their appearance. And again the word good is used for this decision. As the king has started down this road of blurring the line between good and evil along comes Haman. In Esther 3:11 the king accepts Haman’s proposal to wipe the Jewish people out and take their possessions because it seemed good to him. He thought that it was a good idea to wipe out a people and take their possessions In Esther 5:14 when Haman makes his plans to kill Mordecai again it seemed good to him to murder this man. Compromise becomes a slippery slope and we find it hard to turn back once we start down that slope.
What is interesting is that in all these terrible plans by the king and Haman the word evil never appears. In fact it is not until Esther 7:6 when Esther reveals the truth and exposes evil for what it is does the word appear. In English the word is not translated as it is in Hebrew, Ra, which is evil. Instead in English the word used is wicked. Esther then goes on in Esther 8:5 to set good back in the proper place. So, this book teaches us a great deal about good and evil. We must filter the events of this world and our own actions not by what we think is right but by what G-d has to say in His word. He is the authority not you and I.
Now quickly to the Torah section. Why does this section, which is devoted to the priests, their duties and clothing, start with two verses about the lamp stand? It would seem to be here to remind us that Israel was to be a light to the nations and Yeshua as Priest in the heavenly temple bears the light of G-d.
The three descriptive words concerning the priestly garment states they were to be, holy, for glory and splendor. What do these words mean? Holy – set apart, only to be used by the priest. The garments were to be completely dedicated to G-d. In I Cor. 6:12-20 our bodies are described as the temple of the Holy Spirit. As such we are holy twenty four hours a day. Glory in Hebrew is Kaved – which can mean heavy. These garments are heavy with the characteristics of G-d. As people saw the priest they would grasp some of the glory of G-d. Splendor – These garments were to add the beauty or splendor of G-d. The priestly garments contained the same five colors of the Mishkan (tabernacle). These colors connected the priests with the tabernacle.
Situational ethics had no place in the priest’s life. He was to represent G-d faithfully before the people. It couldn’t be one thing today and something else tomorrow. We as adopted sons must also live our lives like this. Twenty-four hours every day, not dependent upon who we are with or what we think but to follow G-d completely.