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This week is a double portion, Parshiyot Vayakhel and Pekudei, where we read of the construction of the Tabernacle and the priestly garments. While reading through this section of Scripture, it is interesting to note how the priestly garments were constructed using “mixed threads.” When we hear the phrase “mixed threads” we are generally reminded of two places in the Torah, Vayikra / Leviticus 19:19 You are to keep My statutes. You shall not breed together two kinds of your cattle; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together. (NASB) and Devarim / Deuteronomy 22:11 You shall not wear a material mixed of wool and linen together. (NASB) When we read these Scriptures using modern eyes, it is difficult to understand why the Lord made such an odd prohibition? The point of this commandment however is very practical in its application. Within the cultural and ancient context, this mitzvah had a perfectly logical reasoning. In order to understand this, it is important to pay close attention to the construction of the Tabernacle and the priestly garments. Both the priestly garments and the tabernacle weaving were a combination of wool and linen (see Shemot / Exodus 39:2). The priest’s white undergarment was linen, and the brightly colored vestment was wool. Taking this into consideration, why do you think the Lord gave the prohibition to not wear cloths with mixed threads? The interpretation may follow in parallel fashion as to the fragrant incense as we spoke of last week in Parashat Ki Tisa. This mitzvah against wearing cloths containing mixed threads was for the laypersons, where the prohibition was to prevent the common person from dressing in the same way as the priests. A similar prohibition for mixtures was from the same rationale, with the blending of aromatic spices for the use in the anointing oil (Shemot / Exodus 30:33). The distinctive fragrance would mark whatever it anointed as holy, set apart for God’s special purposes. In addition, this incense was only burned at the Tabernacle and when one would present himself before God, having smelled the fragrant incense, he would have been led to repentance. The incense effected the heart, and the heart would be purified of all the evil thoughts and from the defilement of the evil urge which is described by the rabbis as the “base animalistic drive of man.” Because of the incense, the heart would come to a state of Teshuvah before God, and as a result, the incense is said to be able to “break the power of the other side” so as to cause the one bringing the offering to make his heart right before God. In the case of the wearing of mixed threads, we are instructed to be careful what we wear, what we put on for others to see. We are also to be careful not to put on a show for others and especially before God Rashbam on Shemot / Exodus 20:8 Part 1 states the following, “זכור את יום השבת, remembering something always refers to past events. Deuteronomy 32:7-8 “remember past history, etc.” Exodus 13:3 as well as Deuteronomy 9:7-8 plus numerous other verses exhort the Jewish people to remember events in the past. In the Ten Commandments, the expressions zachor here and shamor in the parallel legislation in Deuteronomy are in the infinitive mode. Seeing that both are followed immediately by the command לקדשו “to sanctify it,” (the Sabbath) this makes an imperative of the whole paragraph. The Torah, in a way, commands us to “commemorate” something which G’d had done long before there was a legislation to observe the Sabbath as a day of rest.” Rashbam speaks of the Shabbat, but makes a very important observation that the legislation of the command is meant to be a reminder for our lives. This was the point of the layperson being given the command to wear tzitzit (see Bamidbar / Numbers 15:38 and Devarim / Deuteronomy 22:12) This was also the point and the purpose of these commands which lead us to understand that our hearts and our lives are not for general use, but are sacred, holy, and righteous. Parshiot Vayak’hel speaks of the construction of the Tabernacle and the priestly garments. We are told the priestly garments were not just a combination of wool and linen, but also included threads of gold. The priestly garments weaved in threads of gold which is described as tahor (clean and pure). This has a direct relation to our lives and the Torah as God’s instruction should lead us to repentance on a daily basis, and consequentially to the Messiah Yeshua. These Scriptures speak of a clear and practical teaching on how to be led by the Spirit and to recognize and respond to the spirit’s leading in our lives. Let’s discuss this further in this week’s Torah portion.

 

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