Tetsaveh (Exodus 27:20 – 30:10)

This week’s Torah portion contains more very detailed instructions, this time concerning the vestments for Aaron and his four sons, who will be the priests; their ordination; and other items the priests will use in their work (the menorah, its olive oil, and an altar for burning incense).  Some commentators wonder why the name of Moses is not mentioned in this portion (he’s only referred to as “you”): the portion is often read during a week including the 7th of Adar, calculated as the date of Moses’s death, so the absence of his name is appropriate symbolically, or maybe a foreshadowing of the time the Children of Israel will have to do without him.  My own opinion is that, since the whole thing is the Lord speaking to Moses, his name is extraneous (like, “Moses, you will tell the Children of Israel to…”).

The vestments, especially for Aaron as High Priest, are very elaborate.  Some of the detail is symbolic, such as the two stones  on which the names of the twelve tribes are carved (in age order), framed in gold and attached to the shoulders of the ephod, or, similarly, the 12 gemstones arranged on the breastplate, again, one per tribe.  [A definition of ephod: “n. A part of the sacerdotal habit among Jews, being a covering for the back and breast, held together on the shoulders by two clasps or brooches of onyx stones set in gold, and fastened by a girdle of the same stuff as the ephod. The ephod for the priests was of plain linen; that for the High Priest was richly embroidered in colors. The breastplate of the High Priest was worn upon the ephod in front.” Source: http://www.lexic.us/definition-of/ephod , which also has lots of pictures related to the vestments].  And the little gold bells around the ephod hem allowed him to be heard when he was alone in the Holy of Holies.  [BTW, this was my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah portion 15 (!) years ago and she got a kick out of the little bells.]

What you wear means a lot.  Your wardrobe broadcasts your identity, your function, even your beliefs.  As I read the description of Aaron’s outfit this year, what came to mind were two wildly contrasting get-ups:  the outfits worn by the Mummers , especially the Fancy Division ((I’m a former Philadelphian – for those who aren’t, there are Fancy, Comic, and String Band Divisions in the New Year’s Day Mummers parade); and the burka (or burqa).  The former is fun.  The latter, when worn by Jewish women and their young daughters to cover them completely except for their eyes, is alarming.  See, e.g., http://blogs.forward.com/sisterhood-blog/129728/  , http://blogs.forward.com/sisterhood-blog/127114/ , and  http://www.viciousbabushka.com/2011/02/jewish-women-wearing-burqa-a-disturbing-trend.html  .   Even haredi (the ultra-stringent sect among the Orthodox) rabbis are alarmed.  Many of these women are described as “newly religious,” which may explain their eagerness to extend the laws of modesty (tz’niut) to an extreme.  But this goes far beyond the enthusiastic ritual punctiliousness typical of newly observant Jews.  This is a distortion of tz’niut in which the women are ironically calling attention to themselves, not deflecting it.

Shabbat shalom,

The Mummers costumes below just struck my fancy (as in “the Fancy Division,” get it?).  There are a lot of others at the mummers/photo-gallery site.




Jewelry Joke of the Day
(reload the page to get a different joke)

What did one diamond-dealer say to the other?
        No cuts; No glory.

What happened to the Quartz when it turned pink?
        It rose.

What is a diamond’s favourite card game?

How many goldsmiths does it take to change a lightbulb?
        None, that‘s apprentice work.

What did the rabbit give his honey?
        A caret cake.

Customer: “How old is this diamond?”
        Salesman: “Three million and three years old.”
        Customer: “My gosh, how can you be so precise?”
        Salesman: “It was three million years old when I started here, and I’ve been here three years.”

Customer says: “Your poster claims that ear-piercing is completely painless. Is that true?”
        Jeweler responds: “Certainly, madam, I’ve done thousands of piercings, and I’ve never felt a thing!”

Ring Those Bells

A new bellringer was needed for Notre Dame Cathedral to replace Quasimoto, the hunchback. The bishop decided that he would conduct the interviews personally and went up to the belfry to begin the screening process. After observing several applicants demonstrate their skills, he decided to call it a day when a lone, armless man approached him and announced that he was there to apply for the bellringer’s job. The bishop was incredulous. “You have no arms!” “No matter,” said the man, “Observe!” He then began striking the bells with his face, producing a beautiful melody on the carillon. The bishop listened in astonishment, convinced that he had finally found a suitable replacement for Quasimodo. Suddenly, rushing forward to strike a bell, the armless man tripped and plunged headlong out of the belfry window to his death in the street below.

The stunned bishop ran down the long series of steps to the bottom of the cathedral, then rushed out to the man’s side. When he reached the street, a crowd had gathered around the fallen figure, drawn by the beautiful music they had heard only moments before. As they silently parted to let the bishop through, one of them asked, “Bishop, who was this man?” “I don’t know his name,” the bishop sadly replied, “but his face rings a bell.” But wait…there’s more!

The following day, despite the sadness that weighed heavily on his heart due to the unfortunate death of the armless campanologist (now there’s a trivia word for you!), the bishop continued his interviews for the bellringer of Notre Dame. The first man to approach him said, “Your Excellency, I am the brother of the poor, armless wretch who fell to his death from this very belfry yesterday. I pray that you honor his life by allowing me to replace him in this duty.” The bishop agreed to give the man an audition, and the armless man’s brother stooped to pick up a mallet and began to create the most wonderful sounds to be heard. When he had finished, he turned to the bishop, groaned, clutched at his chest and died on the spot. Two monks, hearing the bishop’s cries of grief at this second tragedy, rushed up the stairs to his side. “What has happened?” the first asked breathlessly, “Who is this man?” “I don’t know his name,” sighed the distraught bishop, “but he’s a dead ringer for his brother!”
If the Torah portion contains anything about a menorah, I often use that as an excuse to include some light bulb jokes here [“how many (fill-in-the-blank)s does it take to change a light bulb?”] and I was going to do that this week and actually slipped one in, but then I came across a patent for a light bulb changer, so:


How many inventors does it take to change a light bulb?
One, but first he needs to get patent protection.

Light Bulb Changer

United States Patent
December 7, 2004

Light bulb changer


A light bulb changer method and apparatus that contains components that allows for instantly detecting a burned out light, automatically removing the burned out light, and automatically replacing the burned out light with a replacement bulb. The changer operates without human intervention, and can be assembled from a kit having a light fixture, detecting sensor, removing and replacement hardware. The kit can allow a consumer to assemble the changer for use as a novelty item, and/or also to be used as a working light fixture, such as a table lamp, and the like. The changer can also be used as a retrofit for existing light fixtures so that the existing light fixtures can be modified.

About which this comment was posted: “What happens if the changer malfunctions? Does there exist a light bulb changer changer???”


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