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Naso and the Third Dedication of the Tabernacle

May 28, 2015

Parashath Naso concludes with the description of the offerings the tribal leaders brought at the inauguration of the Tabernacle (Numbers 7). Every prince brought the same as his fellow, and the final verses describe the total offerings, which is yet another repetition of the previous amounts, exept every quantity is multiplied by twelve. There is another verse tacked on at the end that seems out of place (84-89):

This was the dedication-offering of the altar, in the day when it was anointed, at the hands of the princes of Israel: twelve silver dishes, twelve silver basins, twelve golden pans… all the silver of the vessels two thousand and four hundred shekels… twelve golden pans… all the gold of the pans a hundred and twenty shekels… the rams sixty, the he-goats sixty, the he-lambs of the first year sixty. This was the dedication-offering of the altar, after that it was anointed. And when Moses went into the tent of meeting that He might speak with him, then he heard the Voice speaking unto him from above the ark-cover that was upon the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and He spoke unto him.

What does verse 89 have to do with the previous story? What does the detailed enumeration of the princely gifts have to with Moses hearing the Voice? This question becomes stronger when one reads the previous 70 or so verses.

Rashi notes that this verse sheds light on some earlier verses:

When there are] two contradictory verses, the third one comes and reconciles them. One verse says, “the Lord spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting” (Lev. 1:1), and that implies outside the curtain, whereas another verse says,“and I shall speak to you from above the ark cover” (Exod. 25:22) [which is within the curtain]. This [verse] comes and reconciles them: Moses came into the Tent of Meeting, and there he would hear the voice [of God] coming from [between the cherubim,] above the ark cover. – [Sifrei Naso 1:162]

That is, this verse resolves a contradiction we found earlier concerning the ultimate function of the Tabernacle, and its placement specifically is to close the narrative that began at the beginning of this chapter and that digressed with the second verse that introduced the leaders (7:1-3):

And it came to pass on the day that Moses had made an end to setting up the tabernacle, and had anointed it and sanctified it, and all the furniture thereof, and the altar and all the vessels thereof, and had anointed them and sanctified them; that the princes of Israel, the heads of their fathers’ houses, offered–these were the leaders of the tribes, these are they that were over them that were numbered.And they brought their offering before the Lord…

That is, the offering of the leaders is what led from verse 1 to 89. Here is how Numbers 7 would read if we left out the details of their gift:

And it came to pass on the day that Moses had made an end to setting up the tabernacle, and had anointed it and sanctified it, and all the furniture thereof, and the altar and all the vessels thereof, and had anointed them and sanctified them; that the princes of Israel, the heads of their fathers’ houses, offered gifts– And when Moses went into the tent of meeting that He might speak with him, then he heard the Voice speaking unto him from above the ark-cover that was upon the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and He spoke unto him.

We can now also understand what we learn from the three separate descriptions of the dedication of the Tabernacle. In Exodus 40 we read about how Moses set up the entire Tabernacle. No one else, not Bezalel, nor Oholiav, nor Aaron or the rest of the leaders, is mentioned. And what was the result?

(Exodus 40:33-35):

So Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of meeting, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

Moses physically set up the Tabernacle, and he is the one whose merited to bring down the awesome divine presence of the kind that can not be approached by mortals, the kind that sanctifies that place by limiting who may enter there in and when.

Aaron’s role is described in Leviticus, chapters 8-9. He was instructed to offer a number of animal sacrifices, and that resulted in:

And there came forth fire from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt-offering and the fat; and when all the people saw it, they shouted, and fell on their faces.

Aaron initiated the divine service in the Tabernacle, and he is the one who merited to bring down the divine presence that symbolizes acceptance of our offerings and prayers.

The leaders’ role is described above, and so is the result: they merited to bring down the divine presence as represented by prophecy, that is, man actually receiving communication from God, as opposed to man just praying and hoping to see his prayers answered through signs of favor. Each of the players in this saga had his own role and function in creating the Tabernacle as the abode of His presence, the place of communal gathering, sacrifice and prayer, and the center of prophetic inspiration, and each of these facets is likewise mentioned as having taken place at the Dedication of the Temple:

The cloud (II Chronicles 5:11-14):

And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place… so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God.

The fire (ibid., 7:1):

Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt-offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house.

Prophecy: (ibid., 7:12):

And the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him: ‘I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to Myself for a house of sacrifice.”

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From → original, parasha

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