Thought of the Week: Tetzaveh - 5781
THE MIZBEACH OF UNITY
At the end of Pareshat Tetzaveh, the Torah describes the last vessel of the Mishkan, the Altar of Incense.
Many commentators wonder why this Altar is not mentioned in Pareshat Terumah, together with the Menorah and the Bread Table.
Our rabbis tell us that although only four spices are mentioned in the Torah as the formula for the incense, a mixture of 11 was actually used. Twice a day the mixture of the 11 spices, known as the Ketoret, was burned on the Altar. Among the 11 items listed by the Talmud we find Galbanum. Galbanum’s odour is not a pleasant one, yet Hashem wanted it to be included in the blend. The rabbis derive from this that a public gathering on a fast day, a time when we beseech the Almighty for mercy, must include all Jews - even sinners. Just as the Ketoret is incomplete without the Galbanum, so too a gathering of Jewish people that rejects individuals due to their past is viewed as deficient.
The only person capable of conveying this message of acceptance and unity is Aharon HaCohen, the one who is known for "loving peace and pursuing it." Thus, the description of the “Altar of Unity” that connects the people of Israel to one another and to Hashem, is only recorded after the paresha that described Aharon's entry into the service of the Mishkan, since he is the one who can achieve the goal of the Ketoret.