Light from the Sidra


Exodus 27:20-30:10.Haftarah.Ezekial 43:10-27

Some years ago, an Orthodox Jewish friend and I were debating whether we can approach God directly or whether we need a mediator, a go-between. Judaism teaches that Jews have no need of a mediator so I asked my friend whether the claim was based on the Torah. He responded by saying that if I needed evidence that no mediator is required between Jews and God, I should start at the book of Deuteronomy. I pointed out that if I was attempting to prove that mankind needs no mediator in order to approach the Almighty, the book of Deuteronomy is the last place I would look because the entire book is mediated through Moses!

In our Sidra this week, we see another mediator, the anointed Cohen haGadol, the High Priest. His two principle duties were to offer sacrifices on behalf of Israel at the bronze altar in the courtyard (Exodus 29:38-46) and to pray for them at the gold altar of incense that stood before the curtain that separated the holy place from the holy of holies in the tabernacle (30:1-10). Atonement blood was shed at the bronze altar and the blood of atonement was applied to the horns of the altar of incense on Yom Kippur. If the blood was not applied to the horns of the altar, there could be no atonement.

One of the most fascinating items of clothing the high priest wore was the breastplate (Exodus 28:15-30). Twelve precious stones were attached to it, each engraved with the name of a tribe of Israel, and two gems were carried on the shoulders of the high priest, each with the names of six tribes engraved. In this way Aaron and his successors carried the children of Israel on their hearts and on their shoulders (28:29).

All of this was, of course, symbolic. But symbolic of what?

What if there was an anointed mediator – a Messiah – who truly did carry Israel on his heart? And what if that Mediator truly did atone for Israel’s sins, and prayed for Israel continuously and faithfully? And what if that Mediator could do that because he was truly clothed with the glory of God rather that garments that symbolised the divine glory? And what if Israel rejected his mediatorship because they felt God would accept them on their own merits, rather than those of the Messianic High Priest?

It would be a tragedy of unparalleled proportion.

But what if that merciful, divine High Priestly Messiah, who truly carries Israel on his heart and shoulders, refuses to give up on them and continues to pray for his people?

How else could Israel, against overwhelming odds, have survived to this day? Because they have a High Priest who intercedes for them in the heavenly Tabernacle, from where Moses received the pattern for the earthly tabernacle. That does not mean the sins of Jewish people are automatically forgiven but it does mean that the means of atonement is there for them and for Gentiles also.

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