The Altar of Anonymity – Parashat Tetzaveh

February 29, 2020 at 1:14 AM , , ,

“…You shall make an altar for burning incense…” – Shemot 30:1

וְעָשִׂיתָ מִזְבֵּחַ מִקְטַר קְטֹרֶת – שמות ל, א

The Inner Mizbei’ach, the golden altar for incense which stood in the sanctuary of the Mishkan, is described at the conclusion of Parshas Tetzaveh. Its placement here is somewhat peculiar, considering that the construction of the Mishkan and the other utensils which stood in the Sanctuary are described in the previous parshah, Terumah.

Another thing that stands out about this Mizbei’ach is that unlike the altar for animal offerings that stood in public view in the Mishkan courtyard, the Mizbei’ach for burning the incense stood in the Sanctuary, hidden from the public eye. In fact, no person other than the Kohen offering the incense that day could be present in the Sanctuary or near its entrance when the incense was offered (Rambam, Temidim Umusafim 3:3). Moreover, according to the Talmud Yerushalmi (Yoma 5:2), even the angels could not be present in the Mishkan at that special time!

The Altar

By describing this altar only after the commands regarding the Mishkan’s structure and contents, and after describing the uniforms worn by the kohanim as well as the kohanim’s inauguration, the Torah indicates that the offering of incense on this Mizbei’ach represents the highest form of Divine service performed in the Mishkan. For the ultimate and most complete service of G-d are the deeds one does without publicity or fanfare. The Inner Mizbei’ach teaches us that the height of Torah and Mitzvah observance (and particularly, charity,) is when one merits that only he and G-d are aware of his great and many achievements.

—Likkutei Sichos vol. 1 pp. 171-172


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