Tetzaveh, Siman 15 תצוה, ט״ו
1 א

וְעָשִׂיתָ מִזְבֵּחַ מִקְטַר קְטֹרֶת. זֶה שֶׁאָמַר הַכָּתוּב: שֶׁמֶן וּקְטֹרֶת יְשַׂמַּח לֵב (משלי כז, ט). הַכָּתוּב הַזֶּה מְדַבֵּר בְּהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא וּבְיִשְׂרָאֵל. כֵּיצַד? בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁהָיָה כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל נוֹטֵל אֶת הַקְּטֹרֶת בְּאוֹתָהּ מַחְתָּה בְּיוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים וְנִכְנָס לִפְנַי וְלִפְנִים בְּבֵית קֹדֶשׁ הַקֳּדָשִׁים, שֶׁכֵּן כְּתִיב: וְלָקַח מְלֹא הַמַּחְתָּה גַּחֲלֵי אֶשׁ (ויקרא טז, יב). מַה כְּתִיב שָׁם? וְנָתַן אֶת הַקְּטֹרֶת עַל הָאֵשׁ לִפְנֵי ה' וְכִסָּה עֲנַן הַקְּטֹרֶת (ויקרא טז, יג). מַהוּ וְכִסָּה? לְשׁוֹן מְחִילָה הוּא, כָּעִנְין שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: כִּסִּיתָ כָל חַטָּאתָם זֶלָה (תהלים פה, ג). וּכְשֶׁהָיָה עֲנַן הַקְּטֹרֶת מִתַּמֵּר וְעוֹלֶה וּפוֹנֶה לְמַעְלָה וְנַעֲשֶׂה כָּאֶשְׁכּוֹל, הָיָה יוֹדֵעַ שֶׁנִּתְכַּפְּרוּ עֲוֹנוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: אֶשְׁכֹּל הַכֹּפֶר דּוֹדִי לִי (שה״‎ש פה, ג). אִם נַעֲשָׂה כָּאֶשְׁכּוֹל, עֲנַן הַקְּטֹרֶת וְהָיָה מִתַּמֵּר וְעוֹלֶה, הָיָה יוֹדֵעַ שֶׁנִּתְכַּפֵּר לְיִשְׂרָאֵל וְשֶׁנִּתְקַבְּלוּ מַעֲשָׂיו. וְאִם לֹא כִּסָּה עֲנַן הַקְּטֹרֶת, הָיָה יוֹדֵעַ שֶׁהוּא מֵת, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וְכִסָּה עֲנַן הַקְּטֹרֶת אֶת הַכַּפֹּרֶת אֲשֶׁר עַל הָעֵדוּת וְלֹא יָמוּת (ויקרא טז, יג). נִמְצֵאתָ אוֹמֵר, שֶׁכֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל וְכָל יִשְׂרָאֵל מַרְתִּיתִים בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁכֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל נִכְנַס לִפְנַי וְלִפְנִים, עַד שֶׁהָיָה יוֹצֵא מִשָּׁם בְּשָׁלוֹם. כֵּיוָן שֶׁהָיָה יוֹצֵא, הָיְתָה שִׂמְחָה גְּדוֹלָה בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁנִּתְקַבֵּל בְּרָצוֹן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: שֶׁמֶן וּקְטֹרֶת יְשַׂמַּח לֵב (משלי כז, ט).

And thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon (Exod. 30:1). Scripture states elsewhere in allusion to this verse: Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart (Prov. 27:9). This verse refers to the Holy One, blessed be He, and to Israel. How is that? When the high priest was officiating on the Day of Atonement, he would place the incense in a pan and bring it into the innermost part of the Holy of Holies, as it is written: And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from off the altar. What else is written there? Ye shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the ark cover (Lev. 16:12–13). What is the meaning of may cover? It is an expression that indicates forgiveness, as in the verse Thou hast covered up all their sins (Ps. 85:3). Whenever the cloud of incense ascended and spiraled upward, like a cluster of grapes, on the Day of Atonement, he knew that Israel’s sins were forgiven, as it is said: My beloved is unto me as a cluster of henna in the vineyards of En-gedi (Song 1:14). If the smoke of the incense resembled a cluster and rose straight upward, he knew that Israel was forgiven and his service was acceptable, but if the smoke of the incense did not cover the ark-cover he knew that he would die, as it is said: That the cloud of the incense may cover the ark-cover that is upon the testimony, that he die not (Lev. 16:13). Consequently, the high priest and all Israel trembled from the moment the high priest entered the innermost Sanctuary until he withdrew in peace. When he departed from the Sanctuary a great rejoicing took place among the Israelites, since it meant that it (the offering) had been received favorably, as it is said: Ointment and incense rejoice the heart (Prov. 27:9).

2 ב

שֶׁמֶן, זֶה כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל שֶׁנִּמְשַׁח בְּשֶׁמֶן הַמִּשְׁחָה. וּקְטֹרֶת אֵלּוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל, שֶׁהָיוּ רוֹאִין עֲנַן הַקְּטֹרֶת שֶׁהָיָה מִתַּמֵּר וְעוֹלֶה וְהָיוּ שְׂמֵחִים. הֱוֵי, שֶׁמֶן וּקְטֹרֶת יְשַׂמַּח לֵב. וּמְדַבֵּר בְּהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, שֶׁאָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְיִשְׂרָאֵל: מִכֻּלְּכֶם אֵין לִי אֶלָּא כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל שֶׁנִּמְשַׁח בְּשֶׁמֶן הַמִּשְׁחָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וַיִּבָּדֵל אַהֲרֹן לְהַקְדִּישׁוֹ קֹדֶשׁ קָדָשִׁים (דה״‎א כג, יג). וַאֲנִי שָׂמֵחַ בּוֹ. וּקְטֹרֶת, אֵלּוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא: מִכָּל הַקָּרְבָּנוֹת שֶׁאַתֶּם מַקְרִיבִין, אֵין חָבִיב עָלַי כַּקְּטֹרֶת. תֵּדַע, שֶׁכָּל הַקָּרְבָּנוֹת כֻּלָּן לְצָרְכֵיהֶם שֶׁל יִשְׂרָאֵל. כֵּיצַד? הַחַטָּאת הָיְתָה בָּאָה עַל הַחֵטְא, וְהָאָשָׁם כֵּן. הָעוֹלָה בָּאָה עַל הִרְהוּר הַלֵּב. הַשְּׁלָמִים אֵינָן בָּאִין אֶלָּא לְכַפָּרָה, שֶׁהֵן בָּאִין עַל מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה. אֲבָל הַקְּטֹרֶת, אֵינָהּ בָּאָה לֹא עַל הַחֵטְא וְלֹא עַל הֶעָוֹן וְלֹא עַל הָאָשָׁם, אֶלָּא עַל הַשִּׂמְחָה, הֱוֵי, שֶׁמֶן וּקְטֹרֶת יְשַׂמַּח לֵב.

The ointment refers to the high priest, who was anointed with the oil of installation. The incense alludes to the Israelites, who saw the smoke of the incense soaring upward and rejoiced. Hence, ointment and incense rejoice the heart. Similarly this verse alludes to the Holy One, blessed be He, who said to the Israelites: None of you is consecrated unto Me except the high priest, who is anointed with the oil of installation, for it is said: And Aaron was separated, that he should be sanctified as most holy (I Chron. 23:13), and I rejoice in him. Incense alludes to Israel. The Holy One, blessed be He, said: The sacrifices that you offer to Me are as desirable as incense. You know that all the sacrifices exist to meet the needs of Israel. How is that so? The sin-offering is brought because of sin and guilt; the burnt offering is brought because of a thought in one’s heart; the peace-offerings are brought to atone for violations of a positive commandment, while incense is brought, not because of sin or transgression or guilt, but only out of sheer joy. Hence, Ointment and incense rejoice the heart.

3 ג

חֲבִיבָה הַקְּטֹרֶת לִפְנֵי הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, תֵּדַע לְךָ, שֶׁהֲרֵי דָּוִד נִתְאַוָּה לְהַקְטִיר קְטֹרֶת, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: עֹלוֹת מֵחִים אַעֲלֶה לָּךְ עִם קְטֹרֶת אֵילִים אֶעֱשֶׂה בָקָר וְגוֹ' (תהלים סו, טו). וְכֵן אַתְּ מוֹצֵא, שֶׁלֹּא נִשְׁתַּבְּחוּ קָרְבָּנוֹת בָּעוֹלָם כְּקָרְבְּנוֹת הַנְּשִׂיאִים. וְלָמָּה? שֶׁהָיוּ מַקְרִיבִין קְטֹרֶת תְּחִלָּה בְּקָרְבְּנוֹתֵיהֶם. שֶׁכֵּן הוּא אוֹמֵר עַל כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד בְּקָרְבָּנוֹ, כַּף אַחַת עֲשָׂרָה זָהָב מְלֵאָה קְטֹרֶת (במדבר ז, יד), וְאַחַר כָּךְ פַּר אֶחָד (במדבר ז, טו). וּלְפִיכָךְ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מְשַׁבֵּחַ קָרְבָּן שֶׁל כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד מֵהֶן זֶה קָרְבַּן פְּלוֹנִי, זֶה קָרְבַּן פְּלוֹנִי, לוֹמַר שֶׁעָרֵב לְפָנָיו וְהוּא מְשַׁבְּחָן. וְכֵן אַתְּ מוֹצֵא בְּאָחָז, שֶׁבִּטֵּל אֶת הַתּוֹרָה וְחָתַם בָּתֵּי הַסְּפָרִים, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: צוֹר תְּעוּדָה חֲתוֹם תּוֹרָה בְּלִמֻּדָי (ישעיה ח, טז). וְעָבַד עֲבוֹדָה זָרָה וְהִרְבָּה לְהַכְעִיס. וּכְשֶׁמָּנָה הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֶת כָּל מַעֲשָׂיו, אָמַר: אֲוַתֵּר לְכָל אֵלּוּ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: גַּם סָגְרוּ דַּלְתוֹת הָאוּלָם וַיְכַבּוּ אֶת הַנֵּרוֹת וּקְטֹרֶת לֹא הִקְטִירוּ וְעֹלָה לֹא הֶעֱלוּ בַקֹּדֶשׁ לֵאלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וַיְהִי קֶצֶף ה' עַל יְהוּדָה וִירוּשָׁלָיִם וַיִּתְּנֵם לְזַעֲוָה לְשַׁמָּה וְלִשְׁרֵקָה כַּאֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם רֹאִים בְּעֵינֵיכֶם, וְהִנֵּה נָפְלוּ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ בֶּחָרֶב וּבָנֵינוּ וּבְנוֹתֵינוּ וְנָשֵׁינוּ בַּשְּׁבִי עַל זֹאת (דה״‎ב כט ז, ט). מַהוּ עַל זֹאת? עַל הַקְּטֹרֶת.

Incense is precious to the Holy One, blessed be He,. You know this to be so because David was anxious to burn incense, as it is said: I will offer unto Thee burnt-offerings of fatlings with the sweet smoke of rams; I will offer bullocks with goats (Ps. 66:15). Hence you find that no sacrifices in the entire world were praised as highly as those of the leaders. Why? Because they offered incense prior to making their sacrifices, as Scripture states concerning each of their offerings: One golden pan of ten shekels, full of incense (Num. 7:20), and after that is written: One young bullock, etc. Therefore the Holy One, blessed be He, praised each of their sacrifices. He said: This is the sacrifice of so-and-so, this is the sacrifice of so-and-so, as though saying: “It was pleasing to Him, and He was praising them.” Similarly you find that though Ahaz suspended the study of the Torah and closed the schoolhouses, as it is said: Bind up the testimony, seal the instruction among My disciples (Isa. 8:16), and served idols and did many things to anger the Holy One, blessed be He, when the Holy One, blessed be He, weighed all his deeds, He [simply] said: How can I forgive all this? as it is said: Also they have shut up the doors of the porch, and put out the lamps, and have not burned incense nor offered burnt-offerings in the holy place unto the God of Israel. Therefore, the wrath of the Lord was upon Judah and Jerusalem, and He hath delivered them to be a horror, and astonishment, and a hissing, as you see with your eyes. For lo, our fathers have fallen by the sword, and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity because of all this (II Chron. 29:7–9). What does all this refer to? His failure to burn incense.

4 ד

רְאֵה כַּמָּה חָבִיב הַקְּטֹרֶת, שֶׁעַל יְדֵי הַקְּטֹרֶת נֶעְצְרָה הַמַּגֵּפָה. בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁאָמַר מֹשֶׁה לְאַהֲרֹן, קַח אֶת הַמַּחְתָּה וְתֶן עָלֶיהָ אֵשׁ מֵעַל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ וְשִׂים קְטֹרֶת, וַיִּקַּח אַהֲרֹן כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר מֹשֶׁה וַיָּרֶץ אֶל תּוֹךְ הַקָּהָל וְהִנֵּה הֵחֵל הַנֶּגֶף בָּעָם (במדבר יז יא, יב). מַהוּ הֵחֵל? אָמַר רַבִּי יְהוּדָה בַּר סִימוֹן, הָיָה הַמַּלְאָךְ נוֹטֵל עַל סֵדֶר מִרְקָחוֹת, וְלֹא הָיָה מַנִּיחַ לֹא מֵת בֵּין הַחַיִּים וְלֹא חַי בֵּין הַמֵּתִים, אֶלָּא עַל סֵדֶר, כָּעִנְיָן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: הֵחֵל הַנֶּגֶף בָּעָם. וּכְמָה דְּאַתְּ אֲמַר: מֵהָחֵל חֶרְמֵשׁ בַּקָּמָה (דברים טז, ט),

A proof of the importance of incense is indicated in the fact the plague was halted by incense, as Moses said to Aaron: Take thy fire-pan, and put fire therein from off the altar, and lay incense thereon…. And Aaron took as Moses spoke and ran into the midst of the assembly; and behold, the plague was begun among the people (Num. 17:11–12). What is meant by the plague was begun? R. Judah the son of Simon stated: The angel administered the poison in sequence, neglecting neither the dead among the living nor the living among the dead. That is, he administered it in rotation. As it is said in the verse: The plague was begun among the people, and it is written elsewhere in the verse: From the time the sickle is first put to the standing corn thou shalt begin (Deut. 16:9).

5 ה

כְּשֵׁם שֶׁהַקּוֹצֵר קוֹצֵר עַל הַסֵּדֶר. מִיָּד וַיִּקַּח אַהֲרֹן כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר מֹשֶׁה וְגוֹ'. מָצָא לַמַּלְאָךְ עוֹמֵד וּמְחַבֵּל, עָמַד אַהֲרֹן כְּנֶגְדּוֹ וְלֹא הָיָה מַנִּיחוֹ לְחַבֵּל, אֶלָּא וַיַּעֲמֹד בֵּין הַמֵּתִים (במדבר יז, יג). אָמַר לוֹ לְאַהֲרֹן: הַנִּיחֵנִי וְאֶעֱשֶׂה שְׁלִיחוּתִי. אָמַר לוֹ אַהֲרֹן: מֹשֶׁה שְׁלָחַנִי, וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא שְׁלָחֲךָ, וַהֲרֵי הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא וּמֹשֶׁה בְּאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד נֵלֵךְ אֶצְלָם. לֹא הִשְׁגִּיחַ הַמַּלְאָךְ, עַד שֶׁעֲצָרוֹ אַהֲרֹן בְּמָתְנָיו וְהוֹלִיכוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וַיָּשָׁב אַהֲרֹן אֶל מֹשֶׁה אֶל פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד וְהַמַּגֵּפָה נֶעֱצָרָה (במדבר יז, טו).

Just as one reaps row by row, so the plague acted upon the people (in rotation). Thereupon Aaron took as Moses spoke and ran into the midst of the assembly; and behold, the plague was begun (Num. 7:12). He found the angel standing among them and afflicting them. Aaron confronted him and would not permit him to continue. He forced him to stand idly among the dead. He said to Aaron: “Let me go that I may complete my task.” Aaron replied: “Moses sent me, and the Holy One, blessed be He, sent you, and both Moses and the Holy One, blessed be He, are in the Tent of Testimony; let us go to them.” The angel refused to go, and so Aaron seized him by his loins and dragged him in, as it is said: And Aaron returned unto Moses unto the door of the Tent of Meeting, and the plague was stayed (Num. 17:15).

6 ו

מַהוּ וְהַמַּגֵּפָה נֶעֱצָרָה? אָמַר רַבִּי יִצְחָק, שֶׁנָּטַל לַמַּלְאָךְ וַעֲצָרוֹ. לְפִיכָךְ כְּשֶׁבָּא מֹשֶׁה לִפָּטֵר מִן הָעוֹלָם, אָמַר: בָּרֵךְ ה' חֵילוֹ וּפֹעַל יָדָיו תִּרְצֶה מְחַץ מָתְנַיִם (דברים לג, יא). בָּרֵךְ ה' חֵילוֹ, יְהֵא בָּרִיךְ יָתֵהּ חֵילָא. וּפֹעַל יָדָיו תִּרְצֶה, בַּקְּטֹרֶת שֶׁהָיָה בְּיָדוֹ שֶׁכִּפֵּר, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וַיִּתֵּן אֶת הַקְּטֹרֶת וַיְכַפֵּר (במדבר יז, יב). מְחַץ מָתְנַיִם קָמָיו, שֶׁגִּפֵּף אֶת הַמַּלְאָךְ וַעֲצָרוֹ.

What is meant by the plague was stayed? R. Isaac declared that this means that he grasped the angel and restrained him. Therefore, when Moses was about to depart from this world, he said: Bless, Lord, his substance, and accept the work of his hands; smite through the loins of them that rise up (Deut. 33:11). Bless, Lord, his substance, that is, may his strength be blessed. Accept the work of his hands alludes to the incense through which he atoned, as it is said: And he put on the incense, and made atonement (Num. 17:12). Smite through the loins of them that rise up indicates that he smote the angel and restrained him.

7 ז

אָמַר רַבִּי אַבָּהוּ בְּשֵׁם רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן לָקִישׁ, כְּשֶׁרָאָה אַהֲרֹן לַמַּלְאָךְ מַתְרִיס כְּנֶגְדּוֹ, נָתַן מַחְתָּה עַל פָּנָיו, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: יָשִׂימוּ קְטוֹרָה בְּאַפֶּךָ וְכָלִיל עַל מִזְבְּחֶךָ (דברים לג, י). לְהוֹדִיעֲךָ כַּמָה קְטֹרֶת חֲבִיבָה. אָמַר רַבִּי יִצְחָק בֶּן אֶלְעָזָר: תֵּדַע לְךָ, שֶׁנַּעֲשָׂה הַמִּשְׁכָּן וְכָל כֵּלָיו וְשָׁחַט אֶת הַקָּרְבָּנוֹת וְהִקְרִיב וְעָרַךְ עַל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ וְסִדֵּר אֶת הַשֻּׁלְחָן וְאֶת הַמְּנוֹרָה וְאֶת הַכֹּל, וְלֹא יָרְדָה שְׁכִינָה עַד שֶׁהִקְרִיבוּ אֶת הַקְּטֹרֶת. מִנַּיִן? דִּכְתִיב: עוּרִי צָפוֹן וּבוֹאִי תֵימָן הָפִיחִי גַנִּי יִזְּלוּ בְשָׂמָיו (שה״‎ש ד, טז). אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא: בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה עַל יְדֵי קְטֹרֶת הֱיִיתֶם מִתְכַּפְּרִים. וְאַף לֶעָתִיד לָבֹא כֵּן, עֹלוֹת מֵחִים אַעֲלֶה לָּךְ עִם קְטֹרֶת אֵילִים אֶעֱשֶׂה בָקָר עִם עַתּוּדִים סֶלָה (תהלים סו, טו).

R. Abahu said in the name of R. Simeon the son of Lakish: When Aaron saw that the angel was about to overpower him, he placed the censer before his countenance, as it is said: They shall put incense before Thee, and whole burnt-offering upon Thine altar (Deut. 33:10). This reveals how beloved incense is. R. Isaac the son of Eliezer declared: You know that after he constructed the Tabernacle and all its implements, he slaughtered the sacrifices, and arranged them on the altar, he set the table, made the menorah, and did everything that had to be done, but the Shekhinah still had not descended. Only when the incense was offered did it descend. You know this for it is written: Awake, O north wind, and come, thou south; blow upon my garden that the spice thereof may flow out (Song 4:16). The Holy One, blessed be He, said: You shall be forgiven in this world because of the incense, but in the world-to-come, I will offer unto Thee burnt-offerings of fatlings, with the smoke of rams; I will offer bullocks with goats. Selah (Ps. 66:15).