Altar of the Incense

Exodus 30:1-16

The portion of Tetzaveh ends with the command to build another altar, this time a smaller one for bringing incense. It is to be built of acacia wood and covered in gold. It will have four raised corners, or horns, a crown of gold, and gold rings through which the gold-plated wooden staves will be threaded to carry the altar. Only incense may be brought on this altar, and it must be brought daily, when the High Priest lights the lamps. The specific recipe for the incense will be laid out in next week’s portion, but the Torah tells us no other combination must be brought. The Altar of the Incense will also figure in the special services for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think incense was part of both the daily service and the special atonement service of Yom Kippur?


Comments ( 9 )

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  • Herman Arentsen

    1.The smell of incense was driving away the smoke of the burning of the sacrifices ????
    2.Smoke of incense is also cleaning the air from harmful insects or other living small creatures (kind of cleaning up,
    desinfecting the air)
    3.The smoke stands for the prayers that are sent heavenward. (So, prayers are cleaning the one who prays.)
    4.Especially prayers for the coming of Messiach are sent.
    5.On Yom Kippur prayers against unvoluntary contamination with sins of the world are sent plus prayers for the atonement of our sin. (Our white tallits show our desire to be white as snow and not sin-stained, as do our white clothes.)

  • David

    Shalom all I have placed a link to Rabbi Sacks on Tetzaveh. I hope you find it as enjoyable as I did.

    • Diana Brown This was a wonderful account of how to be holy in a world gone amuck in the natural.

  • I heard an interesting idea today about the Tabernacle/Temple. It was a place where one had a sensational experience-meaning they experienced a connection to God with all their senses! First off, it was a sight to see. As we read in last week’s portion, there were different vessels and tapestries with much detail, as well as the clothing of the priests in this week’s portion, etc. There were some sacrifices that were meant to be eaten, either by the person bringing the sacrifice or the priests. The sense of touch was at work when placing one’s hands on the animal before the sacrifice, and when slaughtering the animal in the appropriate way. The sounds of the shofar and the Levite’s music (singing and playing of instruments) brought the sense of hearing into play. And so we are left with the sense of smell, and thus one of the purposes of the incense sacrifice. One could imagine that without this ‘room deodorizer/air freshener’ the Temple may have smelled more like a butcher’s shop or a big BBQ and Grill Restaurant, but the smell of the incense brought a more ‘holy ‘ smell to the Tabernacle.

    • Angela B

      🙂 Thank you! But I would also add that the smell of the meat and grain offerings was pleasant to Yahweh.

  • Diana Brown

    I am reminded of these scripture passages in the Holy Bible which combines prayer and incense….Psalm 141:2 and Rev 5:8.
    I believe until Israel’s Messiah reigns and rules in Yerushalayim, the Lord God has to lay out a pattern to show us how to commune with Him through our free moral will.
    It is awesome to see how His Spirit works through the ages to accomplish this with our mustard seed-sized faith.

  • Kenneth Osterman

    קֹדֶשׁ-קָדָשִׁים הוּא, לַיהוָה it is most holy unto the LORD.
    The altar of incense was in the Holy. The high priest daily entered the Holy but could enter the Most Holy only once a year on the Day of Atonement. The incense aroma could pass beyond (above, around, through) the veil in to the קֹדֶשׁ-קָדָשִׁים.
    As Margaret indicates, this indicates acceptance of prayers and praise and repentance of the people.

  • Margaret

    Incense burning gives out a fragrance and the sweet smelling smoke rises upwards as do the prayers of the priests on behalf of the people.

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