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Shemot/Exodus 26:31 And you shall make a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine twisted linen
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The word would logically come from a root , but such a root is not known in biblical Hebrew. Instead, scholars connect the word to the root , which means "to break off of tear away" - from whence also comes the noun , the vertebrae of the neck, literally the place of breaking. Other similar roots share overlapping meanings: , to break or tear down, demolish; , to break in pieces, annul, abolish; , to break (i.e. bread) or spread; , to divide, disperse, scatter. Sarna gives a probable root meaning of "to bar the way, to mark off an area" and lists other verses that confirm the parochet's purpose as a dividing line and screen: , the curtain of screening or partition (B'Midbar 4:5); , the curtain of the testimony (Vayikra 24:3); , the curtain of the holy (Vayikra 4:6).
Richard Elliott Friedman considers that the is a "pavilion", an inner tent. He points out that it is hung on four poles (v.32) and provides a cover for the Ark (40:4), that it is over the testimony (27:21); it is even spoken of in Psalm 27:5 and Lamentations 2:6 using the word "succah". This confused the sages of the Talmud, who assumed that it had always been a curtain, so were puzzled that the Torah describes it as a "succah" and being 'over' the Ark (b. Sukkah 7b).Rashi has commented earlier (to v. 1) about the thickness of this material that is also used for the walls of the holy place: "this was weaving with two sides, so that the designs on either side did not resemble each other", and adds here: " is an expression of partition - that which separates between the King and the people." Gersonides goes even further: "The curtain was if the same make as the cloths of the Tabernacle except that, since it marked a boundary, it was much thicker - our Sages say, a full hand-breadth thick."
The curtain remained in place, first in the Tabernacle, then in both the first and second temples, as a barrier between the holy place - where the priests would enter each day to perform the divine service: lighting the menorah, changing the shewbread and burning the incense - and the most holy place, into which "only the high priest enters, once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance " (Hebrews 9:7 NASB). There was, however, a significant disturbance to the routine at the time that Yeshua was crucified; all three synoptic gospels, in varying degrees, tell us that "the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom" (Mark 15:38, NASB). Some years ago, as a novelty act, it was quite popular to see strong men tearing telephone directories in half, providing they were not too thick! This took significant strength and the knack of knowing exactly how to hold the directory and twist the spine and pages so that a start could be made. Yet the curtain in the Temple simply hung in its place, untouched by human hands, made of heavy embroidered and woven fabric, up to a hand-breadth in thickness. This was more than somebody creeping in and ripping a flimsy piece of net-curtain or muslin; this was a sign from G-d Himself - for human hands could not have done it - to show that the barrier between the Holy of Holies, the physical seat of G-d's presence in the very heart of the Temple, had been made open.
Writing to the Ephesians, Rav Sha'ul addresses the Gentiles and reminds them that they were "at that time separate from Messiah, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without G-d in the world" (Ephesians 2:12, NASB). The court of the Gentiles was the very outermost court in the Temple and Gentiles - whether worshippers of the G-d of Israel or simply curious tourists - were strictly prohibited from coming anywhere near the altars or the holy places. Sha'ul goes on, "But now in Messiah Yeshua you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Messiah" (v. 13, NASB). The Gentiles re enabled to come near to G-d, to approach His presence, because of Yeshua's blood on the stake that has opened a way. But there is more: "For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall" (v. 14, NASB). Jews and Gentiles - the former forbidden entry to the Holy of Holies just as much as the latter - are now able to enter G-d's presence. Both walls have been removed: between G-d and man, and between Jew and Gentile!
Many people today struggle with approaching G-d. Though desperate to find spirituality and a meaning for their lives, to connect with the eternal that their souls know is out there somewhere, they seem to keep hitting an invisible wall, a glass ceiling. Isaiah tells us, "Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your G-d, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear" (Isaiah 59:2, NASB). All mankind, Jew and Gentile alike, have to deal with this problem of sin; a wall that we have built with our own hands - so to speak - that has become an insuperable barrier between us and G-d. How is that densely woven fabric to be parted? "The word of G-d is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" Hebrews 4:12, NASB). G-d's word can cut through the barrier of sin and show us G-d's truth, the forgiveness that is available to us in Messiah Yeshua and make it possible for us to be reconciled to G-d. Yeshua Himself is the Living Word, the Living Torah, who "entered the Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption" (Hebrews 9:12, NASB).
Further Study: Amos 8:11-12; Hebrews 6:19-20
Application: Do you feel that there is a barrier between you and G-d, possibly even one that you made, decorated and finely embroidered? Hear the word of G-d today and allow it to cut through that barrier so that you can be reconciled to G-d and be able to enter His presence. Yeshua is the key to the door, the blood on the lintel and the gentle calling of the dove; He wants you today!
© Jonathan Allen, 2008
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