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Shemot/Exodus 29:42 A continual burnt offering for your generations, [at] the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, before the L-rd, where I will meet with you there to speak to you there.
This is part of the instructions for the daily offerings that are to be brought in the Tabernacle: one year-old lamb with a meal and oil offering and a drink offering, each day, morning and evening. It immediately follows the instructions for the consecration or Aharon and his sons as priests and comes, in turn, as part of the instructions thatHaShem is giving Moshe for the making, setting up and daily functioning of the ritual cult of the Tabernacle. In time, it will be followed by the worship in the first and second temples and although somewhat enlarged and embroidered over time, it - in its substitute form, the Amidah - remains the core of the synagogue prayer services to this day.
The word , a noun from the root , to go up, is biblical shorthand for a burnt offering, because it goes up entirely in smoke on the altar. Here it is used with the qualifier - an abtract noun from the root meaning "continuance, perpetuity" (Davidson) and here acting as an adjective, "continual" - to encompass the ritual of both the daily sacrifices, morning and evening: the year-old lamb, with the "one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with one-fourth of a hin of beaten oil, and one-fourth of a hin of wine" (Shemot 29:40, NASB) that accompanied it. Burned entirely upon the altar, they rose both in smoke and as a sweet smelling savour before HaShem.Rashi comments that 'continual' means "from day to day; and there should not be an intervening day" on which the offering is not brought. The next word, , comes from the root and means "for your generations"; this is understood to mean forever, as long as you have generations of descendants - as long as there are Jews. Ibn Ezra takes the practical position that this didn't, however, apply until the Israelites entered the Land; he argues, "Logically, the Israelites could not have offered sacrifice which they were in the wilderness, except at Sinai and in the Day of Atonement in the second year, perhaps fifty times in all. As Amos asks, 'Did you offer sacrifice and oblation to Me those forty years in the wilderness, O House of Israel?' (Amos 5:25, JPS). Where, in the 'empty, howling waste' (D'varim 32:10, JPS) where they spent 38 years, did they find half a hin of olive oil and wine every day?"
The phrase is only found in three other places in the Hebrew Bible. In B'Midbar 28:6, it is part of the section from verse three to verse eight, which repeats the detailed instructions for the sacrifice. In Ezekiel 46:15, verses thirteen to fifteen describe this as part of the ritual for Ezekiel's temple, but only once a day and with differing meal and drink offerings. Ezra 3:5, in the narrative block of verse two to verse six, narrates the restoration of the ritual by the returnees from the Babylonian exile, without specifying quantities. By the time of the first century and on into rabbinic Judaism, the ritual is referred to exclusively as , "the continual offering" and is considered a hallmark of Jewish observance. This could be the "sacrifice, as the law directs" (1 Maccabees 5:53) that the Hasmoneans first offered on the newly built and dedicated altar when they recovered Jerusalem from the Greek Selucids.
Two points remain to be considered. The first is who exactly is being addressed in this text. The Hebrew is ambiguous. The 'your' with 'generations' is plural as is the "meet with you", but the "speak to you" is singular - is HaShem talking to Moshe or to the people? Ibn Ezra attempts to solve the ambiguity by suggesting that while HaShem will meet with the people (plural) He will only speak with Moshe (singular). Umberto Cassuto appears to consider that Israel as a people is in view at all times: "The tent of meeting is the place where I will meet with you - where I shall reveal Myself to you, O children of Israel, and appoint for you, so to speak, a meeting with Me."1 This is consonant with the idea that although the people are made up of individuals, when they act together as a people, then they are one. The people come as individuals to gather together before the Tent of Meeting, but once assembled there together, HaShem can speak to them as one people.Hirsch too confirms this: "It is not the individuality of Moshe, but the devotion of the nation which brings about the proximity of G-d, and it is the nation to whom G-d comes when He speaks to Moshe."
Hirsh's words, however, also lead us on to the second point. What happens when the people gather? In modern vernacular, G-d has promised to turn up when His people gather to worship Him. Hirsch continues, "There, He expects and awaits us, thither we have to go with our elevating-offering as a sign of our constant devotion to Him and His Torah, if we want to expect that He shall come to us." Both the text and Hirsch say the same thing: if we want to hear from G-d, if we want to experience G-d's presence, then we have to gather and turn up - we have to be there and bring the appropriate sacrifice, the right offering. This is not treating G-d like a slot machine that dispenses chocolate bars - put in the right combination of money and out comes the chocolate - but it is complying with His instructions. He is the initiator in these encounters; he has set the time and the place - chosen to be convenient for the people, in the quiet and cool of the morning and evening rather than the heat of the day - and we follow His lead.
There is a degree of intentionality that is required to make this work. Meetings don't just happen; they are not chance encounters on the pavement when going from one place to another, in transit as it were. G-d has intentionally set a place, date and time when He offers to meet with us, time that He has set aside, private time for just Him and us. We are the ones who are called to attend the meeting and this requires just as much intentionality on our part. Yeshua told the disciples, "wherever two or three are assembled in My name, I am there with them" (Matthew 18:20, CJB), but if we are not careful we miss the key point in His words. He said, 'assembled'; the two or three (or more, of course) have to intentionally gather, recognise that they are in His presence and engage with Him. Writing to the community of believers in Corinth, Rav Sha'ul reminds them, "When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation" (1 Corinthians 14:26. ESV). The gifts of the Spirit, a manifestation of the presence of G-d among His people by His Spirit, happen when they come together. They come together intentionally to worship - hence the hymn - and the Ruach moves to bless the people and reveal G-d's presence.
The text emphasises that the Israelites were to make sure that the offering was made every day - twice each day, in practice - without fail, Shabbat included. The worship of the people was to be regular, consistent, deliberate and intentional. Without each of those four qualities, it wasn't going to happen. Over time worship at the Tabernacle at Shiloh did fall away - partly, at least, due to the distance of travel and the people being busy. By the time of David, even the priests and Levites could not be relied upon to be there, so David instituted a rota system so that every day of every week you could be sure of finding someone on duty at the Temple. He also instituted rotas for the provision of wood and offerings so that the daily service would not fail. Even so, during the times of the kings there were years when no-one was to be found at the Temple from one month's end to the next and the house fell not only into disuse but disrepair. The consequence was that no-one was assembled to hear the word of the L-rd and the vision of the people failed: they had no vision and, as the Proverbs say, "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (Proverbs 29:18, KJV).
Our worship, rather contrary to the way society works in these post-modern days, is likewise to be regular, consistent, deliberate and intentional. Without each of those four qualities, it isn't going to happen. That means, amongst other things, that we turn up for worship whether we really want to or not, whether we feel like it or not and whether we really expect to hear from G-d or not. Regular and consistent worship may be facilitated by liturgy or it may work better free-flow, the exact format isn't the point that matters. Deliberate and intentional worship happens because people are determined to meet with G-d, even if nothing spectacular happened last time or has for a week - when people consistently show up for worship, so does G-d and something always happens to or for someone. As the prophet said, "So is the word that issues from My mouth: it does not come back to Me unfulfilled, but performs what I purpose, achieves what I sent it to do" (Isaiah 55:11, JPS). God speaks and the world stands still. Will you be there to hear it?
1. - Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Exodus, Magnes Press, Jerusalem, 1983, 965-223-456-7
Further Study: B'Midbar 28:1-8; Acts 4:23-31; Ephesians 5:15-20
Application: How do you feel about being regular and consistent in worship? Have you met with G-d recently? Perhaps meaning business with G-d will result in Him meaning business with you!
12:09 17Feb16 Tom Hiney: Regular and consistent worship is necessary. I do meet God, but we do not do so collectively as do the Jewish people. We are too individualistic. We do not think of the "our" in "Our Father" enough. Logically we would see our fellow worshippers more as brothers and sisters as Jesus recommended. To be really effective we should be filled with the Holy Spirit.
© Jonathan Allen, 2016
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