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Shemot/Exodus 28:1 And you, bring near to you Aharon your brother and his sons with him from among the Children of Israel, to priest for Me
Here,HaShem is telling Moshe what he will need to do once the Tabernacle has been constructed. As Rashi comments, this will apply, "after you complete the work of the Mishkan." According to Rabbi Hirsch, the verb , the Pi'el infinitive from the root , "never means to set someone up as a priest, but to function as a priest", thus accounting for our choice of translation above - taking 'priest' as it if were a verb, meaning to carry out the functions of a priest. However, the key theme that we are taking is the first verb in the text - , the Hif'il ms imperative of the root , to approach or come near (Davidson) - the way it is treated by the commentators and translators, and what it says to us today.
David Stern, in the CJB, offers the idea that HaShem meant, "Summon your brother Aharon ... from among the people of Isra'el", while the ESV proposes: "bring near to you Aharon your brother ... from among the people of Israel". The NIV favours, "Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites", while the NKJV opts for: "take Aaron your brother ... from among the children of Israel".Ibn Ezra suggests why Moshe was given this command: "Aharon was the one chosen to be High Priest, but Moshe was to bring them forward - 'offer them', as one might translate it - because he, as priest to the priests, would teach them what to do." Dr Joel Hoffman specifically warns against confusing the two verbs and in translation - one means to bring or draw near, the other means to sacrifice1 - and here is Ibn Ezra using precisely that technique to suggest that Moshe was offering Aharon and his sons as a sacrifice (living, of course) from the people.
All these translations have a common thread of Aharon being taken from or called out from among the people in order to serve as a priest before HaShem. As the biblical text itself later explains, "Aharon was set apart, he and his sons, forever, to be consecrated as most holy, to make burnt offerings to the L-rd and serve Him and pronounce blessings in His name forever" (1 Chronicles 23:13, NJPS). Given that Aharon was Moshe's older brother, the text wants to make it clear that this is not an act of nepotism: Moshe is acting under orders. Umberto Cassuto points to the first word in the text: "Since this appointment does not flow from the will of the people but from the will of the L-rd, who chooses the priests by means of Moshe, the pronoun 'and you' is 2 stressed here." Hirsch explains that 'you' references Moshe as "the transmitter and representative of the Torah. [Aharon] attains the honour of being taken from the midst of the nation to be placed next to 'you' for your work for the nation, inasmuch as he is set to work for the accomplishment of the object of your mission." Slightly toned down, Nahum Sarna says that, "until now Moshe has acted in the capacity of chief cultic officiant; he is the one who is to 'bring forward', that is, induct into office, the newly appointed chief priest."
We hear, then, a calling-out from among rather than an individual volunteering. Moshe, at HaShem's specific instructions, is to call Aharon out from among the people to serve HaShem. Aharon did not volunteer, canvas for the post or run a winning campaign among the people. He was HaShem's choice and was called out to serve. This is a pattern that we see again and again in the Scriptures. In the calling of Elishah, for example, Elijah "set out from there and came upon Elisha son of Shaphat as he was ploughing. There were twelve yoke of oxen ahead of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah came over to him and threw his mantle over him" (1 Kings 19:19, NJPS); no advance warning, just an unmistakable sign of calling. The prophet Amos, whose book starts with his original status - "a sheepbreeder from Tekoa, who prophesied concerning Israel in the reigns of Kings Uzziah of Judah and Jeroboam son of Joash of Israel, two years before the earthquake" (Amos 1:1, NJPS) - tells Amaziah the priest of Bethel that, "I am not a prophet, and I am not a prophet's disciple. I am a cattle breeder and a tender of sycamore figs. But the L-RD took me away from following the flock, and the L-RD said to me, 'Go, prophesy to My people Israel'" (7:14-15, NJPS). Notice how, just like Aharon, the prophets were called, equipped and sent off on specific missions. They were to carry and transmit the word of the L-rd.
The gospels go to some lengths to tell us that Yeshua called the disciples: "While walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And He said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.' Immediately they left their nets and followed Him" (Matthew 4:18-20, ESV); "As Yeshua passed on from there, He saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and He said to him, 'Follow Me.' And he rose and followed him" (9:9, ESV). They were in the middle of other things, normal life, without a thought of ministry or following a religious life, and Yeshua called them out from among the people, from their families, from their livelihoods, to follow Him and be His disciples. There is no suggestion that they promoted themselves or were fishing for an invitation. Once the disciples had been called, they too - just like Aharon and the prophets - were trained, equipped, commissioned and sent out, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations ... in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Matthew 28:19, Acts 1:8, ESV). As anointed messengers - "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses" (ibid., ESV) - they were carriers and messengers of the gospel and Yeshua.
So that leaves us with two questions. The first is this: have we been called out and set apart, or did we push ourselves forward (and what might that mean)? Have we truly responded to the call of the L-rd G-d through His Son Yeshua and responded in repentance and faith to that call, surrendering our lives entirely into His hands, or did we see something good going on and decide that we wanted some of that so tagged along and joined the party? Have we entered through the gate when we received our invitations, or have we climbed over the wall and simply started doing what everyone else is doing? We need to be sure that we know the answer to that question for ourselves and have correctly responded to Yeshua's call. In one sense, of course, that needn't be too worrying, since He invites "whoever" to respond to the good news, but it does mean that we need to make sure that we have followed through on the steps of response and that we have truly put Yeshua as first in our lives, trusting Him not only for salvation but accepting Him as the L-rd of our lives. Having made sure we know where we stand, we can then look at the second question.
The second question is: are we acting as the transmitters and representatives of the b'sorah, the gospel (and Yeshua)? We have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, the very ruach, breath of G-d Himself, who ">will remind us of everything [Yeshua] has said to us" (John 14:26, paraphrase) and who "will give us what to say before kings and govenors" (Mark 13:9-11, paraphrase). We have been given both the "ministry of reconciliation" and the "word of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18-19, NASB) together with a solemn duty to share them with those around us. It is not optional, as Rav Sha'ul write to Timothy: "For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of G-d, which is in you through the laying on of my hands" (2 Timothy 1:6, ESV). We have each received that gift and we will be judged and held responsible for how we have used it. Will you take the risk of deploying and multiplying your gift - turning two into five, five into ten or reaping thirty, sixty or a hundredfold - or will you bury yours in the ground? Now is the time to take the decision so that in the moment when you are called - and you will be, depend upon it - you won't hesitate and your reaction can be smooth and genuine.
1. - Dr Joel M. Hoffman, And God Said: How Translations Conceal the Bible's Original Meaning St Martin'sPress, 2010, pages 24-25
2. - Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Exodus, Magnes Press, Jerusalem, 1983, 965-223-456-7
Further Study: 1 Corinthians 1:26-29; Ephesians 4:1-3; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
Application: So are you in or are you folding? What is your decision today? Are you prepared to be a called-out and set-apart witness faithfully transmitting the gospel when and wherever it is needed to serve the kingdom of G-d?
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© Jonathan Allen, 2018
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