Parashat T’tzaveh-- Exodus 27:20-30:10
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Questions for Young Children
• Why do you think the Torah tells the Kohen who will be leading the worship for the Israelites to wear special clothes?
• When do you dress up in special clothes? How does it make you feel?
• Do you see the rabbi or cantor wearing different clothes to lead the service?
• What color clothes are the kohanim told to wear? Why do you think those colors are selected?

Questions for Older Children
• What special clothes are the kohanim told to wear? Do you think that kohanim needed special clothes? Why? Why not?
• There are several verses that describe the breastplate the kohen gadol wore. On it were twelve precious stones. Why? What do the stones symbolize?
• Do you know what incense is? Why do you think the kohanim used it?
• What do you see in a synagogue that was also in the Tabernacle? What’s missing?

Questions for Teens and Adults
• The kohanim are a special class of people from the tribe of Levi, descended from Aharon. As a special class, they have special tasks, clothes, and restrictions. What’s your opinion of creating a priestly caste?
• The parasha is concerned with the dress of the kohen. It’s important that his nakedness not be revealed so part of his ritual wear is pants under his tunic. Why do you think the Torah is concerned with modesty and do you think the definition of modesty changes from generation to generation? Should it?
• Do you think there should be a modesty dress code for synagogue? For your Friday night dinner? What would the code be if you had one?


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Create an anticipatory Purim meal for Shabbat Zakhor

  • Serve Persian foods.  The recipe featured this week for a side dish can be your starting point.  

                  Soup--Adh-e-jow, Persian Barley Soup. (   

                  Salad-- Chickpean, Plum, and Fennel Salad ( )                 

                  Meat dish--Cholow Nokhdow--  (   

                  Dessert--Hamentaschen, of course.

  • Serve a dinner in opposite order to set the table for a discussion of hipukhim (transformations or opposites) in the megillah.
  • Discuss Purim preparations, the idea of hipukhim (opposites or transformations in the story and celebration of Purim), the power of memory, the presence of women in the megillah, or the absence of God's name in the megillah.



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Many may feel this parasha is dull because it doesn’t advance the narrative of B’nei Yisrael’s exodus from Egypt. B’nei Yisrael may not be moving from place to place, but they are moving into a new sacred dimension and it is spelled out in detail in this parasha. This new sacred space includes designating rules for the people who will be leading B’nei Yisrael’s religious observance—the kohanim—as well as their consecration, laws concerning the sacrifices, and the place where worship will be conducted—the ohel moed.

One of the most unusual parts of the kohen gadol’s dress is the breastplate he is to wear (Exodus 28:6-30). He is literally dressed in the names of the tribes and has urim and tumim (see A Dash of Commentary for explanation) seemingly on or in the breastplate. The parasha concludes with the directions for building an altar and a recipe for incense.  When Parashat T’tzaveh is read on Shabbat Zakhor as it will be on March 11, the special maftir comes from Deuteronomy 25:17-19. It recalls the Amalekite attack on the Israelites targeting the women and children. Haman’s ancestry is traced back to Amalek, hence the connection to this special reading before Purim.

Find the food connection

כ וְאַתָּה תְּצַוֶּה אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ שֶׁמֶן זַיִת זָךְ כָּתִית--לַמָּאוֹר
You shall further instruct the Israelites to bring you clear oil of beaten olives for lighting..
--Exodus 27:20
וְעָשִׂיתָ עַל-שׁוּלָיו, רִמֹּנֵי תְּכֵלֶת וְאַרְגָּמָן וְתוֹלַעַת שָׁנִי--עַל-שׁוּלָיו, סָבִיב 
On its hem make pomegranates of blue, purple, and crimson yarns…
--Exodus 28:33

Olive oil and pomegranates!


The Side Dish

This parasha specifies exactly what the kohen gadol and the other kohanim are to wear. Here's an opportunity to talk about clothing and what it means to wear certain kinds of clothes to certain places or on certain occasions. Some children will claim it shouldn’t matter what they wear. Others obsess about their clothing each day. I know one seven-year-old who wears her Superman T-shirt whenever it's clean. Some children always seem to pick the least appropriate clothes for any occasion. Does it matter? Why should it matter?

I grew up in the age of miniskirts. At my private school where we wore the ultimate in ugly uniforms, the faculty waged a war against short hemlines. When we entered school, we could be commanded to kneel and keep our backs straight. Our hemline had to touch the floor when we knelt or we were sent home and given a detention. We students considered this Draconian (and, believe me, we knew who Draco was), but we had little recourse. Our girls’ school was trying to impose modesty and create young ladies. By the time I entered college in 1969, dress codes were fading away. College men who used to wear ties and jackets to dinner now wore jeans. Girls wore jeans. Modesty became archaic.

Modesty also makes its appearance in this parasha in 28:42 although it is more implicit than explicit. Kohanim are commanded to wear pants under their tunics for modesty’s sake. (Imagine the kohanim ascending to the altar). In Israel you’ve probably encountered signs that encourage women’s modesty and prescribe long skirts, long sleeves. Have you seen signs that pertain to modesty for men? 





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A Dash of Fashion
If you want to visualize the priestly garments, check this website: wardrobe drawing


A Dash of Rashi--Urim and  Tummim

Rashi explains that when the Jewish people needed to know something important, the urim and tummim could be consulted to reveal God’s will. How did it work? According to Rashi, God’s special name was written and placed in the fold of the breastplate where it illuminated different stones with a message. This, the Talmud explains, is the source of its name: urim is the Hebrew word for light; tummim is related to tam meaning perfect (Yoma 73b).

Strangely this Hebrew phrase is centered on Yale University’s seal on the image of an open book. Its Latin translation, lux et veritas, light and truth, appears above the book. For more information, see Dan Oren’s article:


A Dash of Midrash --Sh'mot Rabba 37:4

Moshe had been serving as the all purpose leader of B'nei Yisrael.  In this parasha God tells him the priesthood will be Aharon's.  Why isn't Moshe the Kohen Gadol and how does he feel about the position going to Aharon?  What light does this midrash shed on the question? What do you think of the analogy in the midrash?

Sh'mot Rabbah 37:4

"And as for you, you shall bring forward your brother Aaron." (Exodus 28:1)

It is written, "If the Torah had not been my plaything, I should have perished in m poverty" (Psalms 119:92).  When God told Moshe, "As for you, you shall bring forward your brother Aaron..." God did him an injury. God said, "I had possession of the Torah, and I gave it to you:  if it were not for the Torah, I should have lost My world!"  This is like a wise man who married his relative and after ten years together, when she had not borne children, he said to her, "Seek me a wife!"  He said to her, "I could marry without your permission, but I seek your cooperation."  So said God to Moshe. "I could have made your brother High Priest without informing you, but I wish you to be great over him."   

דָּבָר אַחֵר, וְאַתָּה הַקְרֵב אֵלֶיךָ, הֲדָא הוּא דִכְתִיב (תהלים קיט, צב): לוּלֵי תוֹרָתְךָ שַׁעֲשֻׁעָי אָז אָבַדְתִּי בְעָנְיִי, כְּשֶׁאָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְמשֶׁה: וְאַתָּה הַקְרֵב אֵלֶיךָ, הֵרַע לוֹ, אָמַר לוֹ תּוֹרָה הָיְתָה לִי וּנְתַתִּיהָ לְךָ, שֶׁאִלּוּלֵי הִיא אִבַּדְתִּי עוֹלָמִי. מָשָׁל לְחָכָם שֶׁנָּטַל קְרוֹבָתוֹ וְעָשְׂתָה עִמּוֹ עֶשֶׂר שָׁנִים וְלֹא יָלְדָה, אָמַר לָהּ בַּקְשִׁי לִי אִשָּׁה, אָמַר לָהּ יָכוֹל אֲנִי לִטֹּל חוּץ מֵרְשׁוּתֵךְ אֶלָּא שֶׁהָיִיתִי מְבַקֵּשׁ עִנְוְתָנוּתֵךְ. כָּךְ אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְמשֶׁה, יָכוֹל הָיִיתִי לַעֲשׂוֹת לְאָחִיךָ כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל חוּץ מִדַּעְתְּךָ, אֶלָּא שֶׁהָיִיתִי מְבַקֵּשׁ שֶׁתְּהֵא גָּדוֹל עָלָיו

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Roasted Vegetables with Olive Oil and Pomegranate Vinaigrette
Pareve, vegan and gluten free--serves 8

Ingredientsrsz 08 tetzveh roasted veg with pomegranate vinaigrette copy

  • 2 heads caulifower (about 3 pounds), cut into small florets
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2” wedges
  • 1 pound brussels sprouts, halved
  • 3 Tblsp. olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper


  • 1/2 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper


  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds


  1. Preheat oven to 425º
  2. Toss the vegetables with olive oil in a large baggie and spread out on a rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Roast until cauliflower is golden turning after 30 min.
  5. Make the vinaigrette by combining the juice, oil and salt and pepper in a jar and shaking well, or whisk in a bowl, or use a food processor.
  6. Before serving, drizzle the vinaigrette over the warm vegetables and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

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