Commentary - Year 2 Sabbath 16/17

Exodus 30:1-38   -   Malachi 1:11-2:7  -   Psalm 61, 62  -   Luke 1:1-25, Revelation 8:3-4, 14:11

Tammuz 12, 5762 / Jun 22, 2002, Tammuz 16, 5765 / July 23, 2005 see Y2-16

Av 4, 5762 / July 13, 2002, Av 1, 5765 / Aug 6, 2005 see Y2-17

Tammuz 23, 5768 / July 26, 2008

Tammuz 21, 5771 / July 23, 2011

Tammuz 21, 5774 / July 19, 2014

Tammuz 21, 5777 / July 15, 2017


V'ashit Mizbe'ach / You Shall Make an Altar   SCRIPTURES (should be read first)


We are to have a prayer time morning and evening.


Firstly, we must be cleansed at the laver. Having our feet washed represents having our walk before God cleansed by learning to follow His Word. Having our hands washed means having our actions before God cleansed by learning to follow His Word. What we undertake and how we perform must come from a heart attitude that is purified by repentance and learning to follow the Word of God.


Then we may come to God’s altar of prayer. Our prayers are to be specifically according to God’s instruction – no unholy mixtures of incense or “strange fire.” This is the meaning of “praying according to His will.” It is the meaning of “praying in Yeshua’s Name” – asking for that which is needed to fulfill our Father’s work as Yeshua instructed.


(V.1 & 10) “And you shall make an altar to burn incense upon: . . .  it is most holy to Yahweh


This altar is called the Golden Altar, the Incense Altar, and the Inner Altar (in contrast to the Brazen Altar for offerings in the outer court). It was located in the Holy Place, in front of the center of the veil, where the poles of the Ark of the Covenant protruded from the other side. It was about 20" (1 cubit) square and 40" (2 cubits) tall, with four extensions on its upper corners and two carrying poles through support rings.


Incense was to be burned on this Golden Altar every morning when ashes of the wicks were cleaned from the menorah, and every evening when flames were made to ascend from the menorah. Perpetual or continual means every day regularly; it does not mean all day.


The incense required a special formula, which was not to be made for any other purpose. Incense of any other formula, or this formula for any other purpose (such as freewill offering), was called "strange fire."


Each year on the Day of the Atonements (Yom haKippurim), blood from the Goat for Yahweh (the elevation offering burned on the Outer Altar) was to be sprinkled on this Inner Altar. The High Priest walked to the right of the Incense Altar to enter the Holy of Holies once a year.

For from the rising of the sun even to the going down of the same My Name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered to My Name, and a pure offering: for My Name shall be great among the heathen, says Yahweh of hosts
” – Malachi 1:11.


From this prophet we learn that incense offerings to Yahweh relate to the world beyond Israel.

Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of Your wings
” – Psalm 61:1-4.


From Psalm 61 being tied to this week's Torah portion, we find that prayer is related to the Incense Altar. We also find them relating to defense against sin and dwelling forever in God's tabernacle. Praising the Name of Yahweh forever (v.8) is a part of praying without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17).

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zachariah, of the course of Abia: . . . And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course, according to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the Temple of Yahweh. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of Yahweh standing on the right side of the altar of incense.  And when Zachariah saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zachariah: for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elisabeth shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” – Luke 1:5-13.


Being of the course of Abia shows that Zachariah was serving the week following the Feast of  the Firstfruits (Pentecost), the tenth week of the Festival Year (the eight courses of I Chronicles 24:1-10 begin with the first Sabbath of Nisan, and two weeks are added for festivals when all priests served).


Even if Zachariah did not recognize the man as an Angel, he might be fearful of seeing someone at the (right side of the Altar) entrance to the Holy of Holies – where entering would bring a man immediate death. And only a properly prepared priest could enter even the Holy Place where Zachariah was. If he did recognize the man as an Angel, why would he be so doubtful of an Angel's words?


Note that the multitude outside was praying while Zachariah was at the Incense Altar.

And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand
” – Revelation 8:3-4.


In seeking the symbolism of offering incense on the Golden Altar, it may be clearly seen from these passages that it is related to the prayers of God's people. The word for "perpetual" or "continual" incense offerings is the same as the word for prayer “without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), which means to pray at all the appointed times – evening, morning, and noon (Psalm 55:17 and Daniel 6:13-16; remember that the Biblical day begins with evening).


Two types of elevation offerings are noted. Animal sacrifices are burned at the Brazen Altar in the Outer Court: their aroma ascends to the heavens. Incense offerings are burned on the Golden Altar in the enclosed Inner Court: their sweet aroma also ascends to the heavens. The former is the aroma of the sin sacrifice, representing Yeshua's crucifixion, without which one's own torment will be as smoke ascending forever. The latter is the sweet aroma of prayers of those who bear His Name – His saints.


"And you shall make an altar to burn incense upon" is seen as instruction to establish a place for regular prayer – every day at the appointed times in the appointed manner – no strange fire. (The Shemoneh Esrei and the Disciples Prayer of Matthew 6:9-13 teach the appointed manner.)


And as usual, we see that the spiritual (prayer) and the physical (incense) counterparts are seen together – not one or the other, not one without the other – both are commanded, both were done together at the Tabernacle in the wilderness and in the Holy Temple at Jerusalem.


We often consider the Commandments of God: how we are to love Yahweh with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love our neighbor as our self. But Yeshua gave us a “new” commandment – a concept bringing the second commandment to a new level: from loving our neighbor as our self, to loving one another as He loved us!


Consider: we might pray for physical prosperity for our neighbor, as we would like for our self. But we should pray for spiritual prosperity for one another, as Yeshua prayed for us. It often seem easier to desire natural things, than to desire spiritual growth – which can mean we have to change our habits, to repent.


What if every time we realized that we had sought our own will instead of God’s, we had to bring an animal offering?  We are supposed to do what that represents – confess to God and change our habits!


v. 11
The half-shekel silver coin was atonement for the soul. The rich could not give more and the poor could not give less, indicating equality – no one could out-do anyone else. Believers should see themselves as equals before God; it is wrong to think of one’s self as greater or to hate another. It may also be seen here that adult men were responsible to represent their families before God.


In Temple times, the coins would be inserted into a trumpet (shofar) shaped receptacle and a blessing would be recited. Donating the coins to the Temple would make them holy – dedicated to God. Yeshua spoke of a similar situation as recorded in Matthew 23:16-22: “Which is more important, the gold or the Temple that sanctifies the gold?”


The receptacles would be emptied into a large vault room. On Erev Rosh Hodesh Nisan (the evening before the New Year for Festivals), nine baskets full (Trumat haLishkah / the elevated offerings of the vault) would be lifted up ceremonially and then used for Temple service expenses for that year. The remaining coins (Shearei haLishkah / the gates’ vault) were used for upkeep of the Temple courtyard walls and gates, and for the pilgrimage festivals.


[Side issue: see KIPPOT]




"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Who chose us from among all peoples by giving us Your Torah.

Blessed are You, Yahweh, giver of the Torah."

The Golden Altar

Reader 1Amen. 1 "Moreover, you shall make an altar as a place for burning incense; you shall make it of acacia wood. 2 "Its length shall be a cubit, and its width a cubit, it shall be square, and its height shall be two cubits; its horns shall be of one piece with it. 3 "You shall overlay it with pure gold, its top and its sides all around, and its horns; and you shall make a gold molding all around for it. 4 "You shall make two gold rings for it under its molding; you shall make them on its two side walls – on opposite sides – and they shall be holders for poles with which to carry it. 5 "You shall make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold.

Reader 2Amen. 6 "You shall put this altar in front of the veil that is near the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is over the ark of the testimony, where I will meet with you. 7 "Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it; he shall burn it every morning when he trims the lamps. 8 "When Aaron trims the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense. There shall be perpetual incense before Yahweh throughout your generations. 9 "You shall not offer any strange incense on this altar, or burnt offering or meal offering; and you shall not pour out a drink offering on it. 10 "Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year; he shall make atonement on it with the blood of the sin offering of atonement once a year throughout your generations. It is most holy to Yahweh."

The Census

Reader 3Amen. 11 Yahweh also spoke to Moses, saying, 12 "When you take a census of the sons of Israel to number them, then each one of them shall give a ransom for himself to Yahweh, when you number them, so that there will be no plague among them when you number them. 13 "This is what everyone who is numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as a contribution to Yahweh. 14 "Everyone who is numbered, from twenty years old and over, shall give the contribution to Yahweh. 15 "The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than the half shekel, when you give the contribution to Yahweh to make atonement for yourselves. 16 "You shall take the atonement money from the sons of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the sons of Israel before Yahweh, to make atonement for yourselves."

The Laver

Reader 4Amen. 17 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, 18 "You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base of bronze, for washing; and you shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it. 19 "Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet from it; 20 when they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water, so that they will not die; or when they approach the altar to minister, by offering up in smoke a fire sacrifice to Yahweh. 21 "So they shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they will not die; and it shall be a perpetual statute for them, for Aaron and his descendants throughout their generations."

Anointing oil

Reader 5Amen. 22 Moreover, Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, 23 "Take also for yourself the finest of spices: of flowing myrrh five hundred shekels, and of fragrant cinnamon half as much, two hundred and fifty, and of fragrant cane two hundred and fifty, 24 and of cassia five hundred, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and of olive oil a hin. 25 "You shall make of these a holy anointing oil, a perfume mixture, the work of a perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil. 26 "With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony, 27 and the table and all its utensils, and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, 28 and the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the laver and its stand. 29 "You shall also consecrate them, that they may be most holy; whatever touches them shall be holy.

Reader 6Amen. 30 "You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister as priests to Me. 31 "You shall speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'This shall be a holy anointing oil to Me throughout your generations. 32 'It shall not be poured on anyone's body, nor shall you make any like it in the same proportions; it is holy, and it shall be holy to you. 33 'Whoever shall mix any like it or whoever puts any of it on a layman shall be cut off from his people.'"


Reader 7Amen. 34 Then Yahweh said to Moses, "Take for yourself spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, spices with pure frankincense; there shall be an equal part of each. 35 "With it you shall make incense, a perfume, the work of a perfumer, salted, pure, and holy. 36 "You shall beat some of it very fine, and put part of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting where I will meet with you; it shall be most holy to you. 37 "The incense which you shall make, you shall not make in the same proportions for yourselves; it shall be holy to you for Yahweh. 38 "Whoever shall make any like it, to use as perfume, shall be cut off from his people."


"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Who in giving us Yeshua, the Living Torah, has planted everlasting life in our midst.

Blessed are You, Yahweh, giver of the Torah."



"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Who selected good prophets, delighting in their words which were spoken truthfully.

Blessed are You, Yahweh, Who chose the Torah, Your servant Moses, Your people Israel,

and the prophets of truth and righteousness."


Malachi 1:11 - 2:7

Reader 8Amen. 11 "For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My Name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations," says Yahweh of hosts. 12 "But you are profaning it, in that you say, 'The table of Yahweh is defiled, and as for its fruit, its food is to be despised.' 13 "You also say, 'My, how tiresome it is!' And you disdainfully sniff at it," says Yahweh of hosts, "and you bring what was taken by robbery and what is lame or sick; so you bring the offering! Should I receive that from your hand?" says Yahweh. 14 "But cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock and vows it, but sacrifices a blemished animal to Yahweh, for I am a great King," says Yahweh of hosts, "and My name is feared among the nations."

Reader 9Amen. 2:1 "And now this commandment is for you, O priests. 2 "If you do not listen, and if you do not take it to heart to give honor to My name," says Yahweh of hosts, "then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings; and indeed, I have cursed them already, because you are not taking it to heart. 3 "Behold, I am going to rebuke your offspring, and I will spread refuse on your faces, the refuse of your feasts; and you will be taken away with it. 4 "Then you will know that I have sent this commandment to you, that My covenant may continue with Levi," says Yahweh of hosts. 5 "My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him as an object of reverence; so he revered Me and stood in awe of My name. 6 "True instruction was in his mouth and unrighteousness was not found on his lips; he walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many back from iniquity. 7 "For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of Yahweh of hosts.


Psalm 61    (To be sung.)    For the choir director; on a stringed instrument. A Psalm of David.

Hear my cry, O God; give heed to my prayer. 2 From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. 3 For You have been a refuge for me, a tower of strength against the enemy. 4 Let me dwell in Your tent forever; let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. Selah. 5 For You have heard my vows, O God; You have given me the inheritance of those who fear Your name. 6 You will prolong the king's life; his years will be as many generations. 7 He will abide before God forever; appoint lovingkindness and truth that they may preserve him. 8 So I will sing praise to Your name forever, that I may pay my vows day by day.


Psalm 62     (To be sung.)    For the choir director; according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.

1 My soul waits in silence for God only; from Him is my salvation. 2 He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken. 3 How long will you assail a man, that you may murder him, all of you, like a leaning wall, like a tottering fence? 4 They have counseled only to thrust him down from his high position; they delight in falsehood; they bless with their mouth, but inwardly they curse. Selah. 5 My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. 6 He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken. 7 On God my salvation and my glory rest; the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. 8 Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah. 9 Men of low degree are only vanity and men of rank are a lie; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than breath. 10 Do not trust in oppression and do not vainly hope in robbery; if riches increase, do not set your heart upon them. 11 Once God has spoken; twice I have heard this: that power belongs to God; 12 and lovingkindness is Yours, O Lord, for You recompense a man according to his work.

Luke 1:5-25

Reader 10Amen. 5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years. 8 Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering.

Reader 11Amen. 11 And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12 Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. 13 But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. 14 "You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb. 16 "And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. 17 "It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." 18 Zacharias said to the angel, "How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years." 19 The angel answered and said to him, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 "And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time."

Reader 12Amen. 21 The people were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them; and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he kept making signs to them, and remained mute. 23 When the days of his priestly service were ended, he went back home. 24 After these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, 25 "This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men."


Revelation 8:3-4, 14:11

Reader 13Amen. 3 Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne.

 4 And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel's hand.


11 "And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."


"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Rock of Ages, righteous throughout all generations.

You are the faithful God, promising and then performing, speaking and then fulfilling,

for all Your words are true and righteous.

Faithful are You, Yahweh our God, and faithful are Your words,

for no word of Yours shall remain unfulfilled;

You are a faithful and merciful God and King.

Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, Who are faithful in fulfilling all Your words."


© 2014  Beikvot HaMashiach
(Followers of the Messiah)