The instructions from HaShem continue in this parasha. The finest materials are now applied toward three elements: the creation of the Priest’s vestments, the procedure for consecrating the priests, and construction of the altar for burning incense.
Nothing is improvised. Every detail is to be carried out exactly. To be created are a breastplate, an ephod (a long vest), a fringed tunic, a headdress, and a sash; priestly garb for Aaron and his sons to wear as they serve HaShem.
The materials are exquisite. Here are those used for constructing a breastplate: absolutely beautiful yarns of gold, blue, purple and crimson are employed, as well as beautiful stones of carnelian, chrysolite, emerald, turquoise, sapphire, and amethyst among others. (28:15)
The vestments must be consecrated, as must their wearers, the priests. Here the instructions deal with the procedure. With each vestment there is a pouring on of oil. Yet the exacting procedure is only beginning, for a purification rite demands that unblemished bulls and rams be led to the altar to be sacrificed. The blood of these animals is dripped on the right ear of Aaron and his sons. Aaron’s vestments, once consecrated are passed on to the sons, and the purification right repeated every day for seven days. Only Aaron and his sons may consume the meat of the animals. (29:1-28)
The odor is strong, to say the least. Perhaps this is why instructions are made to construct an altar of the finest acacia wood in order to burn incense. Incense can help neutralize or sweeten the odor. No foreign incense is to be used, nor is a grain offering or a burnt offering to be made on this altar. It is to be cleaned once a year. (30:1-10)
In this worldview, the care that is taken in fulfilling these instructions is a mark of holiness, and obedience to them is the highest spiritual discipline.
Questions to be discussed: Does holiness have its place today? Is obedience still considered a virtue? If not, what has replaced it in importance, now that we no longer have temple to make sacrifices?