Metaphors in the Torah: “Tetzeveh” (Exodus 27:20 – 30:10)


Illustration: Adam and Eve Driven Out of Eden
By Gustav Dor'e


This weekly portion begins with the command to use olive oil as a source of light which is always to be used to illuminate the inside of the tabernacle. Thus we can associate olive trees with sources of enlightenment, since we have shown in previous articles that a tree is a metaphor for a teacher or a book. Furthermore, we may conclude that the tabernacle of God is to serve as a source of understanding for the Israelites since God’s voice can be heard there.

After this, “Tetzeveh” begins to discuss the clothing of the priests and these are described as: “holy”. As we mentioned in other articles in this series, the word “holy” has something to do with: "communications from God". So, Moses is ordered to remove his sandals because he is on holy ground. Another interesting example of holy is when Judah mistakes his daughter in law for a prostitute. The word the Torah uses to describe her is: “holy one” and this is quite reasonable since in those days there was extensive use of temple prostitutes. Thus we can begin to appreciate why it was permissible for the Israelites to marry 16,000 Midianite virgins. A prostitute or a wife was used to call upon God, a virgin was a woman who had never been involved in the worship of any God.

Before getting into details about the priests clothing, let’s just try and get an idea about what clothing in general represents. We discussed in other articles that when King Saul was naked people associated him with a prophet and we also noted that when Adam and Eve were naked they had a closer relationship with God which was described as: “living”. Hence, clothing and being expelled from the Garden of Eden should be associated with death.   

Since Adam and Eve didn’t actually die, what we can then see from their punishments are that “death” is a metaphor for “ignorance” and that food and trees are associated with teaching and knowledge. So, Adam will have difficulties in producing the fruits of the land and Eve will have difficulty in producing children (we have already shown in other articles the connection between first born sons and the word of God, but, in addition to this, when Rachel is unable to get pregnant Jacob clearly states he is not responsible that there is no fruit in her womb).

The other two examples of clothing have both to do with Joseph. Joseph’s garment is used by his brothers to deceive their father that Joseph is dead and, later, another garment is used by Pontiphar’s wife to deceive her husband into thinking Joseph attempted to rape her. What is interesting here is that, in Hebrew, the word for naked is the same as the word for cunning or deceptive. Thus, when Adam and Eve are described as seeing themselves as naked, one could just as easily interpret this to mean that they realized they were deceptive or cunning. Thus their clothing was used as an attempt to hide this character flaw.

Regardless, it is my opinion that in the Torah a person’s clothing, very much as it still does today, shows the source of their knowledge. Accordingly, when Adam and Eve saw they were naked, they first attempted to disguise themselves as fig trees since in the Book of Judges we are told that the fig should be associated with "good". After they are expelled from the garden, however, God removes their fig leaves and dresses them in animal skins (i.e. something dead).  Hence, thru their clothes, God is in effect saying: "These two people are sources of knowledge based on ignorance".

Sex represents a form of prayer and thus the accusation that Joseph wanted to rape the women, actually means that he tried to convert her to his religion. Thus, the Bible speaks of whoring after other Gods and, after Jacob's daughter is raped, his sons claim they cannot allow their sister to be treated as a whore. Also, I believe it is no accident that when Jacob's daughter Dinah is raped she is described as going out to see the daughters of the land. A daughter is usually associated with the priesthood and land, as we mentioned, is usually associated with schools (i.e. if a tree is a teacher then the land is a school).

So, with this background information, we can then begin to appreciate why the clothing is described as: “holy” and throughout the descriptions of the tabernacle and the priesthood the word: “pure” appears again and again.

Another important point to consider is that the men who are selected to make the clothing are described as having: “wise hearts”. This is important because we discussed in a previous article about sin that the blood contains the soul and the word for “honor” in Hebrew also means the liver. Naturally, one of the main functions of the liver is to purify the blood by removing toxins. Thus, the clothing is described as bringing honor to God and beauty.


The other story where beauty appears prominently is in the description of 76 year old Sarah and then again when she is 89. We are told that both the Pharaoh of Egypt and the King of Gerar thought that Sarah was beautiful despite her great age. How is that possible?

Obviously, this is a metaphor and if we understand the connection between sex and prayer then “a beautiful woman” can be seen as one who has the ability to: “make one desire to be closer to God” (i.e. Sarah was a highly skilled spiritual medium). Hence, God tells Abraham to: “heed the voice of Sarah”.

The last topic we shall discuss is precious stones. Basically, we should all be a little confused here because, generally speaking, God is associated with the spirit, so why should all this emphasis be placed on materialistic values like: gold, precious stones, beautiful women, etc., etc.? It is my opinion that these are simply metaphors; so just as there is no real difference between a valley, a plain and a mountain, in the Torah these are used as symbols to demonstrate higher and lower levels of understanding.

If we accept the fact that the land is a school, then a rock must represent a certain type of teaching. Since the Ten Commandments were written on stone, we concluded that a stone is a metaphor for God’s laws; hence David used God’s laws to bring death to the mind of the Philistine Goliath (i.e. he discredited Goliath's ideas about religion). A precious stone, therefore, would seem to represent religious laws or teachings which are to be held very precious. We are told that each precious stone represents a different tribe. The Israelites are the custodians of God’s word and the Israelites have souls and, some of them, even have God’s spirit.

Accordingly, it is my conclusion that “precious stones” on the priests clothing are metaphors for: “spiritual laws” which both purify and increase men’s desire to follow God’s ways…