Thursday, March 19, 2020

When Moses was the High Priest

In Modern Hebrew, mi’lu’im connotes reserve military duty that Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldiers who complete their compulsory service, are required to fulfil. Mi’lu’im service can accrue to almost a month annually. In the Bible, the days of mi’lu’im, however, refer to the seven-day “training period” prior to the dedication of the Tabernacle.

The Tabernacle the Children of Israel constructed in the Sinai wilderness, was dedicated on the first day of the Hebrew month of Nissan, about a year after the Exodus. Prior to that, a practice week was held, where the priests and Levites became acquainted with the very specific detailed service they would facilitate in God’s mortal habitat, which, eventually would transition into the building of the Temple in Jerusalem. That mi’lu’im week began on the 23rd day of the Hebrew month of Adar.

Since Aaron was to serve as the first High Priest in the Tabernacle, he needed to train before he could properly assume the role. In order to demonstrate to Aaron what to do and how to function, his brother, Moses, served as the temporary High Priest during the Inauguration Week. This week was the only time Moses functioned not only as a priest, but as a High Priest. Moses dressed his brother and the other priests daily in their sacred raiment, demonstrated how to ritually wash themselves and how to offer the animal and grain sacrifices. Moses also anointed the priests with the special oil used to consecrate them.

A description of this service and the command to Moses to prepare the priests for their service is found in the book of Exodus (28:1-43) where the details of the priestly attire were given. A more robust description is offered in the book of Leviticus (8:1-36).

The seven-day inauguration process of the Temple, its personnel and its vessels, took place in front of the nation. On each of the days, Moses sprinkled anointment oil on the Tabernacle, its vessels, the priests and on the priestly vestments. Moses also offered three special animal sacrifices: a bovine sin offering, a ram as a burnt offering and a ram offering, special for the inauguration week.

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