Rashi comments on this text in Ex 32:3-6:
Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their earsand brought them to Aaron. He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.’ Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.’ So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.
The “this” that Aaron saw was that the image of the beast literally seemed to come to life before him. It was a deceit, a lying wonder, and it provoked Aaron to proclaim a feast and build an altar to it…but it was NOT YHVH! It was a tree of the knowledge of good and evil, a confusion of good with evil inspired by the serpent, the most cunning beast of the field. Compare that to:
And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed. (Re 13:15)
Moses tested the Israelites by forcing them to drink the gold-water, a form a sotah trial*, to know who had worshiped the beast and blasphemed the Name by attaching it to an image, a golden mask over an evil lie and deception. The serpent likewise inspires blasphemy and usurps human worship using the beast in the Revelation text:
All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. (13:8)
In a most wicked plot, the spirit of Amalek, the serpent, kills those who will not worship his deceitful lie of an image, a mask for his evil. Does he think he’s taking revenge on Moses or the Holy One for punishing the Israelites who worshiped the Golden Calf?
Adonai suggested to Moses that He will destroy the people, but Moses intercedes on their behalf. He says: “If You do not forgive them, blot me out from the book that You have written.” Adonai forgives, and Moses prepares a new set of stone tablets and once more ascends the mountain, where Adonai dictates the covenant that Moses writes on these second tablets.
Moses’ face is so radiant upon his return that he must cover it with a veil, which he removes only to speak with God and to teach His laws to the people. In the following verse the word ‘MASEKHA’ appears:
They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. (Exodus 32:8)
סָרוּ מַהֵר מִן־הַדֶּרֶךְ אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִם עָשׂוּ לָהֶם עֵגֶל מַסֵּכָה
The meaning of the word מסכה – masekha in Modern Hebrew is “mask.” It even sounds similar to its Hebrew cognate in English. Here are some additional words in Modern Hebrew with the same root:
MASAKH – computer screen – מסך
MASAKH – curtain – מסך
So two “masks” appear in the portion. One is an idol posing as the Holy One of Israel, yet it is only an image based on the imagination of a human being who has never seen the Holy One face-to-face. The other is a mask required so that the true glory of the Holy One is hidden from the vain imagination of sinful man. In fact, when he teaches the Israelites the Song of Moses, it is with the warning:
But I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they will do, for they will turn to other gods.
וְאָנֹכִי הַסְתֵּר אַסְתִּיר פָּנַי בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא עַל כָּל־הָרָעָה אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה כִּי פָנָה אֶל־אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים
Esther’s Persian name אֶסְתֵּר is hinted to in the Hebrew text, haster astir, which is literally, “hide, I will hide,” using the root satar, for hide or conceal. When Israel worships idols, Adonai hides His face.
In the scroll (megillah) of Esther, there are masks as well. The manifest work of Adonai is hidden, for the Name YHVH never appears. It is more than apparent, though! Wicked Haman, may his name be blotted out, masquerades as someone with the king’s best interests at heart, yet it is his own glory and best interests that motivate this descendant of Amalek’s murderous plans and hatred of Jews. Hadassah the Jew, a Benjamite, conceals her identity as a Jew until the appointed time.
One tradition of Purim is that whenever the name Haman is mentioned, it is followed by “may his name be blotted out,” and when the name is read in the public reading of the scroll, the name is booed and blotted out with groggers or other noisemakers. This is another textual linking of Purim to Ki Tisa, when there is a threat to blot out the names of the children of Israel from the Book of Life. Instead, Moses intercedes for forgiveness.
Haman, however, may his name be blotted out, is a descendent of Amalek, whose name is destined to be blotted out from under Heaven at the end of days. The wicked spirit of Amalek goes back to the Golden Calf; it goes back to Esau’s intent to murder Jacob; indeed, all the way back to the Garden of Eden. It is a spirit that desires to spoil the purpose of the Garden, which was to provide a setting of Good Gold for the precious, fiery stones of Israel to fulfill their mission of filling, subduing, and ruling over the earth according to the Word of the Holy One (see last week’s Torah portion, “Chain-smoking at the Filling Station,” Tetzaveh) for the background of the choshen stones as “filling” stones.
The textual first mention of Haman is here among the “slanders” of the fall from Eden and the tree in Genesis 3:11, when Elohim asks the hiding Adam and Eve who told them they were naked:
וַיֹּאמֶר מִי הִגִּיד לְךָ כִּי עֵירֹם אָתָּה הֲמִן־הָעֵץ
Without the vowel points, it reads, “Haman the tree” instead of “from the tree,” a play-on word that will later explain who Haman, may his name be blotted out, thinks he is. He wants to be THE tree, the authority of the Garden. Having one’s name written in the Book of Life requires acceptance of the Tree of Life, the Torah, the Living Word, the Manual of Life. Haman, may his name be blotted out, can never be the Tree, only a tree of confusion, for he is functioning outside of his created role under the authority of Elohim.
To those who reject the authority of the Tree of Life, the serpent is their father, for they are functioning outside of their created role in the earth. Their lives, and therefore their words, are lies. How many lies, deceits, and hypocrisies are exposed daily on the public stage today? The serpent knows his time is short, and woe to those who dwell on the earth! The proliferation of lies and great lies suggests that perhaps the serpent no longer has a place to accuse in Heaven, so he’s going to and fro in the earth, which unveils those who worship him in confusion, mixing evil intent with good. Yeshua explains the phenomenon of those who do not hear the Word:
Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.” (Jn 8:43-47)
Adonai’s threat of “hide, I will hide” from Israel for idolatry in the Song of Moses is accompanied by an admonition to “Give ear.” One must hear the Tree of Life to expose the confusion of the serpent’s tree and the idols that masquerade as YHVH.
The serpent’s objective was to kill man, and therefore to destroy mankind’s rulership over the Garden and the ability to live in a physical world in immortality. If the humans ate of the confused tree, they would tumble and fall out of immortality and authority over the Garden. The serpent in one respect had murderous intent, but what’s even better? Convince the humans to kill themselves.
To achieve his objective, the serpent slandered and twisted the truth. He lied and slandered the Word of Elohim, yet masqueraded behind that Word to lower humankind. Likewise, Haman, may his name be blotted out, feigned service to the Persian king to elevate his own status in the kingdom. He pretends to be concerned about the king’s authority when he is only concerned about his own and can use the king’s laws to advance himself:
After these events King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced himand established his authority over all the princes who were with him. All the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman; for so the king had commanded concerning him. But Mordecai neither bowed down nor paid homage. Then the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate said to Mordecai, ‘Why are you transgressing the king’s command?’ (Es
Haman, may his name be blotted out, miscalcuated in his bid for authority, which required killing off the Jews who DID keep THE King’s commands from the Tree of Life. The tree of confusion and murder on which he prepared to hang Mordechai, the Benjamite, became his own gallows. Confusion eventually kills. Although the Benjamite King Saul failed to wipe out the Amalekites, leaving their descendant Haman, may his name be blotted out, to plan genocide of the Jews in 127 provinces, it was the Benjamites Esther and Mordechai who would expose the lies of Amalek and the serpent.
Why the Tribe of Benjamin? Esau hated his birthright, which would have made him the firstborn priest of Israel and the progenitor of a priesthood to serve Israel. He hated the Tabernacle. He hated the Temple. He hated anything that reminded him that the One who created him had authority over him. Esau was a mixture of good and evil instincts, red and hairy all over, like a beast of the field. A hunter. Jacob, however, desired it. He was a man of tents. He wanted restoration to the Garden and full access to the Tree of Life. He rejected confusion and the perpetual death that veiled the reality of the Garden from human eyes.
By the time of the captivity in Babylon, many from the northern tribes had disappeared into obscurity in Assyrian deportations, yet representatives from all the tribes had migrated into Judah; therefore, by the time of Judah’s captivity, they were designated Jews regardless of tribal affiliation. By the First Century, Paul still knew he was a Benjamite and Channah an Asherite, yet they were Jews. In this way, Judah can sometimes represent all tribes of Israel. Yet, there is another tribe that could…and should…represent all the tribes in the mysterious case of Purim. Benjamin. Why?
Benjamin never bowed.
When Jacob encounters Esau upon his return to the Promised Land, he has his entire family to bow before Esau. Only one did not bow. Benjamin was still in Rachel’s womb. He could not bow! It was in Benjamin’s territory that the Temple would be built, for it abutted Judah’s there. By type, Esther and Mordechai are Benjamites, and they are not confused as to Who is the Tree of Life and where His Temple lies. They know Who is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. They know the Name and will not blaspheme it by believing the lying signs and wonders of what is only a mask of authority.
In Babylon, Benjamin represented all the tribes of Israel. His choshenstone is jasper, or yashfeh, which the rabbis say contained all the colors of the other stones in spite of its reddish coloring. This is a wonderful example of the “last shall be first.” Benjamin stepped up for Judah in Babylon as Judah stepped up for Benjamin before Joseph. In Esther 3:2, the text reads:
כִּי־כֵן צִוָּה־לוֹ הַמֶּלֶךְ וּמָרְדֳּכַי לֹא יִכְרַע וְלֹא יִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה׃
The English text says that Mordechai neither bowed (past tense) or paid homage (past tense). The Hebrew text says that Mordechai will not bow (future) nor pay homage (future). Benjamin will not bow.
Benjamin is not ambivalent about his purpose in this life. He is neither cowardly nor short-sighted in the price of fulfilling that purpose. It means sacrificing your security and high-standing on this earth today in order to be raised up on the last day to the welcome of “Well done, good and faithful servant.” It means having a vision of the Temple before it comes down. It means laying your life on the line for Judah and all the precious stones of Israel. It means not being confused about temporary things that merely invite us to commit spiritual suicide, hiding from the Tree of Life and confusing our own earthbound desires, thoughts, emotions, and appetites for that which is from above, Holy and glorious.
To discern this glory as Moses saw it in Ki Tisa is to see what awaits the Benjamite “Jasperites” who will not bow to their own imaginations of what their Creator or his holy days should be, but to what is written, Life. Sabbaths and feast days of life. A Tree of Life to those who take hold of it and give up the right to be their own tree of confusion.
And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper…The material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
Yes, jasper is the general appearance of the Glory of Elohim, not the lying wonders of a breathing, speaking, blaspheming tamei (ritually unclean) calf or beast. It is the fiery stones set in pure (tahor/ritually pure) gold who refuse to eat a diet of confusion. There is only one before Whom they will bow.
Then. Now. Forever.