Burn incense every day

The Literal Commandment

Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it; he shall burn it every morning when he trims the lamps. (Exodus 30:7)

 

Aaron the high priest was to burn "fragrant incense" on the golden altar of incense every morning when he trimmed the lamps of the menorah. Verse 8 indicates that he should also burn incense when he trimmed the lamps at twilight. Verse 8 concludes with this:

When Aaron trims the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense. There shall be perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations. (Exodus 30:8)

 

Messiah Says

Messiah implicitly affirmed this commandment when He spoke about the Law:

"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19)

 

Pictures of Messiah

Incense provides a visual representation of prayer: it smells sweet and arises to the heavens. Messiah is pictured in this commandment especially given the concluding declaration above that "there shall be perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations."

The perpetual incense that is before the LORD pictures the continual petition and intercession of Messiah on our behalf (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25).

 

How Messiah Fulfilled

Messiah fulfilled this commandment by not participating in it. The commandment is given to Aaron, the Levitical high priest. Since Messiah was not of the tribe of Levi He did not bear responsibility to perform this commandment.

 

Traditional Observance

The traditional observance of this commandment was the literal fulfillment by the high priest to burn incense on the golden altar morning and evening.

One highly regarded source of Jewish understanding regarding the commandments, Sefer HaChinuch, offers this insight:

At the root of this precept too lies the purpose to make the glory of the Temple great and that its excellence and awe may be impressed upon every man.1

 

As a physical reminder of the abode of G-d's presence the excellence and awe that the Temple might provide should always be reflected towards Him Who sits on the throne of the original and eternal abode of which the earthly Temple is a shadow.

 

Other Notes

Absent the Temple, the altar of incense, and a functioning high priest we are unable to literally fulfill this commandment today.

 

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Footnotes

1. Charles Wengrove, trans., Sefer HaChinuch (Jerusalem:Feldheim Publishers, 1984), Vol 1, p390-391 [back]


Commandment Details

  • Mishneh Torah # 377
  • Mishneh Torah Book # 8
  • Mishneh Torah Book Service
  • Mishneh Torah Category 44- Perpetual Offerings and Additional Offerings
  • Reference Exodus 30:7
  • Scripture Book Exodus
  • Chapter 30
  • Verse 7
  • English Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it; he shall burn it every morning when he trims the lamps.
  • Hebrew ז וְהִקְטִיר עָלָיו אַהֲרֹן, קְטֹרֶת סַמִּים; בַּבֹּקֶר בַּבֹּקֶר, בְּהֵיטִיבוֹ אֶת-הַנֵּרֹת--יַקְטִירֶנָּה.
  • Greek 7 καὶ θυμιάσει ἐπ᾿ αὐτοῦ Ααρων θυμίαμα σύνθετον λεπτόν· τὸ πρωὶ πρωί, ὅταν ἐπισκευάζῃ τοὺς λύχνους, θυμιάσει ἐπ᾿ αὐτοῦ,
  • Parashah 20- Tetzaveh
  • Positive/Negative Positive
  • Sefer Hachinuch # 103
  • Sef. Hach. Command The precept of burning incense
  • Category Temple and Sacred Objects
  • We can fullfill today No

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