Archive for February 2013

Parashat Tetzaveh

Parashat Tetzaveh
Shemot 27:20 - 30:10
Shabbat Zachor
Devarim 25:17-19
Megillat Ester is read after Shabbat

[Bigdei_Kehunah (Priestly Garments]

Parashat Summary

The Benei Yisrael to bring olive oil for the Ner Tamid
Aharon and his sons, Nadav, Avihu, Eleazar, and Itamar are chosen to serve as kohanim
G-d instructs Moshe to make special clothes for the kohanim
Aharon and his sons are ordained in a seven-day ceremony
Aharon is commanded to burn incense the acacia altar every morning and evening

27:20 Ve'atah tetzaveh et-benei Yisrael veyikchu eleicha shemen zayit zach katit lama'or leha'alot ner tamid
And you shall command the children of Yisrael that they bring you pure oil of crushed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually.
When G-d told Moshe to gather materials for the Mishkan, Moshe felt somewhat uneasy, since he, too, wanted to bring something valuable for the Mishkan.  G-d told him, "Do not even think about bringing materials of your own for the Mishkan. I realize that you want to have a portion in the good deed, but your level is much higher than that of any of the donors.  It is because of you that they are bringing.  One who causes others to do is greater than those who do." (Chen Tov; Olat Shabbat)

If one causes others to do good, he is considered to be on a higher level than one who merely does good on his own.  When a person causes another to do good, he receives an equal portion of the reward in the World to Come for the good deed.

G-d had commanded Moshe to make the menorah as a lamp.  Now G-d is telling Moshe what kind of oil to use, and when the menorah should be lit.  The previous portion spoke of "oil for the lamp" (25:6), but now the Torah specifies that the oil had to be "pure oil of pressed olives."

The first thing that this teaches is that only olive oil could be used in the menorah, no any other kind.  ONe reason for this is because olive oil burns with a very clear, bright light, more so than any other type of oil. (Shabbat, p. 23; Yalkut Shemoni; Zayit Raanan)  It also is drawn up in the wick better than other oils. (Tosafot, Shabbat, loc. cit.) It is for this reason that it is best to kindle the Shabbat lamp with olive oil. (Bet Yosefl; Orach Chayim 264)

It is therefore taught that if one sees olive oil in a draem, he should anticipate wisdom.  This refers to the light of the Torah, which is the greatest of all lights. (Berachot, Chapter 9; Yalkut Shemoni)

The Torah specifies that the oil for the menorah must be hand crushed (katit).  It cannot be crushed in a mortar or a press.

There are actually nine grades of olive oil.  The only difference is in how they are made.

Three times a year olives are harvested from the tree.  They are not harvested all at once, since different olives ripen at different times.

There are some olives that ripen very quickly.  These are the ones at the top of the tree, which receive the most sunlight.  These olives are harvested first, and three grades of oil are pressed from them.

At first the olives are crushed, and placed in a perforated basket, so that the oil runs through the perforations. This oil is perfectly clear, without any sediment.  This is the "first oil."

The olives are then removed from the basket and placed in the oil press, where the "second oil" is pressed from them.

Finally, they are removed from the press and placed in a mortar.  The oil that is removed at this state is the "third oil."

Of all these grades of oil, only the first oil from the olives at the top of the tree is suitable for the menorah.  The oil that is etracted in the press or mortar cannot be used.

When the Torah specifies "hand-pressed" oil, it is speaking of the first oil.  Such oil runs out of the olives on its own, and therefore is completely free of sediment.  However, if the oil is pressed or the lives are crushed in a mortar, it is impossible that the oil will be without sediment. (Rashi; Menachot, Chapter 8; Bertenoro ad loc.)

The second harvest is taken from the olives that are in the middle of the tree.  These olives do not receive as much sunlight as those at the top of the tree.  After these are harvested, they are spread out on rooftops for the sun to heat them, and then the same three grades of oil mentioned earlier are extracted.  Oil from such olives can also be used, but here too, only the first oil, but not the second or third oil.

Although these three grades of oil are made in the same manner as the first three, they do not produce as much light as the oil from the first harvest.  The olives from the first harvest ripen on the tree, while those from the second harvest must be ripened on the roof.

The third harvest is taken from the olives on the bottom of the tree, where the sun hardly reaches at all.  These olives cannot ripen on the tree, and therefore after they are harvested, they are placed in a vat to age.  They are kept there until they ferment, and then they are placed in the sun to dry.  Once this process is finished, a similar three grades of oil will be extracted from the olives.

From this, also, only the first oil, which runs out by itself, can be used for the menorah, and not the second or third oil. (Rashi ibid)

Therefore, of the nine grades of oil only the first, the fourth, and the seventh can be used for the menorah, since these are considered "hand pressed."  The other grades cannot be used for the menorah, but they may be used for meal offerings (VaYikra 2:1)

The Torah threfore says that the oil must be hand-pressed for the lamp.  Only the lamp must the oil be hand-pressed, but for meal offerings any olive oil is usable, even if it is extracted by pressing or crushing.

Am Yisrael could also learn a lesson from the olive oil itself. In order to obtain the oil, the olive must be crushed in a mortar, and then ground in a mill.  Only then can the oil be extracted so that it can provide light for the world.

The same is true of Yisrael. Although they are hounded and persecuted by the nations, who insult them, make them suffer, beat them, and take their money, they should not become discouraged by this terrible suffering.  They should not give up their sacred Torah and not complain or grumble.  Rather, they should accept everything with love, since in the end, they will see good.  In the end, they will bring light to the world.

G-d commanded that the oil be brought to light the lamp continuously.  The oil was to be used to light the menorah so that it would burn continuously (tamid).  This indicates that the menorah was meant to burn every single night, without omitting even a single night.  The word "continuously" (tamid) usually denotes something that occurs at all times, day and night, without a moment's interruption.  However, here the Torah specifies that it should "burn from evening to morning before G-d" (27:21).  This teaches that the menorah must burn at night, and not at other times.  Therefore, we must interpret "continuously" to mean "every night without fail." (Rashi)

This teaches that the menorah had to be lit both on weekdays and on the Shabbat. (Sifra; Korban Aharon)  Although a person who is ritually unclean (tame') is usually forbidden to perform any Divine service, the menorah had to be lit "continuously" whether the kohanim were ritually clean or ritually unclean.  Even if the oil was ritually unclean, the menorah had to be lit every night without fail.

Some authorities, however, maintain that "continuously" here must be taken literally, and that the menorah had to be kept lit day and night without a moment's interruption.  However, the word "continuously" is not speaking of all the lamps on the menorah, but only of the "western lamp" (ner ma'aravi).  This lamp was meant to be the "eternal lamp" (ner tamid) burning day and night.

Therefore, if the western lamp was seen to have gone out in the morning, the kohen had to relight it.  It could not remain extinguished for even an instant.  When the Torah says that the menorah must be lit "from evening until morning" it is speaking of the other lamps.

The reason that the western lamp had to be kept burning day and night was because it was on the side toward the Divine Presence and the Holy of Holies.

As long as the Benei Yisrael did G-d's will, this lamp would burn without interruption.  Although the same amount of oil was placed in this lamp as in the other six, it would miraculously burn all night and all day.  During the 40 years that Shimeon HaTzadik was Kohen Gadol in the early days of the Second Temple, this miracle occurred, and the western lamp burned day and night.  This was an indication that the Divine Presence was among the Benei Yisrael when they were good. (Ramban)

27:21 Be'Ohel Mo'ed mikhutz laparochet asher al-ha'edut ya'aroch oto Aharon uvanav me'erev ad-boker lifnei HASHEM chukat olam ledorotam me'et benei Yisrael
In the Tabernacle of meeting, outside the veil which is before the Testimony, Aharon and his sons shall tend it from evening until morning before HASHEM. It shall be a statute forever to their generations on behalf of the children of Yisrael.
The menorah stood outside the cloth partition (parochet) that divided between the sanctuary and the Holy of Holies, where the Holy Ark stood.  The menorah stood in the sanctuary, just outside the Holy of Holies.

The reason that G-d commanded that the Ark stand outside the Holy of Holies is to demonstrate that G-d does not need our light.  G-d is the source of light for all the world. (Tanchuma)

In the Haftarah of Terumah we thus see that G-d commanded us to make the windows of the Temple wide on the outside and narrow on the inside.  It is thus written, "For the Temple, he made windows, wide on the outside, and narrow on the inside." (1Melachim 6:4).

Normally, when windows are made, they are made narrow on the outside and wide on the inside.  This is so that the light should spread inside the house, providing maximum illumination.  In the Temple, however, G-d commanded that the exact opposite be done, so that the windows were wide on the outside and narrow on the inside.  This was to demonstrate that the light that was to shine inside the Temple was destined to illuminate the whole world.

It was also for this reason that G-d commanded that the menorah stand outside the Holy of Holies.  People should not come to error and think that G-d needs the light.

The commandment of the menorah was meant to make us great and important in the eyes of the nations.

G-d said to Yisrael, "I want you to provide illumination before Me just as I provided illumination before you in the desert."  It is written, "G-d went before (the Benei Yisrael) in a pillar of cloud by day to show them the way, and in a pillar of fire at night to provide illumination for them" (13:21).  G-d said, I want them to show their gratitude by lighting the menorah."

Another reason that G-d commanded the Benei Yisrael to make the menorah was that through the light that we kindle in the Temple, we can become worthy of the light of the Future World.  Then the nations will be in darkness, while Yisrael will enjoy great light.  G-d thus told His prophet, "Darkness will cover the earth, and gloom will encompass the nations, but G-d will shine on you, and His glory will be visible upon you" (Yeshayahu 60:2) (Shemot Rabbah; Yeffeh Toar; Oznei Yehoshua).

The Torah specifies that he ones who were involved with the menorah, setting it up and lighting it, were Aharon and his descendants, the kohanim, and no one else.

The menorah was to burn "from evening until morning."  This means that enough oil was to be placed in each lamp so that it would burn all night.  The sages calculated that the amount of oil needed to burn throughout an entire long winder night was 1/2 log (5 ounces).  This would be enough for the menorah to burn even during the longest nights of the year. This was the amount of oil that was to be placed in the menorah all year round.  Even in the summer, when the nights were short, this amount of oil had to be used, and if any was left over, it did not matter. (Rashi)

The Torah states that, "It is an eternal rule for their generations."  The commandment regarding the menorah was not only for the time when the Mishkan stood, but also for future generations. When the Temple would be rebuilt in Yerushalayim, the commandment to light the menorah would still be in force. Moreover, the entire community of Yisrael would continuously have an obligation to provide oil for the menorah.

Even now that the Temple no longer stands, there is still an obligation to donate oil for the eternal light (ner tamid) in the synagogue. If one makes an effort to provide this, his reward is very great.

We thus see that G-d provided Oved Edom with much good merely because he kept the Holy Ark in his house and was very careful to show it honor. One of the things that he did was to light a lamp before it day and night (2Shmuel 6:11).

We also find that the prophetess Devorah said to her husband, "You are ignorant and you do not have the merit of the Torah to cause you to merit the World to Come.  You don't even have any money to support Torah scholars, so that you should be able to merit the Future World through their study. Therefore, what you must do is make wicks and bring them to the Temple.  Through this you will increase the light in the Temple, and you will be worthy of the light of the Future World."

Since this is a very great merit, one must put out much effort to keep it correctly.  If one donates oil for the synagogue lamp or candles form one Shabbat to the next, he should be careful to pay for it before the Shabbat, so that he should not inadvertently violate his pledge. (Sh'nei Luchot HaBerit, on Rosh Chodesh).

If a person donates "oil for the lamp" (shemen la-maor) he must give it to the synagogue; he is not permitted to give it to the yeshivah academy so that the students can study by its light.  Although his pledge was "oil for the lamp," and it can denote any lamp, whether that of the synagogue or that of the yeshivah, in pledges we follow the most common usage.  Normally when people speak of "oil for the lamp" they are speaking of the synagogue lamp. (Bet Yosef, Yoreh Deah 258, quoting Teshuvot Ramban)

28:1 Ve'atah hakrev eleicha et-Aharon akhicha ve'et-banav ito mitoch benei Yisrael lechahano-li Aharon Nadav va'Avihu El'azar ve'Itamar benei Aharon
"Now take Aharon your brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Yisra'el, that he may minister to Me as priest, Aharon and Aharon's sons: Nadav, Avihu, El'azar, and Itamar.
 Until now, Moshe had assumed that he would be chosen as Kohen Gadol (High Priest).  True, G-d had admonished him at the Burning Bush, when G-d urged him to redeem Yisrael and Moshe demurred, and for this, the priesthood was taken away from him.  Nevertheless, Moshe assumed that G-d had forgiven him, especially since G-d had done so many miracles through Moshe.  Moshe also saw that G-d had made him trustee over the Mishkan; all the materials had to go through his hand. Because of this, Moshe assumed that he would be the Kohen Gadol.

So that it would not be difficult for Moshe, G-d said to him, "You mut bring close to you..." G-d was telling him, "Choose anyone you want to be Kohen Gadol."  This would soothe Moshe's feelings and comfort him, since he would feel that anyone chosen as Kohen Gadol would be chosen through him, and the status would ultimately be his.

But in his great humility, Moshe did not want to accept this task.  He said to G-d, "From which tribe do  you wish to choose the Kohen Gadol?"

"To you," replied G-d.  "From your tribe.  Bring forth a man from your tribe, Levi.  And the one most worthy shall be your brother Aharon."

When Moshe heard this, he was extremely happy.  His own brother would be Kohen Gadol, and no one else. (Shemot Rabbah; Yeffeh Toar)

Moshe felt bad that he was not chosen Kohen Gadol, not because he wanted the status, but because he wanted to be able to fulfill the commandments that can only be fulfilled by the Kohen Gadol.

G-d said to Moshe, "Be satisfied with the Crown of Torah.  Through you the Torah has been given.  The Torah is what sustains the entire world.  It is not right that both the Crown of Torah and the Crown of priesthood should be on one head.

"Furthermore, you have the responsibility for the entire nation of Yisrael.  You must teach them the commandments and judge them.  If you become involved in the Kohen Gadol , there will not be anyone to judge the Benei Yisrael and teach them the law.  You will cause the entire world to be destroyed.

"Therefore, you be the appointer.  You will then be greater than the Kohen Gadol, because he will be accepting his position from you."

G-d told Moshe to take "Aharon and his sons with him... Aharon [and] Nadav, Avihu, Eleazar and Itamar, Aharon's sons."  This is somewhat difficult to understand.  Once G-d said to take Aharon and his sons, why did He have to name each one separately?  Aharon had no other sons than the ones mentioned, so they were automatically included in the statement "his sons."

This taught Moshe that even though he had anointed Aharon, his sons would not automatically become kohanim.  The Torah thus mentions each one by name to teach that each one had to be anointed individually.

It is true that kohanim born later would not have to be anointed, but would be born into the priesthood, because their fathers were anointed.  The reason that these four sons of Aharon had to be anointed, was because there were bern before Aharon was anointed.  Children born of them after they were anointed would not have to be anointed again; the anointed status of their fathers would be passed on to them automatically.

This is why Eleazar's son Pinchas, who was born before his father Eleazar was anointed, was not automatically a kohen.  He did not become a kohen until after the episode with Zimri (BaMidbar 25:13) (Ramban)

28:2 Ve'asita vigdei-kodesh le-Aharon akhicha lechavod uletif'aret
And you shall make holy garments for Aharon your brother, for glory and for beauty.
These garments were both beautiful and majestic.  They were as precious as royal robes.

When Achashverosh made the great feast for his officials and servants (Ester 1:3), he wanted to show them his greatness and majesty.  He therefore wore the vestments of the Kohen Gadol, which had come into his hand after the Temple was destroyed  (Megillah, Chapter 3).  He set aside his own robes, and wore the vestments of the Kohen Gadol, since these vestments were more precious and beautiful.

Because the Torah explicitly states that these vestments are for "majesty and beauty," it teaches that if the vestments become torn or worn, they may not longer be used for Divine service.  They are no longer considered "majestic and beautiful." (Yad, Kli HaMikdash 8)

28:3 Ve'atah tedaber el-kol-chachmei-lev asher miletiv ruach chochmah ve'asu et-bigdei Aharon lekadesho lechahano-li
So you shall speak to all who are gifted artisans, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aharon's garments, to consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest.
G-d told Moshe to speak to all the people who were skilled, as well as to Betzalel, the greatest craftsman of them all. (Tzeror HaMor; Olat Shabbat)

It was through these vestments that Aharon would be sanctified and raised to the priesthood.  Only while wearing these vestments was he permitted to serve as Kohen Gadol.  If he performed any Divine service in the Temple while not wearing his vestments, he would be worthy of death. (Yad, Klei HaMikdash 10)

28:4 Ve'eleh habegadim asher ya'asu choshen ve'efod ume'il uchtonet tashbetz mitznefet ve'avnet ve'asu vigdei-kodesh le-Aharon akhicha ulevanav lechahano-li
And these are the garments which they shall make: a breastplate, an efod, a robe, a skillfully woven tunic, a turban, and a sash. So they shall make holy garments for Aharon your brother and his sons, that he may minister to Me as priest.
Choshen - Breastplate - This was a device worn on the chest.  It consisted of settings holding precious stones.

Efod - This was like a half cape worn on the back, and tied under the armpits.  It reached down to the kohen's heels.

Me'il - Robe -  A knitted tunic (ketonet tashbetz).  These were two types of robes.  The "knitted tunic" was worn directly on the skin.  It was knitted with a pattern like settings for precious stones.  The robe was like a shirt worn over the tunic. (Rashi).

According to another opinion, the robe (me'il) was an outer garment, worn over all the other vestments.  It was open on both sides down to the bottom.  The only place where the front and back were connected was on top, around the neck.  According to this opinion, it did not have any sleeves. (Yad; Ramban; Abarbanel)

Mitznefet - Turban - A type of hat.

Avnet - Sash - A belt that went over the tunic.

The efod, mentioned earlier, had a belt that went over the robe.

The Torah calls these garments "sacred vestments" (bigdei kodesh).  This means that they must be made with consecrated materials, or that the materials must be bought with consecrated money (hekdesh).  This includes the donations that G-d commanded to be given for the Mishkan.  The vestments had to be made from the sacred donations, and are therefore called "sacred." (Cf. Tzeror HaMor)

The Efod

28:5 Vehem yikchu et-hazahav ve'et-hatchelet ve'et-ha'argaman ve'et-tola'at hashani ve'et-hashesh
They shall take the gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine linen,
G-d now told Moshe, "The skilled workers whom I designated to make these vestments should take the gold and other materials with their own hands.  You should not take these materials from the donors and give them to the workers.  They should take the materials themselves.  Moreover, you should not ask them for an accounting of their receipts and expenses; they must be trusted explicitly." (Ramban)

This same law applies to the volunteers who are appointed by the community to collect and distribute charity.  They cannot be made to give an accounting of their receipts and expenses; they must be trusted at their word.  Nevertheless, it is best if these volunteers publicize the total amount, even though they are not asked for an accounting.  It is thus written, "You shall be innocent before G-d and Yisrael" (BaMidbar 32:22).  Just as a person must be innocent before G-d, so must he keep himself above suspicion before his fellow man.  A person cannot be unconcerned about what people say in such a situation. (Yoreh Deah 256)

This was also true of the workers who were making the priestly vestments and the other Mishkan furniture.  Although they took their materials without any accounting, after they were finished they gave an accounting of their receipts and expenses to the last copper.  They did so even though the were all important personalities, and no one asked them for an accounting.

28:6 Ve'asu et-ha'efod zahav techelet ve'argaman tola'at shani veshesh moshezar ma'aseh choshev
and they shall make the efod of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, artistically worked.
G-d told Moshe: The Efod that I told you to make should be made with blue wool.  This is wool dyed with the juice of an aquatic animal known as a chalazon, which has a color similar to the sky and the Throne of Glory.

Take six filaments of blue wool and a filament of gold thread and spin them together to make one strand.

Then take six filaments of purple wool, dyed with a color known as argaman, and spin them together with a filament of gold. Similarly, take six filaments of crimson wool with one of gold, and six filaments of linen with one of gold.

You will then have four strands, each one consisting of seven filaments.  When the four strands are spun together, the thread shall consist of 28 filaments.

These threads shall then be woven to make the Efod as a patterned brocade.  It shall be a skilled weave, where the pattern on one side is not the same as the pattern on the reverse side.

28:7 Shtei chtefot choverot yihyeh-lo el-shnei ketsotav vechubar
It shall have two shoulder straps joined at its two edges, and so it shall be joined together.
After the Efod is made, make two wide straps to go over the two shoulders and hang down toward the chest.  These straps must be made of the same materials as the Efod itself.  The straps must be attached to the Efod after it is made, not woven together with the Efod. (Rashi)

28:8 Vecheshev afudato asher alav kema'asehu mimenu yihyeh zahav techelet ve'argaman vetola'at shani veshesh moshezar
The efod's belt, which shall be made in the same manner, shall be [woven] together with it, of gold, blue, purple and crimson wool, and twined linen.
The Efod was to have a belt with which it was tied on.  This also had the form of two wide straps, one on each side of the Efod.  They were used to tie the Efod around the waist.  These two straps had to be woven together with the Efod, out of the same materials as the Efod itself was made.  The Torah specifies that the belt should be "together with it"; that is, that it should be woven as one piece together with the Efod.

28:9 Velakachta et-shtei avnei-shoham ufitachta aleihem shmot benei Yisrael
Then you shall take two carbuncle stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Yisrael:
Moshe was to take two precious stones, known in Hebrew as shoham stones.  These were carbuncles. (Bachya)  These stones were to be engraved with the names of the twelve tribes.

The Torah literally says, "take et two carbuncle stones."   The untranslated preposition of et has the same sense as the definite article "the"; therefore, it is as if the verse said, "Take the carbuncle stones."  This would appear to indicate that the stones were already prepared and waiting.

This is very difficult to understand, since these stones had to be taken from the donation that the Benei Yisrael would bring for the Mishkan, but the Benei Yisrael had not yet brought anything.  Later, the Torah will enumerate the things brought for the Mishkan, and among them will be the stones for the Efod (35:27).  Since the command was just given, how could these stones be designated as "the stones"?

This can be understood on the basis of what we shall discuss in Parashat VaYak'hel, that the clouds of glory went to the Pishon River and brought back the precious stones for the Efod and Choshen, since the Benei Yisrael did not have any such stones. The Torah says "the stones" because these were special stones that had already been designated for this use in their place in the Pishon River. (Sifetei Kohen, p. 131)

28:10 Shishah mishmotam al ha'even ha'echat ve'et-shemot hashishah hanotarim al-ha'even hashenit ketoldotam
Six of their names on one stone, and six names on the other stone, in order of their birth.
The names of Yaakov's sons were engraved on these stones, six on one stone, and six on the other. The names were inscribed in the order of their birth, as follows:

Yehudah          Gad
Reuven            Asher
Shimon            Yissachar
Levi                 Zevulun
Dan                 Yosef
Naftali              Binyamin

It is true that it is not the exact order of birth, since Yehudah, who was the fourth son, is inscribed first.  However, the verse can be read, "There shall be six names on one stone, and the six remaining names on the second stone shall be in the order of their birth."  This would indicate that only on the second stone must the tribes be in the precise order of their birth. (Sotah, p. 37; Rashi)

It is significant to note that both stones contained exactly the same number of letters.  There were precisely 25 letters on each stone. The Torah says that these stones "shall be in their fullness" (28:20), which indicates that the vowel sounds must be "filled out" with consonants.

Throughout the entire Torah, the Hebrew of בִּנְיָמִן (Binyamin) is always written in short form, without a י (yod) between the מ (mem) and the נ (nun).  However, all the names would then only have a total of 49 letters, and there would have to be 24 letters on the one stone, and 25 on the other.

Therefore, the name Binyamin here is written out בִּנְיָמִין, with the yod between the mem and the nun.  We also find that when Yaakov first named him, the name is written with the yod (Bereishit 35:18).  Therefore, it comes out exact, with 25 letters on each stone. (Yeffeh Mareh, Sotah, Chapter 7)

According to some authorities, the names were as follows:

Reuven           Binyamin
Shimon           Dan
Levi               Naftali
Yehudah        Gad
Yissachar      Asher
Zevulun         Yosef

According to this opinion, the names are in the order that they appear at the beginning of Sefer Shemot.  This opinion maintains that when the Torah says, "according to their birth," it does not mean that the names must be in order of their birth, but that the names be those given to the tribes by Yaakov, when they were born.  These are the names that are well known: Reuven, Shimon, Levi, and the like.

Moshe actually referred to the tribes as Reuveni, Shimoni, and the like.  The Torah says that the names on the stones should be those given the tribes at birth, not the appellations used by Moshe.

According to this opinion, there did not have to be 25 letters on each stone.

There is another opinion that the names were written on the two stones like this:

Reuven          Shimon
Levi               Yehudah
Yissachar       Zevulun
Naftali            Dan
Gad               Asher
Yehosef         Binyamin

This authority maintains that בִּנְיָמִן (Binyamin) is written without the yod, just as it is written throughout the Torah.  Since there is one letter missing from the 50, he maintains that instead of being written יוֹסֵף, Yosef's name is written as יְהוֹסֵף (Yehosef) with an extra ה (heh).  We find this spelling in the verse, "He appointed it for Yehosef as a testimony" (Tehillim 81:6).  Thus, there were 25 letters on each stone. (Yad, Klei HaMikdash 9.  Cf. Kesef Mishneh ad loc; Tzedah LaDerech; Get Pashut 129:127)

28:11 Ma'aseh charash even pituchey chotam tefatach et-shtei ha'avanim al-shmot benei Yisrael musabot mishbetzot zahav ta'aseh otam
With the work of an engraver in stone, like the engravings of a signet, you shall engrave the two stones with the names of the sons of Yisrael. You shall set them in settings of gold.
The engraving had to be done by a skilled craftsman, just as names are engraved on the finest signet rings, used to seal letters.  The stones would then be placed in settings, just as stones are set in a ring.

28:12 Vesamta et-shtei ha'avanim al kitfot ha'efod avnei zikaron livnei Yisrael venasa Aharon et-shmotam lifnei HASHEM al-shtei chtefav lezikaron
And you shall put the two stones on the shoulders of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Yisrael. So Aharon shall bear their names before HASHEM on his two shoulders as a memorial.
The two stones in the two gold settings were to be placed on the Efod's two shoulder straps, mentioned earlier.  There was thus one stone on each shoulder strap.  Aharon was to carry the names of the twelve tribes as a remembrance.

Thus, when Aharon performed the service on Yom Kippur, G-d would "look" at these names and remember the merit of Yaakov's sons.  He would then have mercy on their descendants, the Benei Yisrael. (Sifetei Kohen)

When Yaakov was about to die, he called his sons.  He wanted to see if they were united in G-d's way, and if their hearts were perfect in faith.  When he asked them, their response was, "Listen, Yisrael, HaShem our G-d, HaShem is one" (Devarim 6:4)

They were addressing Yaakov by his name Yisrael.  They said, "Listen, Yisrael, just as there are no untoward thoughts in your heart, so are our hearts without any question regarding G-d.  We believe with all our hearts that G-d is our Master, and that He is One and His Name is One."

Yaakov then responded to them in a whisper, "Blessed be the Name of His Glory, His kingdom is forever and ever."

G-d therefore commanded that these names be engraved on the stones of the Efod.  Yaakov's sons would then be remembered, and it would also be remembered that they were the first ones to unify G-d's Name.  This would be an atonement for Yisrael for the sin of idolatry.

The Benei Yisrael would also see these names, and they would remember how their ancestors accepted upon themselves the yoke of the Divine Kingdom.  They would then emulate their ancestors, and attach themselves to G-d, spurning all idolatry.

The Torah therefore repeats the concept of remembrance.  The first time, it says, "They shall be a remembrance for the Benei Yisrael."  This is so that the Benei Yisrael would remember their ancestors.  It then says, that they shall be "before G-d as a remembrance."  "This is so that G-d should remember their merit and have mercy on the Benei Yisrael. (Kesef Mezukak)

Of course, it is not possible to say that G-d needs a "reminder."  There is no forgetting for G-d.  It means that if the Kohen Gadol performs the service while wearing his vestments, the merit of Yaakov's sons is counted in the Benei Yisrael's favor. (Yeffeh Toar, p. 193)

The original Hebrew for "six of their names on" (28:10) is shishah mi-sh'motam al.  Significantly, the initial letters of these words spell out Shema'. (Baal HaTurim)

Shema' refers to the verse, "Listen Yisrael, HaShem is our G-d, HaShem is One."

This is an allusion to the fact that the names are on the stones to recall the verse, "Listen Yisrael..." which was recited by Yaakov's sons.  Through this, they accepted the yoke of the Divine Kingdom.

On each of the stones there were 6 names and 25 letters.  This alludes to the two verses:
Listen Yisrael, HaShem is our G-d, G-d is One.  
Blessed is the Name of His Glory, His kingdom is forever and ever.
Looking carefully, one can see that each of these verse also has six words and 25 letters.  These two verse are the embodiment of our faith in G-d.

Actually the second verse, "Blessed is..." only contains 24 letters.  However, the verse itself can be added to the sum, adding an additional unit, and making it come out to 25. (Alshekh; Sifetei Kohen)

There is another allusion in the verse, "You shall take two shoham stones and engrave (open) on them the names of the Benei Yisrael" (28:9).  This teaches that the entire merit that the Kohen Gadol has to enter the Holy of Holies and perform the Divine service is because the Benei Yisrael immerse themselves in the study of Torah.

The "two stones" alludes to the two tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were written.  The word שֹׁהַם (shoham) is really משֶׁה (Moshe) with the letters rearranged. These were therefore Moshe's stones, that is, the two tablets.

"On these stones, open the names of the Benei Yisrael."  This alludes to the merit of the Benei Yisrael, when they open the books of the Torah and study them.  If the books are not open, and are allowed to gather dust on the shelf, then there is no merit. (Alshekh)

28:13 Ve'asita mishbetzot zahav
You shall also make settings of gold,
14 Ushtei sharsherot zahav tahor migbalot ta'aseh otam ma'aseh avot venatatah et-sharsherot ha'avotot al-hamishbetzot
and you shall make two chains of pure gold like braided cords, and fasten the braided chains to the settings.
On the Efod's shoulder straps, two gold settings were made, one on each shoulder.  Two braided cables hung down from the settings, attached to the edge of the breastplate.  These were gold cables, not chains made of links. (Rashi)

The order here is may be somewhat difficult to understand.  The Torah has not yet spoken about the breastplate.  Why does it mention the cables that held the breastplate, when the breastplate itself has not yet been described?

The Torah is describing the settings which are considered part of the Efod.  The Torah tells us that one of the functions of the settings is to hold the cables that hold the breastplate.  Once the breastplate was made, the cables would be attached to the settings, so the cables are mentioned now.


28:15 Ve'asita chochen mishpat ma'aseh choshev kema'aseh efod ta'asenu zahav techelet ve'argaman vetola'at shani veshesh moshezar ta'aseh oto
You shall make the breastplate of judgment. Artistically woven according to the workmanship of the efod you shall make it: of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, you shall make it.
The Torah now tells how the Choshen-Mishpat (Breastplate of Judgment) should be made.

It was made of the same five materials as the Efod: gold, blue wool, purple wool, crimson wool, and twined linen. Therefore, each thread was made of 28 filaments.

The Breastplate had to be woven like a well-calculated brocade, so that the patterns on one side would not be the same as those on the reverse side.

28:16 Ravua yihyeh kaful zeret orko vezeret rochbo
It shall be doubled into a square: a span shall be its length, and a span shall be its width.
A span is one-half cubit (9 inches).  When the breastplate was woven, it was woven two spans long, and one span wide.  Then when it was folded over, it was square, one span long and one span wide. (Yad, Klei HaMikdash 9; Abarbanel)

[The Temple Institute's interpretation of the colors of the stones]

28:17 Umileta vo milu'at even arba'ah turim aven tur odem pitedah uvareket hatur ha'echad
And you shall put settings of stones in it, four rows of stones: The first row shall be a ruby, an emerald and a crystal; this shall be the first row;
18 Vehatur hasheni nofech sapir veyahalom
the second row shall be a carbuncle, a sapphire, and a pearl;
19 Vehatur hashlishi leshem shvo ve'achlamah
the third row, a topaz, turquoise, and a calf eye;
20 Vehatur harevi'i tarshish veshoham veyoshfeh meshubatzim zahav yihyu bemilu'otam
and the fourth row, a chrysolite, an onyx, and a jasper. These stones shall be in their fullness, set in gold settings.
After the breastplate was woven and folded over, it was set with four rows of precious stones.  They were as follows (according to MeAm Lo'ez - there are over 30 varying opinions as to the final identification of the 12 stones):
Ruby             Emerald        Crystal 
Carbuncle     Sapphire        Pearl 
Topaz           Turquoise      Calf Eye  
Chrysolite     Onyx             Jasper
The four rows paralleled the four directions.  This teaches that the world's four directions can only exist through the merit of the Twelve Tribes. (Targum Yonatan)

When the twelve stones were set in the breastplate, each stone had to be in its own setting, like a stone set in a ring.

The stones placed in the breastplate had to be natural, uncut crystals.  They could not be cut out of larger stones.  Ordinarily, set stones are cut, in order to make them more perfect and beautiful.  These, however, had to consist of naturally perfect crystals.

The Torah therefore says that "they shall be in their fullness."  This indicates that they must be untouched, exactly as they occur in their natural state. (Ramban; Bachya)

Similarly, when the names of the Tribes were engraved on the stones, it was not permitted to engrave them with a stylus, as is commonly done with signets, and as was done with the stones for the Efod.  With regard to the Efod, it does not say "they must be in their fullness"; therefore if the stones are not in their precise natural state, it does not matter.

However, with regard to the breastplate stones, there is a dilemma.  They cannot be engraved with a stylus, because the stones must be complete.  On the other hand, the names cannot be written with pen and ink, because they had to be engraved.

For this reason, Moshe had no choice but to use a certain creature known as a "shamir."  This was a tiny creature, the size of a barley corn, made during the six days of creation.  No matter how hard a substance, it could not withstand the force of the shamir.  If it were placed on a stone, the stone would split into two parts.  The shamir therefore had to be kept in wads of wool in a lead cylinder full of barley bran.

Moshe took the shamir and placed it over the stones, and they were cracked to form the letters, as if a steel stylus had been used on them.  However, the letters were formed without removing any material from the stones; they were split just as figs are split in the hot weather or the ground during a dry spell in the wet season.  The shamir, similarly, was able to split the stones without removing any material. (Sotah, p. 48; Ramban; Bachya)

28:21 Veha'avanim tihyeina al-shemot benei-Yisrael shteim esreh al-shemotam pituchei chotam ish al-shmo tihyeina lishnei asar shavet
And the stones shall have the names of the sons of Yisrael, twelve according to their names, like the engravings of a signet, each one with its own name; they shall be according to the twelve tribes.
The twelve stones shall be placed in the breastplate following the order of birth of each of Yaakov's sons, as discussed earlier. The ruby containing Reuven's name shall be first, the emerald with Shimon's name second, and so on, so that all twelve stones are in the order of the Tribe's birth. (Rashi)

One each stone, there were six letters, paralleling the six days of creation. (Abarbanel)

Actually, none of the names, with the exception of  בִּנְיָמִין (Binyamin), have six letters.  In order to complete the six letters for each stone, the names of the Patriarchs, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov were added to the stones, as well as the expression Shiv'tei Yeshurun (the Tribes of Jeshurun).  These two expressions contain a total of 22 letters, and with them, each stone was able to have six letters.

The four rows were thus:

REUVeN A        ShiMON B           LeVI RHM
YeHUDaH Y      YiSSaChaR TZ     ZeVuLuN Ch
DaN K YAK       NaFTaLI B          GaD ShiVTeY
ASheR YShR      YOSeF UN          BiNYaMIN

There is an important reason why the names were inscribed on the particular types of stones. Each stone was suited for the particular tribe.  (Sifetei Kohen)

  1. odem (ruby / red) - Reuven - ground into powder allows a barren woman to conceive.
  2. pitdah (emerald / green) - Shimon - protection against sexual immorality.
  3. bareket (crystal / tri-color-red, white, black) - Levi - Sparkles like lightning (barak) - can increase a person's intelligence and enlighten him in the Torah.
  4. nofech (carbuncle) - Yehudah - one wearing it when he goes out to war, he will be able to defeat all his enemies.
  5. sapir (sapphire) - Yissachar - protects the sanctity of the eyes and the rest of the body.  Also protects one from dispute and brings peace. 
  6. yahalom (pearl or diamond) - Zevulun - brings success to those who are engaged in business. 
  7. leshem (topaz) - Dan - Upside down face of a man - because of Dan's military ability.
  8. shevo (turquoise) - Naftali - if a person is carrying it when riding an animal, he will be successful in his riding.
  9. ach'lamah (calf eye or crystal) - Gad - gives courage and dispels all fear and anxiety when a person goes out to war.
  10. tarshish - clear oil - Asher - involved with the planting of olive trees so that there would be oil to light the Temple lamps. Has the property of making a person fat.
  11. shoham (onyx) - Yosef - causes the bearer to be liked by all who are around him.
  12. yashfeh (jasper) - Binyamin - special powers to stop bleeding.  

The Degalim (Banners)

The colors of the stones associated with the twelve Tribes were also the colors of their banners.  we shall see that each tribe had it own banner so that it could be recognized from afar, as it is written, "Every man shall be by his banner, according to his paternal family" (BaMidbar 2:2).  Each tribe had a banner through which its ancestor could be recognized. (BaMidbar Rabbah 2)

It was from this that the kings of other nations learned to have flags to represent their countries, with special colors.

These are the colors of the banners:

Reuven had his name engraved on a ruby, and his banner was red.  On it was a picture of the mandrakes that he brought to his mother (Bereishit 30:14).

Shimon's name was engraved on an emerald, and his banner was green.  On it was a picture of the city of Shechem, because of what he had done there (Bereishit 24:25).

Levi's name was engraved on a tricolor crystal, and his banner was red, white and black.  On it was a picture of the breastplate with the Urim and Tumim (28:30), which was worn by the Kohen Gadol, who was from the tribe of Levi.

Yehudah's name was engraved on a carbuncle, and his banner was sky blue.  On it was a picture of a lion, because Yehudah was likened to a lion, as it is written, "Yehudah is a young lion" (Bereishit 49:9).

Yissachar's name was engraved on a sapphire, and his banner was a dark blue.  On it was a picture of the sun and moon, since the members of the Tribe of Yissachar were great astronomers.  It is thus written, "The sons of Yissachar who knew the understanding of times" (1Divrei HaYamim 12:33).  

Zevulun's name was engraved on a yahalom, which is a pearl, or, according to others, a diamond.  His banner was white.  On it there was a picture of a ship. Zevulun did business with ships so that he could support Yissachar's Torah study.  Yaakov's blessing was therefore, "Zevulun shall dwell on the seashore, he shall be a harbor for ships" (Bereishit 49:13).

Dan's name was engraved on a topaz, and his banner was the color of sapphire.  On his banner there was a figure of a snake, since Dan was likened to a snake, as it is written, "Let Dan be a serpent on the path" (Bereishit 49:17).

Gad's name was engraved on a turquoise, and his banner was a mixture of black and white.  On it there was the form of armed camp, since Gad was blessed to be able to go to war with armed soldiers, as it is written, "Gad shall pursue a troop" (Bereishit 49:19).

Naftali's name was engraved on an ach'lamah, and the color of his banner was like a light red wine.  On it was a figure of a gazelle.  This is because Naftali was likened to a gazelle, as it is written, "Naftali is a messenger gazelle" (Bereishit 49:21).

It is true that we wrote earlier that Naftali's name was engraved on a turquoise or shevo in Hebrew, and Gad was on the ach'lamah.  Here, however, we are following a different opinion that Naftali was on the ach'lamah and Gad was on the shevo.

Asher's name was inscribed on a stone known as a tarshish, and his banner was the color of the tarshish.  On it was inscribed an olive tree.  Asher was blessed that his inheritance olive trees would grow, as it is written, "Asher's bread shall be olive oil" (Bereishit 49:20)

Yosef's name was inscribed on an onyx, and his banner was jet black.  On it were two subtribes, Menashe and Efrayim.  Also on it was a figure of the Egyptian capital, to teach that Menashe and Efrayim were born in Egypt.  On the banner of Efrayim there was the figure of an ox, because Yehoshua came out of Efrayim.  He was likened to an ox, as it is written, "The firstling of his ox is glory to him" (Devarim 33:17).  On the banner of Menashe there was an aurochs, because from Menashe came Gid'on son of Yo'ash, regarding whom it is written, "His horns are the horns of the aurochs" (Devarim 33:17).

Binyamin's name was engraved on a jasper, and his banner was of many colors, including all the colors in the banners of the other Tribes.  On it was the figure of a wolf, since Binyamin was likened to a wolf, as it is written, "Binyamin is a preying wolf" (Bereshit 49:27).

28:22 Ve'asita al-hachoshen sharshot gavlut ma'aseh avot zahav tahor
You shall make chains for the breastplate at the end, like braided cords of pure gold.
These are the cables mentioned above but their purpose was not explained.  Here, after the breastplate is described, the function of these cables is discussed.

The cables are called sharshot.  This comes from the same root as the word shoresh meaning "root."  This is because the cables were like the roots of a tree, which hold the tree in the ground.  Similarly, the cables held the breastplate hanging from the Efod.

28:23 Ve'asita al-hachoshen shtei tabe'ot zahav venatata et-shtei hataba'ot al-shnei ketzot hachoshen
And you shall make two rings of gold for the breastplate, and put the two rings on the two ends of the breastplate.
24 Venatatah et-shtei avotot hazahav al-shtei hataba'ot el-ketzot hachoshen
Then you shall put the two braided chains of gold in the two rings which are on the ends of the breastplate;
25 Ve'et shtei ketzot shtei ha'avotot titen al-shtei hamishbetzot venatatah al-kitfot ha'efod el-mul panav
and the other two ends of the two braided chains you shall fasten to the two settings, and put them on the shoulder straps of the efod in the front.
The two gold braids were to be placed inside the two gold rings on the corners of the breastplate. 

Here we see that the cables were like braids of pure gold thread.  The two rings in the breastplate were like two gold bracelets.  These rings were placed in the upper two edges of the breastplate, toward the neck, one ring to the right and one to the left.

The two cables, discussed earlier, were then placed through these rings of the breastplate, one cable in each ring.  The ends of the cables were placed in the two settings on the Efod's shoulder straps.  These served to hold the cables supporting the breastplate.

The cables were looped through the breastplate rings, and the two ends of each cable were fastened to the settings.  This was true on both the right and the left.  The settings on the shoulder straps thus supported the breastplate and held it in place.

28:26 Ve'asita shtei tabe'ot zahav vesamta otam al-shnei ktzot hachoshen al-sefato asher el-ever ha'efod baytah
You shall make two rings of gold, and put them on the two ends of the breastplate, on the edge of it, which is on the inner side of the efod.
27 Ve'asita shtei tabe'ot zahav venatatah otam al-shtei chitfot ha'efod milmatah mimul panav le'umat machbarto mima'al lecheshev ha'efod
And two other rings of gold you shall make, and put them on the two shoulder straps, underneath the ephod toward its front, right at the seam above the intricately woven band of the ephod.
28 Veyirkesu et-hachoshen mitabe'otav el-tabe'ot ha'efod biftil tchelet lihyot al-cheshev ha'efod velo-yizakh hachoshen me'al ha'efod
They shall bind the breastplate by means of its rings to the rings of the efod, using a blue cord, so that it is above the intricately woven band of the efod, and so that the breastplate shall not be removed from the efod.
After describing the two upper corners of the breastplate, the Torah now speaks about the two lower corners.  These were held by two gold rings, one on the right and one on the left.  The rings were not placed on the outside of the breastplate where they could be seen, but on the inside, where they would not be visible.

Another two gold rings were made on the bottom of the efod's shoulder straps, where they were attached to the efod.  These rings were placed on the outside of the efod, so that the breastplate would be attached to the efod's belt.

Through this arrangement, the breastplate would not slip away from the efod.  It was tightly laced in place on both the left and right sides.

If one removes the breastplate from the efod, he is guilty of violating a negative commandment of the Torah, for which the penalty is flogging. The verse thus says, "The breastplate shall not be removed from the efod."  This teaches that they must constantly be kept together. (Yoma, p. 72)

Form of the Breastplate and Efod

Now we will explain the form of the breastplate and efod. Until now, we have merely interpreted the verses in order.

The efod was like a half cape worn on the Kohen Gadol's back.  It was as wide as his back, and extended from his elbows to his heels.

On the two upper corners of the efod there were two straps, one on each side.  These were tied in front at the chest, and served as a belt for the efod.  These two straps were woven out of the same materials as the efod, and together they constituted the efod's belt, known in Hebrew as the cheshev.

There were another two shoulder straps, sewn on the efod lengthwise. These came up in the back onto the shoulders, with the end on the shoulder.  At the ends of these two straps were the shoham stones in their settings, one on each shoulder.  It was on these stones that the names of the Twelve Tribes were inscribed, six on each stone.

The breastplate was a square device, one span on a side.  Tat is, when it was folded over, its length was the same as its width.  It was woven out of the same five materials as the efod.

The breastplate had twelve gold settings, and in each setting there was a precious stone with the name of one tribe inscribed on it.

On the four corners of the breastplate, there were four gold rings, one on each corner.

The breastplate was worn on the chest, directly over the heart.

The breastplate was attached to the settings of the shoham stones that were on the efod's shoulder straps.  It was attached with two braided gold cables, one on the right and one on the left.  These cables were looped through the upper gold rings of the breastplate, while their two ends were attached to the settings.  The breastplate therefore hung from the two settings.

So that the breastplate would not move on the bottom, a string of blue wool was tied to the two rings at the bottom of the breastplate, one to the right and one to the left.  These strings were then looped through the rings on the belt of the efod and tied to these rings.  The bottom corners of the breastplate were thus fastened so that they would not move from their proper place. (Rashi; Sefer Mitzvot Gadol)

28:29 Venasa Aharon et shemot bnei-Yisrael bechoshen hamishpat al-libo bevo'o el-hakodesh lezikaron lifnei-HASHEM tamid
So Aharon shall bear the names of the sons of Yisrael on the breastplate of judgment over his heart, when he goes into the holy place, as a memorial before HASHEM continually.
Aharon would then wear the breastplate on his heart.  On the breastplate, the names of the Tribes of Yisrael were engraved as a constant remembrance before G-d.

This teaches that whenever Aharon or any other Kohen Gadol wanted to enter the sanctuary of the Temple or Mishkan, he was not permitted to enter without the efod and breastplate. (Abarbanel)

28:30 Venatata el-Choshen hamishpat et-ha'urim ve'et-hatumim vehayu al-lev Aharon bevo'o lifneI HASHEM venasa Aharon et-mishpat bnei-Yisrael al-libo lifnei HASHEM tamid
And you shall put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be over Aharon's heart when he goes in before HASHEM. So Aharon shall bear the judgment of the children of Yisrael over his heart before HASHEM continually.
In the fold of the breastplate, the Urim and Tumim were placed.  This is why the breastplate was folded over. (Ramban; Abarbanel)

 Aharon would thus carry the device for judgment and decision-making on his heart at all times.  Whenever Aharon carried this device on his heart, he would know what should be done and what should not be done. (Rashi)

The Urim and Tumim consisted of G-d's Explicit Name (Shem HaMeforash).  This is the great and awesome Name of G-d, with which He created 310 universes.  This Name is engraved on the world's Foundation Stone (Even HaShetiyah).  With it, G-d plugged the mouth of the subterranean waters. When the water sees the Explicit Name, it backs up, from the fear that everything in creation has for this Name. (Targum Yonatan)

This Name was called Urim and Tumim because of its function.  It was called Urim, from the word or meaning light.  This was because it enlightened things, and explained to Yisrael the hidden things that they did not know.

It was also called Tumim from the word tam meaning complete.  This was because it completed and perfected its words, and everything predicted by the Urim and Tumim would come true.

The Urim and Tumim was used as an oracle in the following manner:

The kohen wearing the breastplate would stand before the Holy Aron.  He would be facing the Aron, and the one asking the question would be behind him.

The person asking the question would then ask it in a barely audible voice, like that of someone reciting the Amidah (the standing, silent prayer).

If he wanted to know whether or not he would win a battle, he would ask, "Shall I go up, or shall I not go up?"

Divine Inspiration would then rest on the Kohen Gadol, and he would gaze at the stones of the breastplate in deep contemplation.

If the oracle said that the petitioner should go to war, it would answer by spelling the word aleh, which is Hebrew for "go up."  It would do so by accentuating the letters ayin of Shimon, the lamed of Levi and the heh of Yehudah.

These letters were engraved in the stones, but when the kohen was meditating on them, they would appear to be protruding, like the letters on type.

According to another opinion, the letters would not appear to be protruding; rather, they would appear to come together to spell out the answer.  Although the letters were on different stones, they appeared to spell out a single word.  The Kohen Gadol would then see the response and give the supplicant an answer. (Yoma, Chapter 7; Yad, Klei HaMikdash 10)

However, if the Kohen Gadol was not G-d-fearing, he would not be worthy of having the Divine Presence rest on him, and he would not see the letters protrude. (Yeffeh Mareh, Yoma, Chapter 7)

Thus, the oracle of the Urim and Tumim worked by having the letters appear to protrude from the breastplate.

The Torah does not say, "You shall make the Urim and Tumim," as it says with regard to the other articles in the Mishkan.  In the case of the other articles, the Torah says, "You shall make an Aron"; "You shall make a table"; "You shall make a gold menorah"; and the like.

Here, however, the Torah says, "You shall place the Urim and Tumim in the breastplate," without mentioning at all how the Urim and Tumim were made.  This is because the Urim and Tumim were not made by man. Neither were they brought as a gift by any human.  Rather, they were Divine Names, as we have said, and G-d gave them to Moshe secretly.  Now that the Torah states where the Urim and Tumim must be placed, G-d told Moshe, "Place and the Urim and Tumim in the breastplate.  You know that they are the Divine Names that I gave you secretly."

Thus the Torah says, "the Urim and the Tumim" with the definite article, even though the Torah nowhere identifies these objects. This is because, as we have said, they were not the product of human hands.

According to others, however, the function of these two Divine Names was to illuminate the letters and nothing more.  The Kohen Gadol would know how to read them through the order in which they lit up.  He would first read the first letter to light up, and so on, in order. (Abarbanel)

Only three types of people could pose a question to the Urim and Tumim: a king, the supreme court, or an individual asking a question on behalf of the entire community.  Other individuals could not ask a question of this oracle. (Yoma, Chapter 7)

28:31 Ve'asita et-me'il ha'efod klil techelet
You shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue.
The robe was the garment that went over the tunic, as discussed earlier.  The robe (me'il) was made of wool died with the blood of the chalazon as discussed earlier.

Although the breastplate was made of three types of wool, blue, purple and crimson, the robe had to be made completely of blue wool which resembles the Throne of Glory.  No other material could be mixed with it.

There was an important reason that the robe was made entirely of blue wool, and that nothing else could be mixed with it, as was the case with the other vestments.  As we have written, the names of Yisrael's sons were engraved on the efod and breastplate to recall the merit of their acceptance of the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, rejecting idolatry and binding themselves to G-d.  Therefore, the robe that was worn under the breastplate and efod had to made of blue wool, which resembles the Throne of Glory and is thus the color associated with the Divine Presence.  Thus, when the Benei Yisrael would see the robe, they would meditate on the Divine Presence, and become worthy of the awe of the Divine. (Rashbam)

It was for this reason that G-d commanded to place among the threads of the ritual tassels (tzitzit) a thread of blue wool.  It is also the reason that one who is careful regarding the commandment of tzitzit will be worthy of greeting the Divine Presence. (Yerushalmi, Brachot, Chapter 1; Sifri)

Furthermore, when the Benei Yisrael would see the blue wool, which resembles the Throne of Glory, they would be worthy of the pure soul which comes from this place.  They would then be drawn after the soul and do good deeds, which relate to the soul, and not be drawn after the body and its worldly desires. (Reshit Chochmah, Shaar HaKedushah 6)

28:32 Vehayah fi-rosho betocho safah yihyeh lefiv saviv ma'aseh oreg kefi tachra yihyeh-lo lo yikarea.
There shall be an opening for his head in the middle of it; it shall have a woven binding all around its opening, like the opening in a coat of mail, so that it does not tear.
33 Ve'asita al-shulav rimonei techelet ve'argaman vetola'at shani al-shulav saviv ufa'amonei zahav betocham saviv
And upon its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet, all around its hem, and bells of gold between them all around:
On the lower hem of the robe, hollow round balls were made, looking like pomegranates.  These were made of three types of wool: blue, purple and crimson.

Each strand was made of eight filaments of each color.  The three different color strands were then spun together to make a single thread.  Each thread was therefore made of 24 filaments.  Out of this thread the "pomegranates" were made.

There were 72 pomegranates around the robe's bottom hem. (Zevachim, p. 88)

28:34 Pa'amon zahav verimon pa'amon zahav verimon al-shulei hame'il saviv
a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe all around.
The bells were placed between the pomegranates all around.  It thus came out that every bell had a pomegranate on each side of it.  The Torah therefore says, "a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate."  This means that the bells and the pomegranates should alternate around the hem. (Rashi; Yad; Sefer Mitzvot Gadol, Positive Commandment 173)

According to other authorities, however, the pomegranates were actually inside the pomegranates.  Each hollow sphere had a bell inside it. (Ramban; Ibn Ezra; Akedat Yitzchak; Abarbanel)

28:35 Vehayah al-Aharon lesharet venishma kolo bevo'o el-hakodesh lifnei HASHEM uvetzeto velo yamut
And it shall be upon Aharon when he ministers, and its sound will be heard when he goes into the holy place before HASHEM and when he comes out, that he may not die.
G-d commanded to place bells on the robe, even though it is not customary to place bells on articles of clothing. (Ramban)

This was so that the angels would hear the sound when the Kohen Gadol was preparing to enter the Holy of Holies, so that they would leave this inner sanctuary.  When the Kohen Gadol entered the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur to pray that the Benei Yisrael be forgiven, it was forbidden for any man to be there.  It was also forbidden that angels be there.

It is thus written, "No man (adam) shall be in the Communion Tent when he comes to atone in the sanctuary" (VaYikra 16:17).  The term "man" (adam) even includes angels, which have the face of a man (Yechezkel 1:10).  Such angels are forbidden to be even in the outer sanctuary when the Kohen Gadol enters the Holy of Holies. (Sifetei Kohen, Acharei Mot; Ramban; Bachya; Rashbam)

It is, of course, true that the angels can know when the Kohen Gadol is entering without hearing any bells.  However, the bells serve as a warning, that the angels are leaving.

The bells would also be heard when the Kohen Gadol would leave.  This was a signal that the conversation was over, and the angels could return. (Bachya)

The bells also allowed the Benei Yisrael to know whether the Kohen Gadol  was alive or dead.  If the Kohen Gadol was a heretic and did not believe in the teachings of the sages, eh would die when he entered the Holy of Holies.  Therefore, if the Benei Yisrael did not hear the bells, they would realize that the kohen had died because of his lack of belief.

The verse can therefore be interpreted, "The sound shall be heard when he enters the sanctuary and when he leaves and is not dead." As long as the sound could be heard, the people would know that the kohen had not died. (Abarbanel)

According to others, when the Torah says "he shall not die," it means that the angels would not be able to kill him. If the priest entered the Holy of Holies suddenly, without a sound, the angels surrounding the Divine Presence would kill him.  It would be like a person entering the royal palace without an appointment and without announcing himself. He obviously would be beaten and refused entry.

The bells served as a sign that the kohen had requested permission to enter, and the angels would then not want to do him any harm. The Torah thus says, "its sound will be heard when he goes into the holy place." When the angels hear this sound, they will know that he has sought permission, and he will not die by their hand. (Bachya)

According to some authorities, the statement "he will not die," does not relate only to the bells.  Rather, it is a warning that the Kohen Gadol must wear all eight of his vestments.  If he enters the sanctuary to perform the Divine service, he must be wearing all his vestments.

Thus, if he enters wearing all his vestments, he will not die.  But from this, we also see that if he enters wearing fewer than eight vestments, he will die by the hand of G-d.

It is a rule throughout the entire Torah that from a negative statement one may infer a positive statement, and from a positive statement one may infer a negative statement.

28:36 Ve'asita tzitz zahav tahor ufitachta alav pituchei chotam kodesh l'YKVK
You shall also make a forehead-plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet: HOLY TO HASHEM.
The forehead-plate (tzitz) was made of pure gold.  It was like a plate of gold, long enough to go around the forehead of the Kohen Gadol from ear to ear like a diadem, and two fingers (1.5 inches) wide. (Shabbat 63; Sukkah 5; Yad, Klei HaMikdash 9)

On it were engraved the words of Kodesh La-YKVK which means, "Holy to HaShem."

The commandment was that it be made of pure gold, since it is not considered respectful to G-d that His Name be engraved in ordinary gold. (Abarbanel)

The engraving on this plate was like the engraving on a signet ring.  This implies that the letters were to protrude outward. (Bachya; Abarbanel)

In this respect the letter on the head-plate were not like those on the Efod and Choshen (Breastplate). The letters on the latter were engraved inside the material.  There, when the Torah says, "like the engraving of a signet," it does not say that it should be "on" the stones.  Here, however, the Torah says that the engraving must be "on" the head-plate.  This indicates that the engraving was to be made so that the letters would protrude outward.

The letters were formed by placing the plate on a wax base.  The letters would then be impressed from the opposite side, so that they would protrude when the front of the plate was seen.  The letters would be pressed into the wax when they were formed. (Ibid.)

According to others, the letters were made by placing a form with the letters hollowed out in front of the plate.  The plate was then hammered from the obverse side, causing the letters to protrude on the other side. (Raavad on Yad, loc. cit.)

The two words, Kodesh La-YKVK were written on two different lines.  The reason for this was so that no word be written before the Divine Name.

Of course, we see in the Torah many words written before the Divine Name.  This does not matter, because there are other words after the Name as well.  On the head-plate, however, there were only these two words.  Therefore it would not be fitting to write another word before the Name.

However, the Name (YKVK) could also not be written before the other word, since the words had to be read as Kodesh La-YKVK.

Therefore, the way it had to be done was to write the Name at the end of the first line, and Kodesh at the beginning of the second line.  It was thus written:


Then there would not be any other words before the Divine Name. (Maharsha, Shabbat, loc. cit.)

According to other authorities, this in itself was not sufficient.  Although there was no complete word before the Name, there was still the letter Lamed (ל) denoting "to."  Therefore, the phrase had to be written with KoDeSh La- at the beginning of the second line, and the Name (YKVK) at the end of the first line, like this:

KoDeSh La-

When written in this manner, not even a single letter comes before the Name. (Tosafot, ibid.)

28:37 Vesamta oto al-ptil techelet vehayah al-hamitznafet el-mul pnei-hamitznefet yihyeh
And you shall put it on a blue cord, that it shall be on the turban; it shall be on the front of the turban.
The forehead-plate (tzitz) had two holes in it, one on each end.  There were two cords of blue wool going through each hole.  With these cords, the plate was tied to the head. (Yad, loc. cit.)

The cords were tied in the back, over the turban.  The Torah thus literally says, "it shall be on (al) the turban." This indicates that the blue cord had to be tied on the turban. (Ramban; Abarbanel)

According to some authorities, there were three holes in the head-plate, two on the ends, and another hole in the middle top.  Each hole had its own cord, and they were tied together on the head.  It was done in the following manner:

The cord on one end went around until it was behind one ear.  The cord on the other end went around the other ear.  The middle cord went up the middle of the forehead passing over the exact middle of the head, until it came down in the back of the neck.  It was here that all three cords were bound together.  The knot was therefore on the back of the neck, on top of the turban. (Rashi; Sefer Mitzvot Gadol; Raavad Klei HaMikdash 9.  Cf. Tzedah LaDerech; Yad Eliahu 3)

The head plate was actually on the forehead, and the turban (mitznefet) was above it.  Between the plate and the turban there was an uncovered area where the kohen's hair could be seen. Here the Kohen Gadol would put his tefillin. (Zevachim 99).


The commandment of Tefillin is as weighty as all the other commandments combined.  It is thus written, "It shall be a sign on your hand and remembrance between your eyes, so that G-d's Torah shall be in your mouth" (13:9).  This indicates that when a person has tefillin on his arm and head, it is as if all of G-d's Torah was in his mouth. (Rosh, Hichot Tefillin)

Moreover, tefillin is one of the three signs of Yisrael.  These three signs are: 
  1. tefillin
  2. circumcision
  3. Shabbat
Among all the commandments, only these three are called a "sign" (ot).  Regarding tefillin, it is written, "You shall bind them for a sign on your hand" (Devarim 6:8).  Regarding circumcision, it is written, "This shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you" (Bereishit 17:11).  Regarding the Shabbat, it is written, "between Me and the Benei Yisrael, it is a sign forever" (31:17).

Every (male) Jew must have two signs to serve as the two witnesses that he is Benei Yisrael. During the week, when the sign of the Shabbat is not present, the two signs are circumcision and tefillin.  But if a person does not put on tefillin, it is considered that he only has one witness, and the Torah says, "A matter shall be established by two witnesses" (Devarim 19:15).

On the Shabbat, however, the Shabbat itself is the second sign, and one need not put on tefillin.  The two signs then are the Shabbat and circumcision. (Sh'nei Luchot HaBrit 111; Reshit Chochmah 189)

This is why we do not put on tefillin on the Shabbat.  If one wears tefillin on the Shabbat, it is considered as if he were denigrating the Shabbat.  He is showing that he does not consider the sign of the Shabbat to be sufficient. (Menachot33)

We therefore see how important tefillin are, and how great is the punishment for neglecting them.  However, if one does not wear his tefillin in the proper place, it is the same as if he did not wear them at all.

Furthermore, if one does not put on tefillin, it is considered that he is not subjugating the five main parts of the body to G-d.  

The head tefillin have four "house" (batim); that is, the larger box is actually divided into four smaller boxes.  Each one of these boxes has one of the following four chapters of the Torah:
  1. Kadesh (Shemot 13:1-10)
  2. VeHaya Ki Yaviacha (Shemot 13:11-16)
  3. Shema' (Devarim 6:4-9)
  4. VeHaya Im Shemo'a (Devarim 11:13-21)
The hand tefillin only has one box, and in this box all four chapters are written on a single parchment.  

There is an important reason why the head tefillin has four boxes, while the hand tefillin has only one.

There are five organs that are not under a person's own control.  They are the two eyes, the two ears, and the heart.

The ears hear things that a person does not want to hear; the eyes see things that a person does not want to see; and the heart can have evil thoughts that the person also does not want, since these evil thoughts can lead to evil deeds.

So as to subjugate these parts of the body, G-d told us to wear tefillin.  The four boxes in the head tefillin parallel the four organs on the head: the two ears and the two eyes.  The head tefillin therefore serve to subjugate these organs to do good deeds and not sin.

In the hand tefillin, which is worn on the arm opposite the heart, G-d commanded to place all four chapters in a single box.  This parallels the heart.  G-d wants us to have only good thoughts and not evil ones.

Therefore, if a person does not fulfill the commandment of tefillin, it is as if he does not want to subjugate these five organs to G-d. (Chen Tov, Bo).

28:38 Vehayah al-metzach Aharon venasa Aharon et-avon hakodashim asher yakdishu bnei Yisrael lechol-matnot kodsheihem vehayah al-mitzcho tamid leratzon lahem lifnei HASHEM
So it shall be on Aharon's forehead, that Aharon may bear the iniquity of the holy offerings which the children of Yisrael hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before HASHEM.
Here the Torah tells us how the forehead-plate was more important than the Kohen Gadol's other vestments.  The forehead-plate must be on the Kohen Gadol's head when the blood of a sacrifice is sprinkled.  if, when the blood is sprinkled, the forehead-plate is not on the Kohen Gadol's head, but put away, then the sacrifice is not rendered acceptable.  In such a case, the sacrifice is invalid.

The Torah thus says, "It shall be on Aharon's forehead, that Aharon may bear the iniquity of the holy offerings."  This infers that when the plate is on Aharon's head, it makes the sacrifice acceptable; otherwise, it does not help the sacrifice at all. (Yoma 6)

This verse does not say that the tzitz (forehead-plate) expiates the sin of a kohen who offers an unclean sacrifice.  If this were so, the Torah would have said, "Aharon shall carry the iniquity of the sacrifice."  Since it says, "the iniquity of the holy offering," it indicates that it makes the sacrifice acceptable, but not the kohen who offered it.

The tzitz only contained the Name of G-d (YKVK) once, and still the Torah warns that the Kohen Gadol must be very careful not to take his mind off it.  The tefillin have G-d's Name in them many times.  If one counted, he would find that the Tetragrammaton (YKVK) occurs 42 times in the tefillin. Therefore, one must be very careful to wear them with awe and reverence, and not to speak of frivolity or trivial conversation while wearing them.  If one does so, he is demonstrating that he is not accepting on himself the yoke of the Divine Kingdom. (Reshit Chochmah 166)

The main reason that the tefillin are worn on the head, opposite the brain, and on the arm opposite the heart, is to teach that these primary parts of the body must be sanctified and subjugated to G-d.  These are the parts of the body that control the thoughts and the very life processes of a person and they must be dedicated to serving G-d.

28:39 Veshibatzta haktonet shesh ve'asita mitznefet shesh ve'avnet ta'aseh ma'aseh rokem
You shall skillfully weave the tunic of fine linen thread, you shall make the turban of fine linen, and you shall make the sash of woven work.
The tunic (ketonet) was the garment worn directly on the body.  It was mentioned earlier but it was not specified how it should be made.  Now the Torah tells us that it should be made of linen with each thread spun out of six filaments. (Yad, Klei HaMikdash 8)

It was made in a patterned knit so that it appeared like a pattern of settings for jewels.  This pattern was made in teh tunic for aesthetic reasons. (Rashi)

At this point, the Torah also describes the turban (mitznefet) that was mentioned earlier.  It was also made of linen, with every thread spun out of six strands, just like the tunic.  This turban was made of extremely fine material. (Abarbamel)  It consisted of a piece of material 24 feet long, wound around the head. (Yad, loc. cit.; Ramban)

The sash (avnet) was the belt worn over the tunic.  This was made of embroidered work, so that the pattern was only visible on one side.

Whenever the Torah speaks of "brocaded work" (maaseh choshev) the pattern was visible from both sides.  When the Torah speaks of "embroidered work" (maaseh rokem) the pattern could be seen only on one side. (Yad, loc. cit.)

The sash of the Kohen Gadol was made of a mixture of wool and linen that is normally forbidden.  Therefore, as soon as he completed the Divine service, he would immediately take off the sash.  Since it was made of a forbidden mixture of wool and linen, he was not allowed to wear it except when performing the Divine service.  The other priestly vestments, however, could be worn all day long, even when not performing the service. (Ibid.)

Reason for the Vestments

G-d commanded that the High Priest wear these vestments so that the angels would know that he is the King's minister, and that he has the authority to meet with the King without seeking an appointment.  He can come in whenever he needs to.

The Kohen Gadol is very much like a pedagogue hired to care for the royal prince.  The pedagogue must be able to come into the royal palace at all times to care for the prince's needs.  The king therefore provides the pedagogue with a royal uniform.  When the gatekeepers see the uniform they realize that the pedagogue can enter whenever he pleases.

The Kohen Gadol, similarly, was able to enter the Holy of Holies, which is a holy, awesome place, whenever he had to do so for Yisrael's needs.  Since it was the place where the Divine Presence dwelt, it was like the Royal Palace.  There was concern that the angels, who guarded the Holy of Holies, would harm the priest.  Therefore, G-d gave the High Priest a uniform of sacred vestments, so that the angels would realize that G-d wanted him, and they would not harm him. (Shemot Rabbah; Yeffeh Toar 192)

No matter how much merit the Kohen Gadol had, he would not have been able to emerge in peace from the hands of the angels when he entered this holy, awesome place.  Even though the Kohen Gadol might have been perfect in good deeds, and observant of the commandments, it would have been impossible for him to enter the Holy of Holies, a place that is so holy and spiritual that the Divine Presence could rest there.  After all, a human body is mere dust from the earth.

The only thing that allowed him to enter this place was the merit of the covenant of circumcision, which was sealed within his flesh.  The circumcision is a seal of G-d.  This caused his flesh to become almost spiritual, so he could enter that place.

It is for this reason that the Kohen Gadol served while wearing eight vestments.  This alluded to the circumcision, which is performed when a child is eight days old. (Yerushalmi, Yoma 7)

Circumcision allowed the Kohen Gadol to enter the Holy of Holies not merely because a piece of flesh was cut away.  Rather, it pointed to the fact that the covenant was being kept.  This meant that the circumcised person must be careful to avoid all sexual violations, and must sanctify himself when he performs his marital relations.  When a person keeps this, he has very high spiritual status, and may be called a holy man. |3|

It is therefore written regarding the priest, "My covenant was with  him, and I gave him of life, peace and reverence, and he feared Me; he was in awe of My name" (Malachi 2:5).  The reason that the Kohen Gadol was able to emerge from the Holy of Holies alive and whole was in the merit of the covenant of circumcision. (Yerushalmi, loc. cit.)

However, this would be true only if the Kohen Gadol was truly G-d-fearing, and his heart was humble and contrite because of the Divine Name sealed in the sign of the covenant of circumcision so that he would subjugate his Evil Inclination, and be careful not to defile the covenant.  Only then would he emerge in peace form the Holy of Holies.


MeAm Lo'ez, Bachya, Rashi, Ramban.

Images: The Temple Institute

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