Texts: Exodus 27:20 – 30:10 || Ezekiel 43:10 – 43:27
NOTE: Kol HaTor, in its commentaries on the weekly Parashot, endeavours to search for and accentuate the Torah Messages contained in the Parashot as applicable to the main Theme of Tanach of the Return of the House of Israel, i.e. the Lost Ten Tribes of Northern Israel and their Reconciliation with Judah to form the reunited 12-Tribed Kingdom of Israel.
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DISCLAIMER – The authors whom we quote from for this Commentary are not associated with KOL HA’TOR and need not agree with our views expressed herein or in our other publications. While we publish their views for its relative value to the interpretation of the Parashah, KOL HATOR does not necessarily agree with the views expressed by these authors.
Tetzaveh is the 2nd of a series of 5 Parashot about the Tabernacle, providing specifications of its design, contents, apparel and services. From our previous Parashat Terumah, we have, identified the important message for ourselves:
- how the Tabernacle provides man the opportunity to renew him/herself “in the image of G-d” and to draw closer until G-d Himself “dwells with man”;
- how it is man’s responsibility to support the building and maintenance of the Temple and its services with his/her assets, possessions and abilities by returning to G-d some of that which G-d in His Kindness has bestowed and which really belongs to Him.
This week, in Parashat Tetzaveh, we will see, from the apparel of the High Priest, what an important part the twelve Tribes hold in the Creation and Redemption Plan of HaShem.
Tetzaveh, at great length, describes the special clothing that the Priests (Kohanim) wore in the Temple. These garments were of such importance that if anything was lacking, the Temple service would become invalid. Eight garments were prescribed for the High Priest (Kohen HaGadol), that is four more than for the Priests.
The first mentioned of these special garments for the High Priest, is the Ephod which was an elaborate garment that rested upon the Kohen Gadol’s shoulders. Upon the shoulders were two gemstones that were engraved with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.
“This teaches us that at all times we have upon our shoulders not only ourselves, but also the entire Jewish people [12 Tribes of Israel]. This is true both in our relation with Hashem and with the rest of the world … Our acts, for the good and the bad, reflect upon the entire Jewish people. Thus, each of us carries the entire twelve tribes upon our shoulders.”
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(Rabbi Biggs, www.Chabad.org)
Another part of the High Priest’s attire, is the Breast Plate (Choshen Mishpat). On it were twelve different gemstones, upon each of which was inscribed the name of one of the Tribes of Israel.
“The inscription of the Twelve Tribes on the Breastplate teaches that we must always have the entire Jewish people [all 12 Tribes] upon our heart. When we pray, we pray for everyone, when we make a decision, we concern ourselves with everyone” (Rabbi Biggs).
Rabbi Bernie Fox explains:
“The Choshen was primarily an instrument designed to communicate Prophecy. The Choshen’s function as an essential garment of the Kohen Gadol was subsidiary. This means that the stones and the letters engraved upon them were the main element of the Choshen. The breastplate was fundamentally a garment designed to display the stones which featured these engravings. If this possibility is accepted, then it follows that the size of the stones and the lettering was dictated by the primary function – communicating prophecy. All letters were equally essential. ”
The above commentary continues:
“The Torah describes the stones of the Choshen as ‘avnai miluim’. Most commentaries translate this term as ‘stones meant to be set’. This is a strange appellation for these stones. Why did the Torah not merely describe them as stones for adornment of the Kohen Gadol’s garments? What message is the Torah communicating by referring to the stones as avnai miluim?
“Gershonides responds to this question. He explains that the Choshen featured gold settings. The stones were required in order to fill these gold settings. This is an odd way to describe the relationship between the stones and the Choshen. The simpler, more straightforward description would be that the settings were required to accommodate the stones.
“A simple example will illustrate this point. What is the relationship between the diamond in an engagement ring and its setting? It would be incorrect to describe the diamond as ‘required to fill’, or complement, the setting (thus suggesting that the diamond is secondary to the setting). The setting is designed to hold the diamond!” [Thus, the Tribes play a primary role in HaShem’s Temple Plan!]
“Why does Gershonides describe the stones as ‘required’ to fill the gold settings? Gershonide’s point is that the stones were designated to adorn and complete the Choshen. “
This enlightening insight presented by Mesora.org continues when we review the High Priest’s Head Plate:
The Message of the Kohen Gadol’s Head-Plate
“And you should make a Head-plate of pure gold. And you should engrave upon it as the engraving of a signet ring, ‘Sanctified to Hashem’. (Exodus 28:36).
“One of the eight garments of the Kohen Gadol was the Tzitz – the golden Head-Plate. This band was worn on the forehead. Engraved upon the Tzitz were the words ‘sanctified to Hashem’.
“The message of the Tzitz seems difficult to unravel. The Tzitz is obviously declaring the sanctity of some object or person. However, the specific entity to which the Tzitz refers is not clear. Furthermore, we would expect the message of the Tzitz to be self-evident. The Tzitz is making the overt assertion that it – or someone – is ‘sanctified to G-d.’ Such a message should be easy to grasp!
“This issue can perhaps be resolved from the comments of the Sefer HaChinuch. Sefer HaChinuch explains the garments of the kohanim and the Kohen Gadol were designed to reinforce an important impression … This suggests that the phrase, ‘sanctified to Hashem’ refers to the Kohen Gadol. He is sanctified to Hashem. The Tzitz reminds the High Priest of his position and his duties. He must conduct himself in accordance with his responsibilities.
“Rabbaynu Shemuel ben Meir – Rashbam – offers an alternative explanation of the message of the Tzitz. Rashbam suggests that in order to understand the message of the Tzitz, it is essential to evaluate it as part of the entire set of vestments. The garments of the Kohen Gadol must be considered as a whole.
“The Tzitz was not the only vestment featuring words. The Ephod – the apron – and the Choshen also featured words. On the stones of the Ephod and Choshen the names of the tribes were engraved. Rashbam suggests that the message of the Tzitz emerges when considered in relation to these other vestments and their engravings. Rashbam explains the Tzitz refers to the shevatim — the Tribes whose names were engraved on the stones of the Ephod and Choshen. The Tzitz (therefore) refers to these shevatim as sanctified to Hashem.”
What a glorious Calling! What an exalted position!
Deuteronomy 33:29, “Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by HaShem? He is your Shield and Helper and your glorious Sword.”
The Quest for UNITY in His Nation
“From its very beginnings, this ‘one nation’ has been comprised of twelve distinct tribes. Jacob had twelve sons; before his passing he blessed them ‘each man according to his individual blessing,’ granting Judah the majesty of the lion, Issachar the perseverance of the donkey, Dan the ingenuity of the snake, Naphtali the swiftness of the gazelle, and so on. Each tribe was thereby given a distinct vocation and role: Judah produced kings and legislators; Issachar, scholars; Zebulun, seafarers and merchants; warriors came from Gad, schoolteachers from Shimon, olive growers from Asher, shepherds from Manasseh, and so on.
“The descendants of Jacob’s children preserved their tribal identities throughout their exile in Egypt. When the Red Sea parted to allow them passage, it split into twelve pathways – one for each tribe. Each tribe was counted separately in the various censuses taken of the people of Israel; each had its own stone on the High Priest’s breastplate, its own flag (in the color of its stone), its designated place in line when the people of Israel journeyed through the desert, and its designated position when they camped around the Sanctuary (mirroring the places that Jacob designated for his sons around his bier at his funeral). Twelve spies, each representing his respective tribe, made up the reconnaissance mission sent in preparation for the conquest of the Holy Land. Once there, each tribe was allotted its own territory suited for its particular vocation; there was even a time when certain restrictions were placed on marriages between the tribes to prevent the ownership of land from passing from one tribe to the other.
“Even as we each pursue our divinely ordained role, each living his life on his ‘day’ in his way, we are all doing the same thing. For in origin and essence we are one, and our individual lives and accomplishments are but the many expressions of a single quest.
“The first aspect of our unity concerns only the end, but not the means, of our national mission. It sees the common goal that is the ultimate purpose of it all; but the process of life – what we actually do to attain this goal – remains an area of difference and disparity. So even if our present-day efforts are guided by, and permeated with, the vision of our common objective, our actual lives are conducted apart and disconnected. The second aspect, however, sees an intrinsic oneness in the process of life itself. Even before our individual paths have converged upon the same destination, it sees in the many ways in which we apply our particular talents and abilities a single process, a single deed, a single endeavor: making our lives a ‘Tent of Meeting,’ a place to house the goodness and perfection of our Creator.
(MeaningfulLife.com Rabbi Simon Jacobson)
HaShem’s One Nation uniquely features ’12-Tribes’ divided into TWO Houses.
Rabbi Jacobson poses the question: “How, indeed, do a people comprised of various tribes, each with its own character, temperament, talents and vocation, achieve union as ‘one nation’?
“One approach is to focus on our ‘interdependence’: to appreciate that since we share a common goal – namely, to build for G‑d ‘a dwelling in the physical world’ – and since we each have a crucial role to play in the achievement of this goal, our various ‘tribes’ and types complement and fulfill one another to create a single people. In other words, our differences themselves are what unite us. Since the entity ‘Israel’ and what it stands for would be incomplete were any one ‘tribe’ missing from the equation, no Jew is fully Jewish without his relationship with every other type of Jew.”
(End of Quote)
The greatest stumbling block today in the way of Redemption (i.e. Reconciliation of the two Houses, 12 Tribes), is the diversity amongst the two Houses. It is clear from the above review, that we are blindly and stubbornly stumbling across the Solution: HaShem sees us and wants us to be ONE UNITED Nation. He has in fact created the diversity amongst the different Tribes – NOT to divide, but to perfect the ONENESS of His Nation.
No one tribe could ever fulfill His requirements on all aspects of life fully by itself. As pointed out above, it is the sum total of the diversities that bring full Oneness. But, there has to be Unity across the diversity! Rather than seeing these diversities as failures and stumbling stones, it should be seen as stepping stones to Unity and Oneness.
Research has shown that the best lasting marriages come from two totally diverse spouses. Look around you at those successful marriages – how totally diverse the spouses are! Research has shown how that the children from such marriages, being exposed to the two opposites of life options in their own lives, benefit through their experience of the two opposites in their parents. In this way they are given two extremes between which to make informed decisions in their own lives. In this way our Creator has provided us with additional life style tools to draw closer to Him and to enjoy the Blessing of righteous living!
Unfortunately, more than often, we see these keys to life as obstacles rather than stepping stones. And we do the same when it comes to establishing Peace in the House of HaShem amongst His diverse people! Just as in marriage, what generally causes the break down, is the individual insistence to “have it MY way!”
May this life generating insight brought to us by our Rabbis, into this otherwise ‘dry’ portion of Scripture, serve to help us appreciate the diversities amongst 12-Israel and between the two greatly divided Houses of HaShem.
Which would bring the ultimate Redemption to the Door Step!