Shabbat we read the portion of Tetzaveh that discusses at great length
the special clothing that the Kohanim wore in the Temple. The garments
were of such importance that if any garment was lacking, the Temple
service was invalid. Preceding the giving of the Torah Hashem granted
the Jewish people the title of a nation of Kohanim (priests) and the
Targum explains that each Jew is like the High Priest. The lessons of
the priestly garments apply to each of us.
first garment mentioned 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. This is true both in
our relation with Hashem and with the rest of the world. Maimonides
teaches that a person should always view the world as an equal scale.
One good act can tip the scale and bring the entire world into favor in
Hashem’s eyes. Similarly, the rest of the world looks at us as one
people. Our acts, for the good and the bad, reflect upon the entire
Jewish people. Further, if someone see a fellow Jew committing a sin and
has the power to correct them and doesn’t do so, the Talmud (Shavuot
39b) teaches that the observer committed a sin. Thus, each of us carries
the entire twelve tribes upon our shoulders.
Twelve tribes were also inscribed on the Choshen Mishpat, the
Breastplate. The Choshen Mishpat had twelve different gemstones, upon
each of which was inscribed the name of one of the tribes. The lesson of
the twelve tribes on the breastplate is that we must always have the
entire Jewish people upon our heart. When we pray, we pray for everyone,
when we make a decision, we worry about everyone. The Arizal teaches
that every morning, before our prayers, we should say Hareini Mekabail
Alai Mitzvat Asei Shel V’ahavta L’rayacha Kamocha (I hereby accept upon
myself the Mitzvah of loving my neighbor as myself). By doing so, Hashem
accepts our prayers.
Talmud teaches that the names Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov and the
words Shivtei Y-h (The tribes of Hashem) were also inscribed upon the
stones. One of the reasons therefore was that it was necessary that all
of the Hebrew letters be on the Breastplate. When a question of great
importance needed to be asked of Hashem, the Kohen Gadol would look at
the breastplate and prophetically see the answer spelled out in the
there were only twelve stones, the names of the Patriarchs had to be
engraved on the stones together with the tribes. The Baal Haturim
explains that the names of the Patriarchs and the words Shivtei Y-h were
spread out over all of the stones. The immediate question arises, why?
Couldn’t Avraham have his own stone?
engraving of the Patriarchs and the words the tribes of Hashem on the
stones of the tribes teaches us how we must view our bond with our
forefathers, our identity as Hashem’s people and our heritage. Were the
forefathers to be on their own stones, and the tribes on theirs, it
would imply that we are our own beings, separate from our forefathers
and our identity. The forefathers were carved into our stones, to
teach that our heritage and mission must be inseparably engraved within
Kohen Gadol wore the Tzitz, a golden plate across his forehead which was
inscribed Holy to Hashem. Interestingly, the engraving was done in a way
that the letters protruded. This was to teach us that we must not be
ashamed of our Judaism, and on the contrary our sanctity must extend to
all around us.
word Tzitz comes from the Hebrew Maytzitz, which means gazing. This is
because we should constantly think about being holy to Hashem. It is
also the numerical value of Keitz, which means the end of days (the time
of Moshiach).The prophet teaches that Moshiach stands behind our wall in
peers (maytzitz) through the cracks. May we pierce the wall and
immediately merit his coming.
In memory of Berel Ben Nachum Handelman. May his soul be bound in the
eternal bond of life with Hashem
know of anyone who might enjoy Torah e mail, please send me their
addresses. If you have received this in error or would like to
unsubscribe, contact me at
project of Chabad of Great Neck
East Shore Rd.
Neck NY 11024
4874554 fax 516 4874807