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  Shalom and Bracha!

  This 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.

    The 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.

  The 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.

   The 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 letters.

  Since 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?

  The 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 us.

  The 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.

  The 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.

  Shabbat Shalom,

 Rabbi Biggs

In memory of Berel Ben Nachum Handelman. May his soul be bound in the eternal bond of life with Hashem

If you 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 RabbiBiggs@gmail.com

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