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Parshas Tetzaveh - Vol. 10, Issue 20
Compiled by Oizer Alport


V'lakachta es shtei avnei shoham u'fitachta aleihem shemos B'nei Yisroel (28:9)
V'ha'avnim tih'yena al Shemos B'nei Yisroel shteim Esrei al shemosam pituchei chosam ish al shemo (28:21)

Parshas Tetzaveh introduces us to the special vestments worn by the Kohanim when serving in the Mishkan. Among the eight unique vestments worn by the Kohen Gadol was a large apron called the Ephod and a breastplate known as the Choshen, each of which contained precious stones on which the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were engraved. One set of stones were called the avnei shoham, which were part of the Ephod and were worn on his shoulders, while the other set were known as the avnei milu'im, which were part of the Choshen and were worn on his chest. While it is understandable for the Kohen Gadol, who represented the entire nation, to have the names of the tribes on his clothing as a reminder of his mission, why was it necessary to repeat the list a second time?

Rabbi Chaim Zvi Senter explains that the names that were engraved on the Choshen were placed next to the Kohen Gadol's heart, which served to remind him of the need to empathize with his brethren. However, empathy alone is insufficient. The Kohen Gadol was required to wear an additional set of names on his shoulders to teach him that he must also be prepared to act on his feelings by getting involved and actually shouldering the responsibilities of the nation. Similarly, when we hear about the suffering of our fellow Jews around the world, we must identify with their plights and feel their pain, but we must remember that this alone is not enough; we must also get involved and invest our time and resources to assist them as much as possible.

Rabbi Senter adds that this dichotomy can also be found in the upcoming festival of Purim. One of the unique mitzvos of the day is Mishloach Manos, in which we are commanded to give gifts of food to our friends and relatives in order to increase feelings of friendship and togetherness. This mitzvah corresponds to the heart. There is an additional mitzvah on Purim of Matanos L'Evyonim, in which we are specifically commanded to give money to the poor and less fortunate as a way of pitching in and shouldering their burdens.

Alternatively, Rabbi Amnon Bazak points out a distinction between the two sets of names worn by the Kohen Gadol. The names of the tribes that were engraved on the Ephod were all written on the same type of stone and were written together to the extent that was physically possible. On the other hand, the names of the tribes that were engraved on the Choshen were each written separately and on a different type of precious stone. Symbolically, the names on the Ephod represent the fact that all Jews are united in their common mission of serving Hashem through studying Torah and performing mitzvos, while the names on the Choshen denote the existence and importance of different approaches to fulfilling that shared obligation. While both components are necessary, the fact that the Ephod was the larger of the two garments indicates that while individuality is valuable, the overarching central mission that unites us all is more prominent and fundamental.

Vayomer Shaul el Shmuel chatasi ki avarti es pi Hashem v'es devarecha ki yareisi es ha'am va'eshma b'kolam (Shmuel 1 15:24 - Haftorah l'Parshas Zachor)

On Purim, we celebrate our salvation from Haman's decree to annihilate the Jewish nation. Because Haman was descended from Amalek, on the Shabbos before Purim we publicly read the Torah's commandment to remember what Amalek did to our ancestors, and to completely obliterate them. The special Haftorah which is read on this Shabbos records the instructions that the prophet Shmuel gave Shaul to kill all of the Amalekites and their animals. When Shaul did not do as he was commanded, Shmuel came to reprimand him and informed him that as a result of his failure to follow orders, he would be punished with the loss of his kingship. After hearing Shmuel's strong rebuke, Shaul understood that he had erred and confessed that he had not followed Shmuel's instructions. However, even after Shaul finally acknowledged his mistake, he still attempted to minimize it in two ways.

First, the Abarbanel points out that Shaul told Shmuel that his sin was that he had transgressed the word of Hashem and of Shmuel, which was his way of implying that he had not violated Hashem's actual command, but only Shmuel's overly-strict interpretation of it. Because Shaul maintained that his primary sin was against Shmuel, he only asked forgiveness from Shmuel (15:25), but not from Hashem. Shmuel responded by stating unequivocally (15:26) ma'asta es d'var Hashem - you have rejected the word of Hashem - completely leaving himself out of the equation.

The Arvei Nachal points out a second problem with Shaul's confession: Even after he acknowledged that he had sinned, he still was unwilling and unable to accept full responsibility for his actions. The best apology is an unconditional one, in which a person acknowledges that what he did was wrong and apologizes for it without any explanations. Once he begins adding on justifications and rationales for his decisions and conduct, his confession loses some of its impact.

In this case, Shaul initially claimed that he had obeyed Shmuel's instructions. Even after Shmuel reprimanded him and he finally confessed, Shaul still felt the need to add on that he did it because, "I was afraid of the people, so I listened to their voices," and a person who does something under pressure and duress should not be held fully responsible. Rav Leib Chasman explains that in doing so, Shaul demonstrated and confirmed why he was no longer fit to be king. The Torah commands (Devorim 17:15) som taseem alecha melech - you shall set a king over yourself - which the Gemora (Sanhedrin 19b) interprets to mean she't'hei eimaso alecha - his fear should be upon you. The Torah's definition of a king is that he has to be somebody who inspires awe and fear in the nation and leads them. When Shaul openly admitted that he was afraid of the people and followed after them, he was in essence saying that he was no longer fit to serve as king.

In contrast, when the prophet Nosson confronted Dovid after the episode with Batsheva and Uriah, Dovid immediately responded by acknowledging that what he had done was wrong, without attempting to justify it in any way, succinctly stating (Shmuel 1 12:13) chatasi l'Hashem - I have sinned against Hashem. It was this concise and clear confession which caused Nosson to respond by informing Dovid that Hashem would forgive his sin, and he would not die as a result.

Nevertheless, although these explanations of Shaul's misconduct are supported by the text, it is still difficult to understand how it is possible that Shaul, who is described in Tanach as being spiritually head and shoulders above his entire generation (Shmuel 1 9:2) and is compared by Chazal (Yoma 22b) to a 1-year-old child who has never sinned, could be totally blinded to the truth about this entire episode. The Alter of Kelm explains that the very fact that Shaul was so righteous rendered him incapable of fathoming the possibility that he might have unintentionally erred in his judgment. As farfetched as some of his defenses may appear, it was only natural for somebody who became king having never sinned to continue to interpret all of his actions as being in accordance with Hashem's will. Although none of us will ever be on the spiritual level of Shaul, this incident still serves as a valuable lesson and teaches us that sometimes a person can be so fixated on doing a mitzvah that he blinds himself to the truth and is unable to recognize that what he is doing is in fact the exact opposite of what Hashem wants him to do.

Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
To receive the full version with answers email the author at oalport@optonline.net.

Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) Where are the Avnei Shoham, which were placed in the Ephod and upon which the names of the 12 tribes were written (28:9), mentioned in the Torah other than in Sefer Shemos?

2) Rashi writes (28:30) that the Kohen Gadol was able to ask questions to Hashem via the Urim V'Tumim inside of the Choshen. The letters forming the answer to his question either lit up or protruded. Did they do so simultaneously, requiring his knowledge to properly arrange them, or did they sequentially spell out the answer for him? (Ramban, Maharsha Yoma 73b, Shiras Dovid)

3) Why is the golden Altar upon which incense was offered (30:1) referred to as a Mizbeach, which comes from the word zevach (animal sacrifice), when no animals were ever offered on this altar as sacrifices? (Zohar HaKadosh Parshas Vayakhel 219a, Shaarei Aharon)

4) How was Shmuel permitted to kill Agag (Shmuel 1 15:33), the king of the Amalekites, when the Gemora in Nazir (66a) teaches that Shmuel was a nazir who was forbidden to become impure through contact with a dead body (Bamidbar 6:6)? (Radak Shmuel 2 23:20, Derush L'Tzion 5, Tiferes Yisroel Nazir 9:5, Ohel Dovid Vol. 2 and Vol. 7, Chavatzeles HaSharon Shemos 17:13, K'Motzei Shalal Rav and Mishbetzos Zahav Shmuel Aleph, M'rafsin Igri Inyanim Vol. 2)

  2014 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to parshapotpourri@optonline.net


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