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 Parshas Tetzaveh - Vol. 4, Issue 20
Compiled by Oizer Alport


This week’s issue is dedicated l’iluy nishmas Esther bas Yitzchok, whose first yahrtzeit is tomorrow (8 Adar). Each issue of Parsha Potpourri takes a tremendous amount of time and energy to research and write and is enjoyed by thousands of readers weekly, and sponsors are greatly appreciated. If you are interested in sponsoring an issue of Parsha Potpourri, please email me for more information.

V’asisa bigdei Kodesh l’Aharon achicha l’kavod ul’tifares (28:2)

            Rav Yitzchok Hutner once related that while studying in Slabodka, he often heard America referred to as the “Goldeneh Medinah.” Living in the poverty that was rampant in Eastern Europe at that time, he couldn’t even begin to imagine the wealth and excess being referred to. Even upon arriving at America’s shores, he and all of the immigrants with whom he associated continued living under very simple and modest conditions. Hearing everybody complain about the difficulty in finding a job which paid a respectable salary and allowed a person to respect his religious traditions, Rav Hutner remained cynical about the reports that America was a country where money was the most precious commodity and dollars rolled through the streets.

            One day that all changed. Rav Hutner was walking down the street during the week of Parshas Tetzaveh. He observed two young Jewish boys playing ball in front of their house. The older of the two was regaling his younger brother with all that he had learned from his Rebbe about the lofty position of the Kohen Gadol: his eight special garments, designed to invoke glory and splendor; the sacrifices he was able to bring daily in the Beis HaMikdash; and of course, his unique role in effecting atonement for the entire Jewish nation on an annual basis, on the holiest day of the year in the holiest place on earth. The young boy listened with interest and fascination, envisioning the action transpiring before his very eyes. He paused to take it all in and digest it before asking, “Tell me, what do you think his annual salary was?” Sadly, Rav Hutner realized that he had finally been welcomed to the Goldeneh Medinah!


V’haya al Aharon l’shares v’nishma kolo b’vo’o el HaKodesh lifnei Hashem uv’tzeiso v’lo yamus (28:35)

            The Gemora in Pesachim (112a) records that Rabbi Akiva gave seven commands to his son Rabbi Yehoshua. One of them was that he shouldn’t enter his house suddenly. In his commentary on the Gemora, the Rashbam quotes a Medrash which relates that whenever he approached his home, Rabbi Yochanan would intentionally make noise to alert anybody who may be inside to his imminent arrival.

            Rabbi Yochanan explained his actions by quoting our verse, which requires the Kohen Gadol to have bells on the hem of his Me’il (Robe) so that they will make noise to announce his approach whenever he enters Hashem’s Sanctuary. How could an individual person, even one as great as Rabbi Yochanan or Rabbi Akiva, derive guidelines for proper conduct from the Torah’s laws for the Kohen Gadol, who was subject to special stringencies due to the sanctity of the Temple in which he served?

            The Mishmeres Ariel answers based on a Gemora in Sotah (17a), which teaches that if a husband and wife dwell together in peace and harmony, the Shechina will rest between them and fill their home with an atmosphere of holiness. In light of this teaching, we can understand that any man with a successful marriage must recognize that the Shechina resides in his home, and conduct appropriate for the Kohen Gadol is required.

            Lest one think that these lofty levels were only for previous generations, a modern-day example of such behavior can be found in a beautiful story involving Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. Somebody was once discussing an important issue with him on his way home. As they walked through the streets of Jerusalem, Rav Shlomo Zalman suddenly paused to straighten and clean his clothes.

            As his clothing didn’t appear disheveled, the man inquired about the cause of the Rav’s actions. The saintly Rav replied that he had been blessed for decades to live in peace and tranquility with his wonderful wife. They were fortunate to feel Hashem as a regular Presence in their home. As he turned the block to approach his house, Rav Shlomo Zalman felt compelled to ensure that his appearance was appropriate for the important Guest that he was about to greet!

            In light of such daily behavior, it shouldn’t be surprising to note that at his wife’s funeral, Rav Shlomo Zalman announced that at the funeral of one’s spouse it is customary to ask forgiveness from the deceased for anything he may have done or said that caused pain. However, he continued, “I have no need to do so, for I can say with complete confidence that in almost 54 years of marriage, I never once upset or hurt her in any way, and there is nothing for which I need to ask her forgiveness.”

            Although marriage brings its daily challenges for even the most compatible of spouses, we can begin to overcome them by viewing our efforts to keep the peace as bringing the Divine presence into our homes, where it will dwell amidst an atmosphere of happiness and harmony.


V’asisa Mizbeach miktar ketores atzei shitim ta’aseh oso (30:1)

            After instructing Moshe regarding all of the garments worn by the Kohanim and the procedure to inaugurate Aharon and his sons to serve as Kohanim, Hashem commanded Moshe to build a golden Altar for the Mishkan, on which incense was offered twice daily. In Parshas Terumah (27:1-8), the Torah details the requirements and laws governing the copper Altar upon which all other animal offerings were brought. Why was it necessary to build an additional Altar in the Mishkan upon which to offer incense? What unique role did it serve in effecting atonement which could not be achieved through the more traditional sacrifices offered on the copper Altar?

            The Kli Yakar explains that when a person sins, it causes spiritual damage to both his body and his soul. The copper Altar discussed in last week’s parsha atoned for the impurities caused to one’s body through his sins. By offering animals on this Altar, atonement was effected for the physical, animalistic body that sinned. This is alluded to by the fact that the copper Altar was three cubits tall, which is the height of the physical body of an average person (Eiruvin 48a).

            However, the offering of a mundane, ephemeral animal cannot atone for the damage caused by sin to the lofty, eternal soul. This is the purpose of the golden Altar. The incense that was burned on it twice daily created smoke and a fragrant aroma that ascended heavenward, similar to the neshama, which is also described (Shir HaShirim 3:6) as possessing a sweet aroma due to its good deeds.

            A number of the laws and details of the incense and the Altar upon which it was offered symbolically reflect this concept. The incense Altar was one cubit long by one cubit wide, symbolizing with its singular measurements that it atones for the soul, which is unique in its spiritual purpose. It was covered with gold to hint to the tremendous reward awaiting the neshama in the World to Come.

            The incense was offered in the morning and in the evening, corresponding to the morning of a person’s life when he is born and his neshama begins to shine like the sun, and to the end of one’s life when his soul departs and his sun sets. The incense service was performed at the time of the cleaning of the Menorah in the morning and the lighting of its candles in the evening, as the neshama is compared to a light (Mishlei 20:27). In the morning, the Menorah is cleaned, symbolizing the importance of improving one’s soul through good deeds and keeping it clean during one’s youth. In the evening, the flames of the Menorah are kindled, symbolizing the time that one’s soul goes up like a flame to return to its Maker. The afternoon incense service atones for the soul so that it should leave the world as pure as when it entered.

            Rav Moshe Shternbuch adds that the Gemora in Berachos (43b) teaches that the sense of smell, which enjoys the fragrant aroma of the incense, is associated with the soul. He also suggests that the Kli Yakar’s explanation can help us understand why the Gemora in Yoma (21a) teaches that the Kohen who brings the incense offering becomes rich. Because he disregards his mundane needs to focus on rectifying his spiritual blemishes, Hashem rewards him with physical wealth.


Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1)     Of all of the items that Hashem created during twilight on Erev Shabbos at the end of the week of Creation, which of them was needed for the garments of the Kohanim? (Avos 5:6, Sotah 48b)

2)     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?

3)     Rashi writes (28:30) that the Kohen Gadol was able to ask questions of national import to Hashem via the Urim V’Tumim which was inside of the Choshen (Breastplate). Was he also able to inquire regarding the proper ruling in difficult legal questions which needed resolution? (Targum Yonason ben Uziel 28:15, Rashi and Maharatz Chayos Eiruvin 45a, Ayeles HaShachar 28:15, Shiras Dovid)

4)     As the Me’il was a four-cornered garment, why wasn’t the Kohen Gadol required to place tzitzis on its corners? (Minchas Chinuch 99:4, Shu”t Doveiv Meishorim 3:16, Chavatzeles HaSharon)

5)     The Chofetz Chaim writes (Shemiras HaLashon 2:15) that the bells on the hem of the Kohen Gadol’s Ephod (28:33) made noise and symbolize speaking words of Torah, while the pomegranates made no sound and represented the importance of remaining silent when appropriate. Why was a pomegranate specifically used to symbolize silence more than anything else? (Yad Av)

 © 2009 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


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