Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

For sponsorships and advertising opportunities, send e-mail to:

Back to This Week's Parsha Previous Issues

subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)

Vol. 12   No. 20

This issue is sponsored in honor of the engagement of
Basyah, daughter of HaRav David and Rebbitzen Miriam Miller S'lita
Yossi, son of R. Yerachmiel and Rita Fuchs n.y.
yehi rotzon she'yizku livnos bayis ne'eman be'Yisrael

Parshas Tetzaveh

The Urim ve'Tumim
(Part 1)
(Based mainly on the Ramban's explanation on the Torah)

The Ramban refutes the Ibn Ezra's contention that the Urim ve'Tumim was some sort of object made of silver and gold, similar to what the idolaters used to use to discover the thoughts of those who came to the priests for guidance. If that were so, asks the Ramban, why does the Torah not describe them, like it describes the Eifod and the Choshen - as well as all the other components of the Mishkan - in great detail?


He therefore prefers Rashi's explanation, that they were a transcript of G-d's holy Name, which were subsequently placed in the folds of the Choshen. Indeed, he points out, the Choshen was specifically made twice as long as it was wide, so that it could be folded for the Urim ve'Tumim to be placed inside the fold.

And the reason that the Torah declines to describe the way they were made is because of their profound meaning, which was beyond the comprehension of anyone other than Moshe. In fact, Moshe had been taught their secrets at Har Sinai, which explains why the Torah refers here to "the Urim and the Tumim" (with a 'Hey ha'yedi'ah'), which it does not do in connection with any other of the Mishkan's vessels, except for the Mishkan in total (where it writes (26:1) "ve'es ha'Mishkan ta'aseh ... "), because it has already referred to it before (in 19:10). In fact, the Torah mentions "ha'Urim ve'ha'Tumim" twice (here and in Parshas Tzav, when Moshe actually placed them into the Choshen after he had dressed Aharon), because Moshe had been taught all their details when he stood on Har Sinai, as we just explained. Nobody other than Moshe knew anything about them, nor did they participate in donating the materials used in their manufacture or in the actual making. And that explains why the Torah withholds all other information connected with them.


But if the Torah is secretive about the Urim ve'Tumim, the commentaries describe them in relatively great detail. The Ba'al ha'Turim, with reference to a Zohar, observes that the numerical value of "es ha'Urim ve'es ha'Tumim" is seventy-two, and it was the seventy-two letter Name of Hashem that was placed inside the folds of the Choshen. Whilst the footnote in the Ramban, also citing the Zohar, informs us that this applied specifically to the Tumim, because the Urim comprised the forty-two letter Name of Hashem.


Rabeinu Bachye, quoting the Ramban, describes the Urim va'Tumim as the work of G-d. The Ramban himself however, first writes that Moshe may have been taught the relevant Names, which he then transcribed with sanctity.

Even though the Names involved were handed to Moshe, as we explained, it appears, says the Ramban, that Moshe subsequently taught them to the elders of his generation together with the other secrets of the Torah. Otherwise, how would David and Shmuel have been in possession of a linen Eifod and Choshen, shaped like that of Aharon ha'Kohen, containing the Urim ve'Tumim? And what's more, the eighty-five residents of Nov, the city of Kohanim, all did too! These were worn says the Ramban, by 'a Kohen from the B'nei ha'Nevi'im', who was consulted, and who was sometimes answered, in the way that the Kohen Gadol was. Incidently, it was only on behalf of a king or the community that the Kohen Gadol would consult the Urim ve'Tumim, and not for any other individual (though the G'ra that we cited in vol. 9, main article, in connection with Eli the Kohen Gadol and Chanah, suggests otherwise).


Interestingly, the Urim ve'Tumim for all their importance, were apparently not an integral part of the Choshen, because, during the period of the second Beis-Hamikdash, the Kohen Gadol musy have worn the Choshen, so as not to be considered a Mechusar Begadim (lacking any of the eight priestly garments), yet it did not contain the Urim ve'Tumim (which was one of five things missing in the second Beis-Hamikdash). And this will also help us to understand why the Torah does not deem it necessary to describe them, as we explained earlier.

(to be cont.)

* * *

Parshah Pearls
Yisrael Compared to the Olive and to the Oil

"And they shall take to you pure olive oil" (27:20).

The Medrash compares K'lal Yisrael both to an olive and to the oil that one extracts from it, the Tz'ror ha'Mor points out. Just like an olive only produces its oil when it has been beaten, so too Yisrael, excel most when they experience suffering.

And just as oil always rises to the top, refusing to mix with any other liquid, so too, Yisrael always stand out among the other nations, refusing to integrate into their societies.

It is truly amazing, he comments, that in spite of the fact that they are constantly persecuted, Yisrael are able to outshine their persecutors and to refrain from mixing with them!

It seems to me however, that the opposite might be true - in that it is precisely because of their ability to excel under subjugation that they decline to integrate with their oppressors. In that case, it is not their refusal to mix that is so amazing, but their ability to shine in spite of their persecution.


What Moshe Really Meant

"And as for you, bring Aharon your brother close" (28:1).

'When Hashem instructed Moshe to appoint Aharon,' says the Medrash, 'he felt bad about it ... '.

It is inconceivable that Moshe, the humblest of all men, should be jealous of Aharon's greatness. What the Medrash must therefore mean is that Moshe was upset that he had to bring Aharon close, insinuating that Aharon was on a lower level than he was, and needed to be drawn close. That is why G-d continued 'The Torah was mine and I gave it to you!'

Hashem gave him the Torah precisely because he was unique, the most humble of men (as is mentioned in many places), and it is for the same reason that He was now giving him the task of appointing Aharon as Kohen Gadol (P'ninei Torah).


Garments and Oil

"And you shall make holy garments for Aharon your brother for honour and for glory" (28:2).

The S'fas Emes explains the connection between the Bigdei Kehunah and the oil for the Menorah, which precedes it.

The latter, he explains, is symbolical of man's thoughts, which should be absolutely pure, whereas the former symbolizes his body, which is really the clothes of the Soul, and which should therefore be used to honour and glorify it.

This is why the Pasuk writes in Koheles (9:8) "At all times your clothes should be white and your head should not lack oil".

And these, he concludes, go hand-in-hand - a mind that is pure and a body that glorifies the Soul. In fact, this comprises the perfect man.


One Name on Two Stones

"Six of their names on the one stone" (28:12).

Why did the Torah not simply write 'six names on one stone'?

The answer, the Meshech Chochmah explains, lies in the fact that Binyamin's name was divided into two, "Bin" was written on one of the stones, and "Yamin" on the other. And the expression 'six of the names' hints at the fact that one of the names at least, was written on two stones, and not on one.


Mind What You Say

Moshe's name is not mentioned in this Parshah, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, because he said "Blot out my name from Your book ..." ?

It just shows, says the Sifsei Kohen, how careful one must be not to curse even oneself. Moshe said what he said in defense of K'lal Yisrael, yet as a result of his words, his name is omitted from an entire Parshah. How much more so must we learn to control our anger, and not lash out even at ourselves in a careless moment, for who knows how much frustration and anguish this will bring on oneself at a later date.

This is reminiscent of the well-known story of the Chafetz Chayim, which concludes with his prohibition on speaking Lashon ha'Ra even about oneself.


Sha'atnez in a Linen Shirt?

"And you shall make checkered shirts of linen" (28:39).

The Piyut of Musaf of Yom-Kipur mentions the fact that the Kohen Gadol's shirt contained Kil'ayim (a mixture of wool and linen).

This would appear to make no sense, since the Torah specifically describes them as linen shirts ?

The Piyut can be understood however, in view of the Halachah, cited in Yoreh De'ah (33:4), which forbids wearing two garments, one of wool and the other, of linen, one on top of the other, if one cannot take off the bottom one without first taking off the top one, as this constitutes Kil'ayim.

Now the Kohen Gadol's shirt (the Kutones) was made of linen whereas his cloak (the Me'il) was made of T'cheiles, which is dark blue wool. And since it was not possible to remove the Kutones without taking off the Me'il, it transpires that he was wearing Sha'tnez.(Toras Moshe, quoting R. Volf Hildesheimer).


When You Know I Am G-d

"And they will know that I am Hashem their G-d, who took you out of the land of Egypt to dwell in your midst, I am Hashem their G-d" (29:46).

Commenting on the repetition of the phrase "I am Hashem their G-d", the Or ha'Chayim explains that Hashem is their G-d (who dwells in their midst and looks after all their needs) only when they realize that He is their G-d (who took them out of Egypt).

The P'ninei Torah relates that, when they once asked the Kotzker Rebbe where G-d is to be found, he retorted 'Wherever one lets him in'!


It seems to me that one might also interpret the double expression to mean that just as Hashem was our G-d in Egypt, so too will He continue to be our G-d in the future. And that is also the interpretation of the final Pasuk in the third paragraph of the Sh'ma (which says nothing about knowing anything). In short, the bond that was created between G-d and ourselves with the Exodus from Egypt was not a temporary one; it transcends time.


Beaten Oil - For the Menachos

"Pounded for the Lamp ... " (27:20).

We learn from here, says Rashi, that it is not necessary to pound the olives for the Menachos.

Later in the Parshah the Pasuk writes in the same connection "and a tenth (of an Eifah) of fine flour mingled with pounded oil". The Gemara in Menachos (86) learns from the Pasuk that if, despite the fact that it was not necessary, they did pound the olives for the Menachos, it is Kasher.

The S'fas Emes asks why the Gemara finds it necessary to teach us this. Why might we have thought that it is not?

And he replies by citing the ruling that if one adds oil to the specified amount, the Minchah is Pasul (disqualified). Consequently, he explains, bearing in mind that pounded olives produce more oil and less dregs, it would indeed have been Pasul, if the Pasuk had not specifically permitted it.

Now that we have a Pasuk, it is only if one adds oil from another source that it becomes Pasul.


Kindling the Flame

" ... to cause the everlasting lamp to rise" (ibid.)

One kindles the lamp until the flame is rising on its own, comments Rashi.

In every Jewish heart, says the Sichos ha'Tzadikim, a Divine spark flickers. One only has to discover how to kindle it.

Once one has achieved that, it will not take long for the flame to rise by itself.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Mitzvah 30:
Not To Swear in Vain (cont.)

And it is for the same reason that a Shevu'ah does not take effect on a Mitzvah that one comes to negate, whereas a Neder does. Because the Shevu'ah takes effect on oneself, and the command to perform it (backed by a Shevu'ah that every Jew took at Sinai to uphold it) overrides any Shevu'ah to the contrary. A Neder on the other hand, takes effect, not on the Mitzvah, but on the object, which the Noder is incorporating in the realm of Isur, and since that particular object was not included in the Isur or the Shevu'ah at Har Sinai, there is no reason for the Neder not to be effective. And once it is, we have a principle that one does not feed a person something that is forbidden to him (even where it means negating a Mitzvah). Nevertheless, you may well ask, based on the principle that an Asei overrides a Lo Sa'aseh, why the Mitzvas Asei attached to the object in question does not override the La'av of "Lo yachel devoro"? The answer is that fulfilling one's word constitutes a Mitzvas Asei ("ke'chol ha'yotzei mi'piv ya'aseh") in addition to the Mitzvas Lo Sa'aseh, and an Asei does not override a Lo Sa'aseh that is coupled with an Asei.

And still for the same reason, Chazal have taught that if Shimon hears Reuven declare a Neder with regard to a certain object, and within the short space of 'Toch k'dei dibur', he says 'I am like you', he too, is bound by the Neder, because what he meant was that Reuven's prohibition on the article should take effect on him as well (a process known as 'Matfis'). But if Shimon were to repeat 'I am like you' after hearing Reuven forbidding the same article with a Shevu'ah (where it is himself that Reuven has forbidden on the article and not the article on him), the Shevu'ah will not take effect on him, unless he specifically states 'I swear like you', or unless someone else states 'I make you swear ... ', and he replies 'Amen'.

In short, a Shevu'ah on oneself requires specific mention of the fact that either he is forbidding himself on something (or from doing something) or that someone else is doing so (and one cannot rely on a prohibition that somebody else makes on himself). This is because forbidding one's body requires a more specific declaration than forbidding an object, as we just explained.

Alternatively, the distinction between Neder and Shevu'ah is due to the fact that a Neder (which Chazal compare to swearing by the life of the King) is more severe than a Shevu'ah (which they only compare to swearing by the King).


Having described earlier a Shevu'ah by the Name of G-d as an undertaking to fulfill one's word and to make it come true, just like G-d is the epitome of truth, one would have expected it to not to be subject to nullification under any circumstances.

Yet G-d, in His mercy, aware of human weakness in body and in spirit, which results in people constantly changing their minds, presented us with the opportunity of escaping from the bond of a Shevu'ah at any time, though in a very limited way. One may only have one's Nedarim nullified, if one is prepared to affirm that he declared the oath under unforeseen or extenuating circumstances, as the Gemara explains in Shevu'os and Nedarim. He did not however, permit us to get out of it by simply ignoring it, but in a planned way with the participation of a Chacham. This entails appearing before a man who is wise and understanding in the ways of the Torah, to confess before him that there is something concerning the Shevu'ah that he knows now but did not know at the time that he declared it, and that this is the sole reason that he is now coming to annul it, and not simply because he has changed his mind.

And if the Chacham is satisfied that the circumstances have truly changed and that had the Noder known of them at the time when he made his oath, he would have declined from making it, and that he is now genuinely sorry for having made the declaration, he will accept his request, and annul it.

That is what Chazal mean when they say that one is not permitted to annul one's own vows, but others can annul them on his behalf.

It emerges that a person's vows cannot be annulled unless something unforeseeable occurred connected with the Neder, that did not exist at the time when he declared it, about which he is able to say 'Had I known that this would happen, I would not have made the oath'. Because that is the sort of O'nes that one is permitted to annul.

But if someone asks a Chacham to annul an oath for no reason (or for any reason other than the above), the Chacham will be bound to refuse his request.

* * *

For sponsorships and adverts call 651 9502

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to
Jerusalem, Israel