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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland

Parshas Tetzaveh

They shall take for you pure olive oil…to kindle the lamp continually. (27:20)

In the Talmud Berachos 57A, Chazal tell us, "If one sees olive oil in a dream, he may hope for the light of Torah." They cite this pasuk to support the analogy between the light of the Menorah and the light of Torah. The Midrash supplements this by comparing the light of Torah, that shines brilliantly for he who engages in studying it, to a candle which illuminates a path for someone groping in the dark. Interestingly, the Midrash cites two instances to elucidate how the light of a candle protects. The first example is a person who, while walking in the dark, stumbles on a stone; the second, is a person who falls into a ditch because the dark obscured the hole. Likewise, one who does not have the Torah's light to guide him will inevitably confront the challenge of sin and stumble onto it. Those who have the light will not stumble on the stone or fall into the pit. The redundancy of the Midrash begs elucidation. What does the analogy of the pit add to that of the stone?

Horav Yitzchak Goldwasser, Shlita, cites the Mesillas Yesharim who addresses the pasuk in Tehillim 104:20, "You make darkness and it is night," He suggests that Chazal are comparing living in this world to being in the darkness of night. He explains the metaphor in the following manner: Darkness can cause two problems in perception. First, one may be unable to notice the pitfalls and obstacles that stand in his way. Second, the shadows in the dark may cause optical illusions. One may see a pillar and mistake it for a person, or vice versa. The former can result in a person falling to his destruction, as he is unaware of the pitfalls in his path. The latter is even more serious, because one can mistake good for evil and evil for good, thereby persisting in self-defeating behavior which he is convinced is appropriate.

The reason that the Mesillas Yesharim considers the second error more serious is obvious. If one stumbles and hurts himself he realizes that this path is fraught with danger and should be avoided. Thus, he will wait until it becomes light before he continues his journey. One who thinks he sees properly, but is actually misperceiving reality, will likely go forward based upon his perceptual distortions.

We learn from the above that succumbing to sin may result from two errors: not perceiving an obstacle; mistaking an obstacle for something else. A stone that lies in one's path is like a sin that one notices only after he has erred. Now, however, he understands how to protect himself, because he is aware of his area of deficiency; he is aware of his transgression. The light of Torah guides him, illuminating the obstacles. The individual who falls into a pit may continue along this self-destructive path because he fails to see what is not there. He is guilty of denial, a phenomenon which is endemic to the habitual sinner. His thought process is distorted, affecting his judgement. Regrettably, many people function in darkness, mistaking the hostile aggression of the yetzer hora, evil inclination, for a pillar. They fail to see the danger signals because in their mind there are none. Likewise, there are those who look at a pillar and see an enemy. People conjure up bizarre rationalizations about this "pillar/enemy," doing everything in their power to destroy them. Only through the illumination of Torah can we bring light to the darkness, to differentiate between that which exists in reality and that which is only in our imagination. Perhaps the unity that eludes so many of us would finally be realized if we could only allow that light to shine.

Bring near to yourself Aharon, your brother, and his sons with him. (28:1)

In the Midrash, Chazal relate that Moshe Rabbeinu was actually upset when Aharon was selected as Kohen Gadol rather than he himself. Hashem assuaged Moshe, telling him that his position as the manhig, leader of Klal Yisrael, as Lawgiver and expositor, was greater than Kehunah, Priesthood. Moshe was the one who received the Torah at Har Sinai - no position can take precedence over this role. The Midrash cites an analogy to explain this: After many years of a marriage that produced no children, a husband decided that he had no alternative but to take another wife. Rather than do so himself, he approached his wife and asked her to search for him, to find him a second wife. He explained that while he was perfectly capable of doing this himself, by asking his wife to find her, he was ensuring that the second wife would always remain secondary to her. Similarly, Hashem told Moshe that He could have easily chosen Aharon without asking Moshe to do so. By asking Moshe, however, Hashem was emphasizing that Aharon's position would always be secondary to Moshe's.

When one reads this Midrash, it is difficult to reconcile this characterization with the Moshe Rabbeinu we know: the quintessential Torah leader, the paradigm of humility, the "eved Hashem," consummate servant of G-d. How is it possible that he was disconcerted by Aharon's appointment as Kohen Gadol? Envy and humility cannot coexist in one person. Moshe Rabbeinu, the "anav mikol adam," most humble of all men, surely could not have been envious.

Horav Mordechai Gifter, Shlita, explains that Hashem purposely waited until after the command to light the Menorah to tell Moshe about Aharon's new position. He was teaching Moshe a fundamental lesson about Kehunah and its function in relation to Torah. The Mishkan, a microcosm of the entire world, contained within it every spiritual and physical quality. The Menorah symbolized the light of Torah, the true light of the world. By establishing an association between the Menorah and the Priesthood, Hashem was conveying to Moshe that the kedushah, sanctity, of Kehunah is derived from the Torah. The Torah gives meaning and distinction to Kehunah.

This idea troubled Moshe. If the Priesthood's sanctity originates from the Torah, then he must have been deficient in Torah. Why else would he have not merited Kehunah? Moshe was not envious; he was simply introspective. When something did not seem to be right, he blamed himself. When Hashem told Moshe that he was greater than Aharon, He was responding to Moshe's feelings of inadequacy. It was the Divine Will that granted Aharon Kehunah. It had nothing to do whatsoever with any deficiency on Moshe's part. Indeed, regardless of the Priesthood's pre-eminence, Aharon could merit it only through Toras Moshe. It was Moshe's Torah that created the foundation for the concept of Priesthood. Aharon was a Kohen only as a result of Moshe's Torah.

The reassurance that his portion in Torah was not deficient gave Moshe solace - not the knowledge that his role was more significant than his brother's.

Aharon shall bear the judgement of the Bnei Yisrael on his heart constantly before Hashem. (28:30)

Aharon Hakohen merited Kehunah Gedolah. Consequently, he wore the Choshen Hamishpat, Breastplate, over his heart. The Midrash remarks about the choice of Aharon: "We find a number of famous "brothers" whose feelings for each other were less than cordial. Yishmael hated Yitzchak; Eisav hated Yaakov; the shevatim did not get along with Yosef. Regarding Aharon and Moshe, it is said, 'Behold how good and how pleasant is the dwelling of brothers.' (Tehillim 133)"

Aharon Hakohen was unique in that he was overjoyed when Hashem selected his younger brother, Moshe, to lead Klal Yisrael. Aharon's love for his brother, in fact for every Jew, was his hallmark. His ability for his happiness for someone else to transcend his own personal emotions earned him this status. Aharon's joy for Moshe was as if it were his own. He was the consummate "nosei b'ol im chaveiro." He was the same individual who bears the yoke with his fellow: empathizing with his friend, grieving with him during moments of pain, and smiling with him during periods of joy. Another Jew's problems became his problems; another Jew's joy was his joy.

This "big heart", that encompassed and empathized with every Jew, was to be the "site" where the Choshen Hamishpat with its Urim v'Tumin would rest. The Urim v'Tumin responded to the questions of the Jewish People. Horav Chaim Shmulevitz, zl, explains that in order to perceive the correct answer from the Choshen, the heart must be sensitive to both the question and the questioner. When Eili the Kohen Gadol questioned the Urim v'Tumin regarding Chanah, the mother of Shmuel Ha'Navi, the answer he saw was "shikorah," drunk. The answer was actually "kesheirah," referring to Chanah's status as a virtuous and proper woman. The letters of both words were the same: one meant drunk, the other meant proper. How did he make such an error? He did not empathize with her pain. He did not feel the heart-ache of a childless mother. The letters were there; he just could not fathom the correct combination.

Aharon's heart -- the heart that shared the joy and grief with other Jews as if they were his own -would wear the Choshen. In order to lead successfully one must be sensitive to the collective and individual emotional needs of his group. He cannot divorce himself from them because, as leader, he is one of them. This idea applies not only to leadership, but also to every individual Jew. We are all parts of a whole, components in the glorious and holy community of Klal Yisrael. It is natural to feel a pang of pity for another Jew, to be sympathetic to his plight. We still remain outside the situation, however, and regard our fellow Jew objectively. To "bear the yoke" means to experience everything the way the other does, to share his burden, sense his pain and suffering as if it were our own. This is the profound kinship as envisioned by the Torah. Indeed, it is one of the basic reasons that the world of Torah has endured throughout the millennia. After all, does not Hashem say, "Imo anochi b'tzarah," "I am with him in his pain"? This is the point at which our elusive quest for unity should begin.

Its sound shall be heard when he enters the Sanctuary before Hashem and when he leaves, so that he will not die. (28:35)

The Ramban questions the need for the bells at the hem of the Me'il to sound when the Kohen Gadol left the Mikdash. What purpose did the sound have after the service? The Imrei Emes feels the Torah is conveying an important message. Undoubtedly, while the Kohen Gadol is involved in the holy service, he is inspired by the holiness of the ritual, the proximity to the Creator and the entire aura of kedushah, holiness, which permeates the air of the Sanctuary. What happens, however, when he is about to leave? Does the hashpaah, influence, depart with him? Is he a different person than he was when he entered? Is the roshem, impression, evident when he exits the Mikdash? This is the true test of one's affinity to kedushah. When we hear an incredible speaker whose oratorical skills are matched by his scholarship, do we remain inspired? Do we take his lesson with us? Many of us become exhilarated by a speaker. We bring our tape recorders, sharpen our pencils, take lengthy notes - but regrettably, it only lasts till the end of the speech. Alas, we tend to focus on the speaker, rather than on his message.

Horav Avraham Kilav, Shlita, in his sefer Avnei Barakas, offers an alternative approach towards this phenomenon. He cites the following story related in the Yalkut Shimoni. Rabbi Chananya ben Chachinai and Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai studied with Rabbi Akiva in Bnei Brak for thirteen years without going home. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was in touch with his home; Rabbi Chananya was not. Rabbi Chananya was so thoroughly engrossed in his studies that when he received a letter from his wife with the message, "Your eldest daughter is of marriageable age; come and marry her off," he continued his studies in oblivion of the message. Rabbi Akiva, however, was aware of the situation through Ruach Ha'kodesh, Divine Inspiration. He, therefore, announced, "Anyone who has a daughter to be married off should go home and attend to his responsibilities." Rabbi Chananya took leave of his rebbe and returned home. Upon arriving he did not recognize his old neighborhood, since so much had changed. In order to locate his house, he went to the square where the girls of the community would go to draw water. He remained there until he heard one of the girls refer to another as "daughter of Chananya." Assuming that this was his daughter, he followed her home. Upon entering his home, his wife looked at him, and the shock was so overwhelming that she collapsed and died. Immediately, Rabbi Chananya cried out to Hashem, "Is this the reward for the thirteen years that she gave up for me?" A miracle occurred, and she came back to life.

The Talmud in Kesubos 62b relates a similar story regarding Rabbi Chama bar Bisa, who, after twelve years of non-stop study said, "I will not do as Rabbi Chananya." He proceeded to inform his wife of his impending return home. We must endeavor to understand what prevented Rabbi Chananya from keeping "in touch" with his home. Indeed, we must say that Rabbi Chananya was so engrossed in his Torah study that he relinquished his olam hazeh, affairs of this world. He had no time or emotional energy for areas that dealt with the temporary world in which we live. He was devoted to the eternal world. Sensing this, Rabbi Akiva encouraged his two prize students to devote some of their time to the present, to the immediate needs of their families. Rabbi Chananya was too far removed from this world to respond in the affirmative. As great as Rabbi Shimon was, he was able to keep his feet planted on the earth, even though his mind was soaring in the Heavens.

Horav Kilav suggests that this idea may be the underlying motif behind the paamonim, bells, sounding at all times - even when the Kohen Gadol left the Mikdash. When the Kohen Gadol entered the Kodesh, his mind was to be completely on the task at hand. His entire essence was suffused with kedushah, as he renounced all aspects of the outside world. He was now in the center of holiness, in communion with the Almighty. There is one drawback, however, to this lofty spiritual plateau: He might forget from whence he comes, for whom he is praying - the people outside the walls of the Mikdash. If the Kohen Gadol became too removed from those whose agent he was; if he lost sight and touch with them, he could not properly perform his function. He could not pray for people to whom he cannot relate; he could not reach out to people whom he did not understand. The bells at the hem of his vestment were to remind him that he is returning to the outside world, to remember the people out there, to empathize with them, to be sensitive to their needs. The Kohen Gadol's purpose is to bridge the gap between the spiritual dimension within the confines of the Mikdash and the physical dimension represented by the People.

With this idea in mind, we can understand why the Kohen Gadol would wear the Avnei Shoham: One stone on each shoulder, each engraved with the names of six tribes; six names on the right shoulder; six names on the left shoulder. The left side connotes the physical dimension, artzius, earthliness, while the right side symbolizes the spiritual dimension. The shevatim, tribes, are divided in accordance with their chosen endeavor. There are those whose primary goal and vocation is in the area of the spirit, while others devote themselves to commerce and to secular pursuits. The Kohen Gadol is the bridge between them. He is me'ached, unifies both sides, creating harmony, respect and love among the shevatim.


1. Was there a distinction between winter and summer regarding the amount of oil that was used for the lamps?

2.From where was the gold and other components of the Bigdei Kehunah derived?

3.How many letters were in Binyamin's name as it was engraved on the Avnei Shoham?

4. How many letters were engraved on each of the Avnei Shoham?

5.Which component of the Choshen HaMishpat was the "mishpat"?

6.The Kohen Gadol's headcovering was called_____________, while the Kohen Hedyot's was called_______________.

7. What did the golden crown/rim of the Mizbayach Ha'ketores symbolize?


1. No. They would use a half log of oil for each lamp,

regardless of the length of the night.

2. From the terumos, communal contributions.

3. Six letters. Both "yudin" were engraved.

4. 25 letters

5. The Shem Ha'Meforash, also known as the Urim v'Tumin, which was placed in the fold of the Choshen.

6. A. Mitznefes.

B. Migba'as.

7. Kesser Kehunah.

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