Parshat Tetzaveh 5771 — The Bigdei Kehunah, The Urim U’Tumim and Common Sense

by Moshe Burt

In our Parsha Tetzaveh, the laws regarding the anointment, the vestments and the Avodah (service) of the Kohanim are enunciated for the Jewish people.

R’ Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, z’l offers this commentary on the Kehunah and the Bigdei Kehunah (the vestments of the Kohanim) in the new Hirsch Chumash (published by Feldheim in 2005 and translated to English by Daniel Haberman), pages 662-663 in Sefer Sh’mot:

The priestly garments must be supplied and owned by the nation. From this fact alone we draw the important conclusion that only when a Kohen dressed in these garments can be considered a Kohen. Only… [in this attire] does he appear as the nation’s servant in the Sanctuary of the Torah. Only thus does his service become the nation’s service in the Sanctuary… Only thus does… his service attain the character of a Mitzvah given to the nation by Hashem in His Torah….

Without these garments, the Kohen is merely an ordinary individual. His actions take on the character of personal preference, and thus are antithetical to the basic idea that the Sanctuary of the Torah is meant to foster.

Without these garments, the individual personality of the officiating Kohen is exposed for all to see, and the weaknesses and faults that afflict even the best among us could easily portray him as a flawed character, far from the ideal that should be embodied by the offerings as a model in harmony with Hashem’s Torah.

When he is clothed in his priestly garments, the Kohen does not appear as he actually is, but as should be according to the dictates of Hashem’s Torah.

While preparing this Parsha HaShavua, this author came across a puzzling quote attributed to someone called “Akeidah” in Torah Gems by Aharon Yaakov Greenberg relating to the breastplate (pg 192 relating to perek 28, posuk 15);

“And you will make the breastplate of judgement with the work of an artisan…”

The puzzling quote reads;

The Hoshen Mishpat — “breastplate of judgement” — atoned for faulty judgements (Rashi). Some of the stones in the breastplate were precious while others were inexpensive. This is a hint to judges that every case, whether it is for a small sum or for a large fortune, must be treated the same way.

There is no problem in relating to the Urim U’Tumim, part of the breastplate worn by the Kohen Godol (High Priest) as a paradigm for righteous judgement. However, it appears as a big problem to characterize some stones of the Urim U’Tumim as “inexpensive.” In all other sources accessable to this author, all of the stones mentioned are deemed valuable. They were gifts of the heads of the Shevatim who waited, unintentionally so, for the coffers to be full and were caught napping with the call for an end of donations. Thus their donations were the stones for the breastplate.

R’ Aryeh Kaplan z’l provides a well worth-reading detailed analysis of each of the stones of the Urim U’Tumim in his English translation rendering of our pasha (pg 420-423) in “The Living Torah.”

In this analysis, it would seem that only one of the stones mentioned could possibly be seen as less valuable or as “inexpensive.” The carbuncle, nopekh in hebrew, is deemed by some sources such as Ibn Janach and Radak as “a black stone,” as “coal.” Others refer to it as a “brilliant red garnet” or as “a ruby or ruby spinel.” Interestingly, some say that this is the stone of Shevet Yehuda, others say its the stone of Shevet Reuven.

But the message regarding righteous judgement and the Urim U’Tumim is pertinent nonetheless. It would seem to this author that there is a definite connection between righteousness and Ruach HaKodesh — Divine Inspiration. The Urim gave it’s reader a series of letters. The reader then needed the Divine Inspiration of the Tumim to understand the message of the Umim correctly.

In another citing in Torah Gems (pg. 193) attributed to Ma’ayanah Shel Torah;

The Gaon of Vilna uses Ramban’s explanation to explain the dispute (I Sam. 1:13-15) between the Kohen Godol Eli and Hannah, who would later become the Navi Shmuel’s mother. We are told that Eli saw her lips move but heard no sound, and he thought Hannah to be drunk. Hannah, though answered, “No my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit.” On this, the Talmud (Berachot 31) comments: “She told him: ‘You are not a master in this matter, and you have no Divine Inspiration concerning it, seeing that you suspected me of this.” The explanation of this is as follows; Eli sensed… something unusual about Hannah’s prayer. He, therefore consulted the Urim and Tumim, and four letters lit up: heh, kaf, resh, shin. He assumed that this spelled shikorah – shin, kaf, res, heh – “drunk” – but she answered him, “No, my lord – you have no Divine Inspiration” – “I am a woman of sorrowful spirit” – “what the letters spelled out was kesherah – kaf, shin, resh, heh” – worthy – just as our mother Sarah, who had difficulty in conceiving and having a child.”

Again and again, we see truths emerge about Israeli governance, about politicians, about leftist-elitist “MSM” and agendized law “enforcement” and judiciary; be it Sharon — the vegetable, the Olmert-Livni-Barak troika, or Bibi, with his endorsement of a bogus 2 state solution, his implementation of the construction freeze and his defense minister’s demagoguery towards Torah and anything Jewish.

These truths seem soo apparent that one does not need Ruach HaKodesh, the Urim and Tumim to see the treacherous message of leftist-elitist “MSM”, agendized law “enforcement” and governance and their potential countenance toward carving up of Southern Israel, of Jerusalem, of Yehuda and the Shomron, of central Israel, of the Golan. For those of us with common sense, the message seems soo obvious.

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard, captive Gilad Shalit and the other MIAs be liberated alive returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage to prevent the eviction of Jews from their homes and to prevent the handing of Jewish land over to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima — the Ultimate Redemption bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim” — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.