Parshat Tetzaveh 5784: The Me’il, The Bells of Humility, vs Today’s Hubris and Lust for Power

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parshat Tetzaveh is dedicated Lilui Nishmas for the Seventh Yahrtzeit of My Father: Me’ir HaKohen ben Shabtai who was niftar on 9 Adar 5777. This vort also dedicated for the safety of the Chayalim and the liberation of all hostages and their return home whole physically, mentally and spiritually.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Tetzaveh 5784: The Me’il, The Bells of Humility, vs Today’s Hubris and Lust for Power

by Moshe Burt

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, in his sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text” on our Parshat Tetzaveh notes (page 239):

For the first and only time [in Torah] since his introduction in the Beginning of Parshat Shemos, Moshe’s name is omitted from the entire Parsha. (Rabbi Goldin referring to Sefer Shemos, Perek 27, posuk 20 – Perek 30, posuk 10)

Rabbi Goldin, in his Parshat Summary (ibid, page 237) writes:

Hashem… commands Moshe concerning the fashioning of the bigdei Kehunah, the Divinely designed garments to be worn by Aaron and his sons respectively as they engage in the Sanctuary service. (Referring to Sefer Shemos, Perek 28, posukim 1-43)

The Parsha closes with a description of the rituals to be performed by Moshe during the seven days of preparation prior to the inauguration of the priesthood and during the inauguration ceremony itself. (Referring to Sefer Shemos, Perek 29, posukim 31-46)

Rabbi Goldin now provides a discussion regarding Aaron’s ascension to Kohen Godol (ibid, pages 247 – 248) :

A… perspective on Aaron’s ascension to the Kehuna can be gained by focusing upon the collaboration created by his selection. By designating both Moshe and Aaron for leadership…, Hashem forges a formative “partnership of the brothers.” This partnership is marked by a delicate political and personal equilibrium, setting the stage for the governing of the Jews across time.

1/ Political partnership: From the outset, by selecting both Moshe and Aaron for their respective roles, Hashem creates a balance of power meant to be maintained within Jews’ nation. The political and judicial is separated… to ensure that total control is not invested in any one source.

During the years following the heroic Chanukah rebellion against the Syrian Greek Empire, the priestly family that led the revolt assumed the monarchy of the commonwealth of Israel, establishing the century-long Hasmonean dynasty. In short order, Hasmonean rule descends from its heroic origins into political excess and corruption, eventually setting the stage for Roman entry into governing of the commonwealth of Israel.

The historical passage from Mattityahu and his son Yehuda “Maccabi: (leaders of the revolt against the Syrian Greeks), to the final Hasmonean rulers, Aristoblus and Hyrcanus, is a tragic journey of assimilation into the very culture against which the first Hamoneans had so bravely fought.

While the moral decay of the Hasmoneans was the result of many forces, their control of both the priesthood and monarchy played a major role in that decline. (Rabbi Goldin citing Talmud Bavli. Yoma 8b; Rashi) A dynasty that never should have been reminds us of the wisdom of the Divinely ordained separation of leadership powers.

2/ Personal partnership: On a personal level, the balance created by the partnership between Moshe and Aaron is equally striking…. The personalities and leadership styles could not have been more different.

Moshe emerges… as forthright and uncompromising, a man whose worldview, according to the Rabbis…. Blunt and honest almost to a fault, Moshe is a leader who pursues truth and justice at all costs.

Aaron, on the other hand, exemplifies…. a man of the people who “loves peace, pursues peace and creates peace between a man and his friend.” Negotiation, compromise and flexibility are the tools of his trade as he pursues interpersonal harmony within the nation.

The traits of Aaron HaKohen Godol seem symbolized by one of the garments worn by the Kohen Godol.

Throughout Parshat Tetzave, Hashem commands Moshe implicitly, even as his name is omitted from our Parsha. Rabbi Mordechai Katz provides a profound discussion of one of the garments worn by the Kohen Godol in his sefer, Lilmod ULamed (pages 90-91):

Among the garments worn by the Kohen Godol was the Me’il, the coat. The Me’il was worn as a Kaporah, an atonement for sins involving Loshon Hora. (Rabbi Katz cites Erechin 16a, The Artscroll Stone Chumash, page 471, Zevachim 88b) This is indicated by the fact that the color of the coat was blue, as is the sky, an indication that our words rise to the sky and that we should therefore be wary of what we say.

…The neckline of the Me’il was tight, yet never ripped. This is a reminder to us to tighten our mouths when the desire to speak Loshon Hora is felt. The Me’il had bells hanging from the bottom. These bells were of two varieties, gold and cloth. The golden bells tinkled, while the cloth bells were silent. This indicates there are times that an individual should speak, while there are other times when he should not. The opportunity to perform a Mitzvah should encourage one to speak out, while one should remain silent as a cloth bell when the opportunity to attack others arises.

Rabbi Katz now discusses an added dimension regarding the gold bells (ibid):

What was the purpose of these bells?

Our Sages comment that the bells were there to remind the Kohen Godol of the need for humility in his actions. The clanging of the bells as he entered was a method of asking for permission before entering the House of Hashem.

The emphasis on humility seems to contradict the image of the Kohen Godol’s clothing displaying a sense of impressive royalty. However, there is no contradiction. What provides the Jews with a royal status? Simply their sense of humility and awe in the presence of the Holy One. It was, in fact, because of this humility that Hashem chose the Jews from among all of the other nations of the world to fulfill the royal position of the Chosen People.

The Artscroll Stone Chumash provides an added dimension to the Me’il and its bells (page 471):

…Its [the Me’il] color caused people to reflect on the sea that stays within its bounds and the heavenly bodies that never diverge from their assigned orbits and tasks. Man, therefore, should surely learn from them and not stray from from his role as a creature who must keep his power of speech pure and holy. (Artscroll Stone Chumash citing Kli Yakar) The bells that were attached to its hem rang whenever the Kohen Godol walked (Artscroll Stone Chumash citing Sefer Shemos, Perek 28, posuk 35) reminded listeners that some kinds of speech should never be heard.

This author returns to Rabbi Mordechai Katz’s explanation of the bells on Kohen Godol’s Me’il:

These bells were of two varieties, gold and cloth. The golden bells tinkled, while the cloth bells were silent. This indicates there are times that an individual should speak, while there are other times when he should not. The opportunity to perform a Mitzvah should encourage one to speak out, while one should remain silent as a cloth bell when the opportunity to attack others arises.

These bells seem the paradigm of humility and modesty — traits seemingly lacking among Israel’s governing powers.

In today’s Israel, it seems that the separation of governmental powers has been perverted, when political, governmental leaders are indecisive, when military leaders of one persuasion rise to command positions and are chosen and granted entry to powerful governmental positions at the expense of those military leaders who hold differing positions and perhaps fresh ideas, and when Supreme Court justices are chosen by legal groups and where the nation’s governed, as represented by members of Knesset and a Prime Minister have no say in appointment of judges at any level of the judiciary.

The question is, are Israeli politicians, judiciary, and top military brass, and Jewish politicians throughout the world imperiling our royal status, and in fact our national security, by their words, as well as their actions, or lack thereof? Arrogance, hubris and misguided compassion for the cruel on the part of these leaders led to unpreparedness for the animalistic, barbarous cruelty of thousands of Hamas terrorists in their 7 October invasion and their murder of 1,200 to 1,400 Jews and taking of 250 hostages into Gaza. The lack of appropriate Judicial reform leaves us with what amounts to a Judicial dictatorshop. How is it possible for Israel to defeat the legal charges against her at the Hague when the very originator of the Judicial dictatorship, former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak, is chosen by the powers-to-be to defend the nation of Israel in a world court against false, bogus charges of “genocide ” in the war against these barbarous animals?

Rabbi Goldin concludes by expressing the Moshe and Aaron paradigm (sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text” on our Parshat Tetzaveh, page 251) :

Only by recognizing the potential pitfalls and dangers that might have marked the personal and professional relationship between Moshe and Aaron can we fully appreciate their shared accomplishment. In stark contrast to the intrigue of “royal families” across the ages, Moshe and Aaron forge a partnership marked by cooperation, understanding, respect and love. Their example sets a standard for us all.

The hatred of Yaakov’s sons toward their brother, Yosef, results in our descent into slavery. The brotherly love of Moshe and Aaron leads to our redemption.

May it be that today’s Israeli political, governmental and military leaders gain and internalize the lessons of the relationship between Moshe and Aaron, as well understanding and internalizing the concept exemplified by the bells of the Kohen Godol’s Me’il as the paradigm of humility and modesty, devoid of ego and hubris, and apply these lessons for the security and welfare of the governed.

May it be that our Chayalim emerge totally victorious and return home whole — physically, mentally and spiritually and that the Chayalim Liberate and bring home all remaining hostages.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently re-settled in Gush Katif, once the IDF, by the Yad Hashem, destructs and eradicates the wild beasts of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, all other terror entities, and if necessary Iran, and that our brethren be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, as well as the buildings of Yishuv Elchanan, all at total government expense. May our Chayalim return from battle unharmed — physically, mentally and spiritually and may all of the hostages brutally taken by the wild beasts of Hamas be liberated and returned to their families. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now in his fourth year at home in Eretz Yisrael and continues in a new chapter in his life. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her spirit and memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of nine years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we see, in 5784, the REAL Jews from the Ukraine and Russia as well as the US and Canada, the real Jews via matrilineal descent, make Aliyah enmass — via thorough review by Misrad HaPanim. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese Wuhan Lab corona virus pandemic and all like viruses and variants. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — 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.