S.A.L.T. - Parashat Tetzaveh

  • Rav David Silverberg
By Rav David Silverberg
Motzaei Shabbat
            Parashat Tetzaveh describes the various bigdei kehuna – the special garments worn by the kohanim.  One of the unique features of the bigdei kehuna, as noted by the Gemara (Arakhin 3b), is that they consisted of sha’atneiz – a combination of wool and linen, which is ordinarily forbidden to be worn.  All kohanim wore an avneit (belt), which, as we read Parashat Pekudei (39:29), contained sheish (linen) as well as dyed wool, and the kohen gadol also wore an efod (apron) and choshen (breastplate), both of which contained sheish and dyed wool (28:6,15).  Although the Torah normally forbids wearing sha’atneiz, it makes an exception for the kohanim, actually requiring them to wear their special priestly vestments when performing the service in the Beit Ha-mikdash, despite these garments’ containing both wool and linen.  The Rambam, in Hilkhot Kil’ayim (10:32), writes that kohanim were permitted to wear these garments only while performing the avoda (service in the Beit Ha-mikdash), whereas the Ra’avad maintains that kohanim were allowed to wear the garments in the Beit Ha-mikdash even when they were not involved in the avoda.
            Rav Yehuda Leib Ginsburg, in his work Mussar Ha-mishna (Kil’ayim 9:8), offers an insightful explanation for this exceptional halakha allowing kohanim to wear sha’atneiz.  He writes that the sha’atneiz prohibition reflects the division that developed between the two main professions in the ancient world – farming and shepherding.  Linen represents the farmers, who cultivated the land and produced linen from which to make garments, and wool represents ranchers who bred sheep and produced wool.  The tension between these two groups began already in the time of Kayin and Hevel, and indeed, the Tosafists, in Da’at Zekeinim (Devarim 22:11), draw a connection between the sha’atneiz prohibition and Kayin’s murder of Hevel.  One of the important roles of the kohanim, Rav Ginsburg writes, is to bridge the gaps in Am Yisrael, to bring together the different groups and factions that are often embroiled in tension and controversy.  Whereas the sha’atneiz prohibition reflects the reality of different groups among the nation who live and think differently from one another, the sha’atneiz in the priestly garments reflects the ideal of bringing the groups together in peace and harmony.  The kohanim, the nation’s spiritual guides and leaders, were expected to rise above the differences that create divisions between people, and to forge strong bonds of trust and affection between the various groups.  The sanctity of the Beit Ha-mikdash was to serve as a unifying force that brought people together, breaking the barriers that naturally tend to stand between groups with different lifestyles and outlooks, and easing the tensions between these groups.
            The modern-day equivalents of the Beit Ha-mikdash are our religious institutions, our synagogues and places of learning, where we come to be uplifted and to experience God’s presence, as in the Beit Ha-mikdash.  The sha’atneiz in the bigdei kehuna should remind us that our institutions must serve the purpose of bringing us together, rather than dividing us.  A religious institution’s goal should be not to compete with other institutions, but to the contrary, to help foment a feeling of respect, love and appreciation for fellow Jews, including – or especially – those who are different from us.  Like the kohanim of old, our synagogues and yeshivot must be geared towards bringing together the “wool” and the “linen” – different groups of Jews, and help advance the cause of unity and harmony among Am Yisrael.
            The Torah in Parashat Tetzaveh describes the me’il, the special robe worn by the kohen gadol, which was to have a special “safa” (binding) around the neck (28:32).  This verse concludes, “lo yikarei’a” – “it shall not tear,” seemingly explaining the purpose for the “safa” – to ensure that the material around the neck does not tear. 
            The Gemara, however, in Masekhet Yoma (72a), comments that the words “lo yikarei’a” establish a Torah prohibition against ripping the me’il – a prohibition which is then extended to include all the priestly garments.  Although this phrase appears to simply explain the reason behind the requirement to add extra material around the neck, the Gemara insists that it in fact introduces a Biblical command.  The Gemara explains that if “lo yikarei’a” merely gave the reason for the “safa,” then it would have been written, “she-lo yikarei’a” – “so that it would not tear.”  The fact that the Torah says simply, “lo yikarei’a” indicates that this phrase should be taken as a separate command not to tear the garment.
            Rabbi Akiva Eiger, in Gilyon Ha-Shas, raises the question of how to reconcile the Gemara’s comment with the Gemara’s discussion in Masekhet Sanhedrin (21a) regarding the command in Sefer Devarim (17:17), “And he [he king] shall not have many wives,” a verse which concludes, “ve-lo yasur levavo” – literally, “and his heart shall not turn away.”  The Gemara there explains the second segment of this verse as providing the reason for the first: a king is prohibited from marrying too many women, as this could result in his heart being turned away.  This interpretation, seemingly, runs in direct contradiction to the Gemara’s discussion in Masekhet Yoma regarding the me’il.  If “lo yikarei’a” must be read as a command because it is not written as “she-lo yikarei’a,” then by the same token, the phrase “ve-lo yasur levavo” should be read as a separate command, since the Torah does not say, “she-lo yasur levavo” (“so that his heart is not swayed.”
            Rav Yerucham Perlow, in his commentary to Rav Saadia Gaon’s listing of the Torah’s commands (vol. 2, mitzva 214), writes that these Talmudic passages suggest that this issue is a matter of debate among the Sages.  Apparently, the Gemara in Masekhet Sanhedrin did not accept the Gemara’s premise in Masekhet Yoma that the prefix “she-” (“so that”) is necessary for a phrase to be understood as an explanation for the preceding phrase.  Accordingly, the Gemara in Masekhet Sanhedrin does not accept the position that “lo yikarei’a” constitutes a prohibition, and instead interprets this phrase as simply an explanation for the requirement to add a “safa” along the neckline of the kohen gadol’s robe.
            On this basis, Rav Perlow explains why Rav Saadia Gaon did not include in his listing of the mitzvot the prohibition of “lo yikarei’a.”  Rav Saadia evidently sided with the view expressed in Masekhet Sanhedrin, and thus did not understand this phrase as a command.  Similarly, Rav Saadia does not include in his list the prohibition established by the Gemara there in Masekhet Yoma against separating the kohen gadol’s breastplate from his apron.  The Torah (28:28) requires fastening the breastplate to the apron with threads and hooks, adding, “ve-lo yizach ha-choshen mei-al ha-eifod” – “and the breastplate shall not come loose from the apron.”  Here, too, this phrase appears to explain that the breastplate should be tightly fastened to the efod in a manner that does not allow it to become loose, but the Gemara in Yoma interprets this phrase as a prohibition against separating the two garments from one another.  Rav Saadia Gaon, apparently, felt that the view expressed in Masekhet Sanhedrin is the accepted position, and thus he did not accept the interpretation of “ve-lo yizach ha-choshen” as a Biblical command, just as he did not accept the interpretation of “lo yikarei’a” as a Biblical command.  (Rav Perlow applies this theory also to explain why Rav Saadia Gaon did not include in his list the Torah’s comment regarding the poles affixed to the sides of the aron – lo yasuru mimenu” (25:15), which the Gemara in Yoma understands as a prohibition against removing the poles that were affixed to the ark.)
            Yesterday, we noted the Torah’s requirement in Parashat Tetzaveh to add special embroidering around the neckline of the kohen gadol’s me’il (robe) to ensure that the neckline would not rip – “lo yikarei’a.”  The Gemara in Masekhet Yoma (72a) interprets this phrase as introducing a prohibition against tearing any of the priestly garments.  This prohibition is listed by the Rambam as one of the 613 Biblical commands (88).
            The Gemara’s implication is that all priestly garments are treated equally in this regard, and the Torah prohibition forbids tearing any of them, even though the command “lo yikarei’a” is written in the particular context of the me’il.  The Rambam, however, in codifying this prohibition in Hilkhot Kelei Ha-mikdash (9:3), writes that one who tears the me’il violates this Biblical command, and then adds that one who tears one of the other bigdei kehuna (priestly garments) in a destructive manner – “derekh hashchata” – is liable for a Torah violation.  According to the Rambam, it appears, tearing the me’il is forbidden under any circumstances, whereas tearing other bigdei kehuna is forbidden only when this is done for a destructive purpose.
            Rav Moshe Galanti, in his Korban Chagiga (cited by the Mishneh Le-melekh in Hilkhot Kelei Ha-mikdash), suggests drawing proof to this distinction drawn by the Rambam from the Gemara’s discussion in Masekhet Zevachim (94b-95a) concerning the case of sacrificial blood which splattered on one’s garments.  The Torah in Sefer Vayikra (6:20) requires washing the garment in the courtyard of the Beit Ha-mikdash.  The Mishna there in Zevachim addresses the case where such a garment was mistakenly taken outside the area of the Beit Ha-mikdash, where it became tamei (ritually impure, such as by coming in contact with a human corpse).  This situation poses a dilemma, as the sacrificial blood must be rinsed in the Temple courtyard, but it is forbidden to bring an impure garment into the area of the Temple.  The Mishna rules that the garment in such a case should be torn such that it loses its formal status as a “garment” and thus is no longer considered tamei and may thus be brought into the Temple courtyard for laundering.  The Gemara then cites Reish Lakish as noting that if this garment was the kohen gadol’s robe, it may not be torn.  Reish Lakish therefore proposes a different solution, ruling that the garment should be brought back into the Temple courtyard gradually, one stage at a time, such that the piece of garment brought it at any single point is smaller than the minimum required size for violating the prohibition of bringing impurity into the Temple.
            Rav Galanti finds it significant that Reish Lakish chose the specific example of the me’il in addressing this case.  If the prohibition against tearing applies equally to all bigdei kehuna, then Reish Lakish should have spoken generically of a priestly garment that was splattered with sacrificial blood and subsequently removed from the Temple and then became tamei.  The fact that he mentioned specifically the me’il would seem to indicate that this dilemma arises only when this happened to a me’il, and not to one of the other bigdei kehuna, because other priestly garments are allowed to be torn in such a case.  Since the tearing is done in this case for a constructive purpose – to permit bringing the garment back into the Temple so it can be washed there, as the Torah requires – it is permissible.  Only in the case of the me’il, which may not be torn under any circumstances, even for a constructive purpose, are we left without the solution of tearing the garment to divest it of its impurity.  Accordingly, Reish Lakish’s comment lends support to the Rambam’s view, distinguishing between the me’il and other bigdei kehuna, and permitting tearing the latter for constructive purposes but not the former.
            The Minchat Chinukh (101) discusses this analysis at length, and refutes Rav Galanti’s proof from Reish Lakish’s ruling.  It is possible, the Minchat Chinukh contends, to explain Reish Lakish’s comment even if one disputes the Rambam’s position and maintains that tearing even the me’il is allowed for a constructive purpose.  In the Minchat Chinukh’s view, when one tears a garment to divest it of its status of impurity, this is considered a destructive act even if it is done for the purpose of a mitzva.  The Minchat Chinukh draws a comparison to the case discussed in Masekhet Sanhedrin (113a) of an ir ha-nidachat (idolatrous city which must be burned) which has a mezuza on one or more its homes.  According to one view, the city cannot be destroyed, since the mezuza – which contains the Name of God – may not be burned.  The underlying assumption is that burning a mezuza is forbidden even when this is done for the purpose of a mitzva – in this case, to fulfill the command to destroy an ir ha-nidachat.  By the same token, the Minchat Chinukh argues, tearing an impure priestly garment so it loses its status of impurity to enable fulfilling the mitzva of laundering it in the Beit Ha-mikdash would qualify as a forbidden destructive act – even though this is done for a mitzva.  Accordingly, the Minchat Chinukh writes, one could, conceivably, claim that Reish Lakish mentioned the me’il as just one example of a priestly garment, and maintained that all bigdei kehuna may be torn for a constructive purpose.  In the case under discussion, however, the tearing would not be regarded as constructive, and would therefore be forbidden.  As such, Reish Lakish’s ruling does not provide support for the distinction drawn by the Rambam between the me’il and other bigdei kehuna.
            Yesterday, we explored the relationship between the me’il (the kohen gadol’s robe) and the other priestly garments with respect to the prohibition of “lo yikarei’a” – the prohibition against tearing priestly garments.  This prohibition is written in Parashat Tetzaveh (28:32) in reference to the me’il, but the Gemara in Masekhet Yoma (72a) comments that one violates this prohibition if he tears any of the bigdei kehuna.  The Rambam (Hilkhot Kelei Ha-mikdash 9:3) nevertheless distinguishes between the me’il and the other priestly garments in this regard, indicating that tearing the me’il constitutes a violation under any circumstances, whereas tearing other priestly garments constitutes a violation only when it is done for a destructive purpose (“derekh hashchata”). 
We also came across the Gemara’s discussion in Masekhet Zevachim (95a), which, in contrast to the Gemara’s remark in Masekhet Yoma, appears to limit this prohibition specifically to the me’il.  The Gemara addresses a certain complex situation where it is necessary to tear a garment to divest it of its state of tum’a, and it establishes that in a case involving a me’il, this cannot be done, because tearing the garment is halakhically forbidden.  The implication of this remark is that the prohibition of “lo yikarei’a” applies specifically to the me’il, and not to other priestly garments.
In light of these conflicting sources, the Minchat Chinukh (101) concludes that this issue is subject to debate among the Amora’im.  The Gemara in Masekhet Yoma maintained that the prohibition introduced by the Torah in the context of the me’il in truth applies to all priestly garments, whereas in Masekhet Zevachim, the Gemara worked off the assumption that the prohibition of “lo yikarei’a” is unique to the me’il.
The Minchat Chinukh boldly suggests that the Rambam accepted the latter position, and maintained that the prohibition of “lo yikarei’a” applies specifically to the m’eil.  Although the Rambam writes explicitly that it is prohibited to tear any priestly garment, the Minchat Chinukh postulates that this is due to the separate Torah prohibition of “lo ta’asun kein le-Hashem Elokeikhem” (Devarim 12:4), which forbids destroying sacred property.  As the Rambam writes in Sefer Ha-mitzvot (lo ta’aseh 65), “lo ta’asun kein” forbids destroying parts of the Beit Ha-mikdash or its accessories, as well as erasing the Name of God.  It stands to reason, the Minchat Chinukh writes, that tearing any of the bigdei kehuna falls under this prohibition of “lo ta’asun kein,” irrespective of the command “lo yikarei’a.”  The difference between these two prohibitions, the Minchat Chinukh explains, relates to the condition of “derekh hashchata” – that the act be done for a destructive purpose.  In Hilkhot Yesodei Ha-Torah (6:7), the Rambam gives several examples of the destruction of sacred property which falls under the prohibition of “lo ta’asun kein,” emphasizing throughout that this prohibition applies specifically in cases of “derekh hashchata” – to the exclusion of situations where something needs to be broken for the purpose of repair.  And it is for this reason, the Minchat Chinukh suggests, that the Rambam rules that tearing priestly garments other than the me’il violates a Torah prohibition only when this is done “derekh hashchata.”  Tearing these garments is forbidden due to the prohibition of “lo ta’asun kein,” and therefore it is permissible when this is necessary for a constructive purpose.  Tearing the me’il, however, is forbidden not only due to the general prohibition against destroying sacred objects, but also due to the separate prohibition of “lo yikarei’a.”  As such, it is forbidden even for a constructive purpose.  (The Minchat Chinukh adds that if somebody tears the me’il for a destructive purpose, he is in violation of two Torah prohibitions and would thus be liable to two separate sets of lashes.)
Some have questioned the Minchat Chinukh’s theory in light of the Rambam’s organization of the relevant laws.  The Rambam addresses the applications of the prohibition of “lo ta’asun kein” in the sixth chapter of Hilkhot Yesodei Ha-Torah, where he makes no mention whatsoever of the bigdei kehuna.  His only discussion of the prohibition against destroying the bigdei kehuna appears in Hilkhot Kelei Ha-mikdash, where he mentions only the prohibition of “lo yikarei’a,” and not the prohibition of “lo ta’asun kein.”  This might suggest that the Rambam, for some reason, did not include the priestly garments among the sacred articles subject to the general prohibition of “lo ta’asun kein,” and felt that destroying them is prohibited only by force of the separate command of “lo yikarei’a.”
            One of the special garments worn by the kohen gadol, as we read in Parashat Tetzaveh, was the efod (apron).  The Torah tells that the apron featured two shoulder straps whose ends were attached to the choshen (breastplate), and that it had a belt with which it was tied.  Otherwise, we are told nothing about the efod’s appearance, including its dimensions and form.  Moreover, as Rashi (28:4) notes, even Chazal did not provide us with the details about how this garment was made.  And so we find different views among the commentators as to how the efod looked.
            Rashi (28:6) writes that the efod was wrapped around the kohen gadol, extending from his chest down to his ankles.  The Rambam (Hilkhot Kelei Ha-mikdash 9:9) similarly writes that the efod extended from behind the kohen gadol’s armpits to his feet.  The difference between Rashi’s description and the Rambam’s is that according to the Rambam, the efod covered only the kohen gadol’s back.  Rashi writes that the efod was wider than the kohen gadol’s back, so it could wrap around part of his front, whereas the Rambam writes that the efod was the precise width of the kohen gadol’s back.  It seems that in the Rambam’s view, only the belt wrapped around the front of the kohen gadol’s body, whereas the efod itself covered only his back and the back of his legs, like a narrow cape of sorts.
            The Rashbam (28:7) depicts this garment differently, writing that it extended downward from the kohen gadol’s waist.  According to this view, the top of the efod was worn at the waist, and not at the chest.  The Rashbam does not mention how long down the kohen gadol’s legs the efod extended.
            Another difference between the Rashbam’s description and that of Rashi and the Rambam relates to the shoulder straps.  Rashi and the Rambam describe the straps as two narrow, separate pieces of material extending from the top of the sides of the efod in the back over the kohen gadol’s shoulders.  According to the Rashbam, however, the shoulder straps were wide and conjoined, such that they covered the entire width of the kohen gadol’s back.  Malbim explains that in the Rashbam’s view, the straps became narrower and separate near the neck, and they then separately folded over the kohen gadol’s two shoulders.
            Chizkuni (28:27) presents a much different description of the efod, claiming that it was very small.  Noting that each thread of the efod consisted of twenty-eight threads woven together (see Rashi, 28:6, citing Yoma 72a), Chizkuni argues that the efod was far too heavy to be worn as a long apron.  If it extended down the kohen gadol’s legs, then the kohen gadol would have a very difficult time walking about, given the weight of the material.  Thus, Chizkuni cites those who maintain that the efod extended from the kohen gadol’s shoulders only until his waist.  According to this view, the efod was not an apron, but rather a short vest that covered only the middle of the kohen gadol’s body.
            In the opening verses of Parashat Tetzaveh, God commands Moshe to instruct the skilled artisans among Benei Yisrael to make the bigdei kehuna, the special garments to be worn by the kohanim.  God tells Moshe, “And you shall speak to all the wise of heart, whom I have filled with a spirit wisdom, that they shall make the garments of Aharon…” (28:3).
            The Chatam Sofer offers a novel reading of this verse, suggesting that the phrase “asher mileitiv ru’ach chokhma” (which is commonly translated as, “whom I have filled with a spirit of wisdom”) is actually the content of what Moshe was to tell the skilled artisans.  God was commanding Moshe to approach these people who had special skill and talent, to inform them “asher mileitiv ru’ach chokhma” – that they are endowed with wisdom.  The Chatam Sofer explains that many people have special strengths and capabilities of which they are completely unaware, and are thus not utilized, until they are somehow informed of these abilities.  Moshe’s role, according to the Chatam Sofer, was not simply to relay God’s instructions concerning the bigdei kehuna so the artisans could make them according to God’s specifications.  Rather, he also needed to make the artisans aware of their hidden abilities, to believe in themselves and to recognize their potential.
            While this is not likely the actual meaning of the verse, the Chatam Sofer here identifies for us one of the vital roles of educators – to help students discover their talents and potential, so they can harness and cultivate their innate skills rather than lazily assuming that they have no skills.  Youngsters must be shown that “mileitiv ru’ach chokhma,” that God has endowed each and every person with one form of “wisdom” or another, with skills and talents which can be utilized in a unique and meaningful way.
            The Gemara in Masekhet Shabbat (88a) famously comments that in the wake of the Purim miracle, the Jews of the time reaffirmed their acceptance of the Torah which was initially proclaimed at Sinai.  It appears that as they had been submerged in exile, far from the Land of Israel and fully engaged in Persian culture and society, the Jews felt they were no longer worthy or capable of true Torah commitment.  Their repentance triggered by Haman’s threat awakened them to a deep-seated connection to God which had been concealed within the inner recesses of their souls.  And thus they reaffirmed the commitment expressed at Sinai, acknowledging that they were as capable of devoting themselves to Torah in Shushan under the rule of Achashveirosh as their ancestors were when the beheld God’s revelation at Sinai.
            On Purim, we celebrate not only the great miracle which saved our nation from annihilation, but also the discovery of our inner religious spark.  We rejoice in the knowledge that even if we outwardly appear distanced and alienated from the Almighty, we are, in truth, deeply committed to him.  And thus it is customary to wear masks and costumes, symbolizing the contrast between our outward appearance and our inner essence.  Purim is the time when we dig deep within our souls to reveal the sparks of holiness which we might not have known existed, to exult in the discovery of inner strengths and abilities that we might not have realized we possess.  The special joy of Purim is the joy of recognizing that we are capable of far more than we had previously thought, that we are God’s beloved children, each and every one of whom has been endowed with special “chokhma,” with unique capabilities which we have the opportunity – and obligation – to harness and maximize.
            The final verses of Parashat Tetzaveh tell of the construction of the incense altar that was placed inside the Mishkan, and upon which the kohanim were commanded to offer incense each morning and afternoon.  Intriguingly, the Torah explicitly links the incense offering with the kindling of the menorah.  It commands the kohen to offer incense each morning “be-heitivo et ha-neirot” – when he cleans the oil lamps of the menorah, which had been burning throughout the night (30:7, see Rashi).  The Torah then commands the kohen to offer incense again in the late afternoon, at the time when he kindles the menorah (“U-ve’ha’alot Aharon et ha-neirot bein ha-arbayim yaktirena” – 30:8).
            The Gemara in Masekhet Yoma (14b) cites two views regarding the sequence of the performance of these rituals in the morning.  According to the majority opinion, the ketoret (incense) was offered in the middle of the process of cleaning the lamps.  The lamps were cleaned in two stages – first five lamps were cleaned, and later, the other two were cleaned – and the ketoret, according to this opinion, was offered in between the two stages.  Abba Shaul, however, disagreed, and maintained that the ketoret was not offered until all the lamps of the menorah were cleaned.  Later in Masekhet Yoma (33a), the Gemara cites Abayei’s description of the daily procedure followed in the Beit Ha-mikdash, in which he followed Abba Shaul’s opinion, claiming that the incense was offered only after the cleaning of all seven lamps of the menorah.  This statement of Abayei is included in the “korbanot” section of the morning prayer service (“Abayei hava mesader seder ha-ma’arakha mi-shema di-Gemara ve-aliba de-Abba Shaul…”).  It should be noted, however, that although Abayei’s presentation is incorporated into the siddur, the Rambam does not follow Abayei’s view, and codifies instead the majority position, requiring offering the ketoret before the cleaning of the final two lamps of the menorah (Hilkhot Temidin U-musafin 6:4).
            As for the procedure in the afternoon, the Gemara states in Masekhet Pesachim (58b-59a) that the ketoret was offered before the kindling of the menorah.
            In conclusion, we might ask, what might be the significance of the Torah’s linking these two mitzvot?  Why does the Torah issue the command of the incense offering in conjunction with the obligation of cleaning and kindling the lamps of the menorah?
            The lights of the menorah are commonly viewed as symbolizing the “light” of Torah knowledge, how the Torah must serve as our guide through life, illuminating for us the path that we ought to take.  The incense, which was offered in conjunction with the rituals associated with the menorah, perhaps signifies the need to create and maintain a pleasing, appealing environment in the process of shining the light of Torah.  The wisdom of Torah can shine and illuminate only if it is accompanied by “ketoret,” with a pleasant aura.  Torah life must have a pleasing, enjoyable quality, an atmosphere of happiness, serenity and goodwill that people find appealing, like incense.  If we want to kindle the menorah, and allow the Torah to shine and guide our nation, it must be associated with “ketoret,” with an inviting feeling of pleasantness, positivity, and palpable joy.