Commentary for Tetzaveh

3 Mar

This week’s parshah contains the instructions for the garb of the High Priest, including the breastplate. The High Priest’s breastplate was a single piece of woven material measuring one cubit by a half cubit, and then folded over in half to form a pocket. In that pocket was placed something referred to only as the “Urim and Tumim,” (literally translated as “lights” and “complete ones”) which Rashi identifies as a slip of material with God’s name written on it. On the front-facing side of this pocket were placed twelve golden settings in four rows of three which each held a gemstone that had the name of one of the twelve tribes inscribed on it, and whenever Jewish leaders needed guidance on matters of national importance, letters on the stones would light up, providing them with an answer.

Interestingly, these instructions are the first time that the Israelite tribes are actually referred to as “tribes.” The tribes were said to generally have similar temperaments and ideals to their namesakes, and the blessings given to them by Moses at the end of the Torah reflect concerns or personal weaknesses of the tribe’s namesake as much as those of their future descendents.

Just like Jacobs’ sons and the tribes they sired, each one of us has our strengths and our weaknesses, and they are all essential parts of making us who we are. When the Jewish People needed guidance, God would use components of the names of the tribes together to help solve their problems. So too must we today recognize our strengths and weaknesses, and how we can come together with each other and with God to provide solutions for our problems.

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