Vol 16.38 - Tetzaveh 2                   Spanish French Audio  Video

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Explanation of the wording of Ramban (28:31) that according to Rashi: "They did not serve any purpose. . why were they made like hollow-like pomegranates -make them like golden apples" - The difference between "pomegranates" and "apples" in Avodat HaShem;

The reason that "its sound shall be heard when he enters the Holy" (28:35) and the lesson for our generation.  

(5739 Vol XVI 16 Pg. 336)


A rich man once invited a beggar to share his meal.

The host settled quietly into his seat and tucked his linen napkin beneath his chin. The guest, finding himself supported by silken cushions instead of the usual hard bench, sighed in surprised pleasure; with much creaking and squeaking he burrowed into the chair, determined to savor its opulence to the utmost.

The soup arrived and proceeded to make its casual way down the rich man’s gullet. Across the table, a frontal attack was being launched against the delicate china bowl; the heavy silver spoon clanged and swooped, carrying every precious drop of steaming gold to an audibly eager mouth. The subsequent assault on the steak platter was no less enthused. As the wealthy man silently ingested bite-sized pieces of meat, his dinner partner, a maelstrom of clattering knives and chomping jaws, oohed and aahed his delighted way through the feast.

In the kitchen, the cook remarked to the butler: “At last, a man who appreciates fine cuisine! The master may be indifferent to the finer things in life, but his guest! What passion! How involved he is, how worshipful of quality. Now, here is a man with a sense of the sublime . . .”

“You are mistaken,” countered the butler. “The very opposite is true. The rich man’s tranquility indicates the depth of his involvement with his dinner, while the pauper’s noisy excitement only underscores how alien all this is to him. To the rich man, luxury is the very essence of life; so he no more exclaims over it than you jump for joy upon finding yourself alive in the morning. But for the poor man, life is a boiled potato, and this is an otherworldly experience. All that noise you hear is the friction between his habitual self and the luxuriating self he is attempting to assume.”

The Hem

Noise is the mark of resistance. Consider the sounds emitted by a log fire, a pile of burning straw and an oil lamp. In each case, matter is succumbing to the energy locked within it. The log offers the most resistance, voicing its reluctance to part from its outer form with a noisy crackle and sudden explosions. The straw, not quite as physical as the log, protests with a whispering sizzle. And the oil in the lamp, the finest substance of the three, burns silently, freely yielding to the essence within.

Thus, Elijah the Prophet experienced G‑d’s immanence as “a still, small voice.” In his refined self, the material of the body did not resist the spirituality of the soul. Thus, he perceived the divine reality not in a norm-shattering storm, but in the same tranquil manner in which a person is aware of the life within him.

And yet, Aaron the kohen gadol (high priest), the epitome of refinement and spirituality, is commanded to wear a robe with bells sewn onto its hem, so that “its sound shall be heard when he enters into the holy area before G‑d.” For the kohen gadol represents the entirety of Israel in his service of the Almighty, including those for whom connection to G‑d is still a noisy struggle—the struggle to transcend their external, earthbound selves and bring to light their true, inner identity.

Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov was once asked: Why do some of your disciples make such a ruckus while praying? They shout, they wave their arms, they virtually throw themselves about the room. Is this the appropriate way to commune with the Almighty?

The founder of Chassidism replied: Have you ever seen a drowning man? He shouts, he thrashes his arms, he struggles with the waves that threaten to claim him. Throughout the day, a person is swamped by the demands of his material existence; prayer is the attempt to break free of the engulfing waters that threaten to extinguish his spiritual life.

True, a noisy service of G‑d is an indication that the person has not yet fully “arrived.” Had he succeeded in transcending the mundane, his endeavor to draw close to the Almighty would be a tranquil one—his soul would strive upwards with a silent, frictionless flame. His tumultuous struggle reflects the fact that his spiritual self has not yet become the seat of his identity—that his “natural” self still lies with the material externalities of life. Nevertheless, this is a healthy sign: he has not succumbed. He is straining to free himself of the confining envelope of his material being, straining to rise above his presently defined self.

So the bells on the hem of the kohen gadol’s robe are an indispensable part of his divine service. “Its sound shall be heard when he enters into the holy area before G‑d,” commands the Torah, “lest he die.” Were he to disclaim the lowly “hem” of the nation he represents, he would be violating the very essence of his mission. Were his service of the Almighty not to embody the struggles of his imperfect brethren, it would have no place in G‑d’s inner sanctum.

Apples and Pomegranates

In light of the above, we can understand the deeper significance of the debate between two of our sages regarding the bells and pomegranates on the kohen gadol’s robe.

The debate addresses the question of how to interpret the word b’tocham, which translates either as “between them” or, in a more literal rendering, “within them.” Does the Torah command to “make upon its hem pomegranates . . . and bells of gold between them,” or to affix the “bells of gold within them”?

Rashi, in his commentary on this verse, maintains that the bells were “between them . . . Between each two pomegranates, a bell was attached and hanging on the hem of the robe.” Nachmanides disagrees. “I don’t know why the master Rashi made the bells separate, a bell between two pomegranates,” he writes. “According to this, the pomegranates served no function. And if they were there for beauty, then why were they made as hollow pomegranates? They should have been made as golden apples . . . Rather, the bells were literally within them, for the pomegranates were hollow—like small, unopened pomegranates—and the bells were contained within them . . .”

The later commentaries enter into the debate. “Why does Nachmanides favor apples over pomegranates?” wonders Rabbi Elijah Mizrachi. Other commentaries explain that Nachmanides’ difficulty with Rashi’s interpretation is that the hollow form of the pomegranate (Rashi himself also says that they were “round and hollow”) indicates that they served a functional rather than a decorative purpose. But what does Nachmanides mean when he says that “if they were there for beauty . . . they should have been made as golden apples”?

Indeed, the menorah was decorated with spheres resembling apples, whose sole purpose was for beauty. Perhaps Nachmanides derives from this that in the making of the Sanctuary and its accessories, the decorative fruit of choice was the apple. But this itself requires explanation. Why apples? And why, according to Rashi, was the menorah beautified with apples, and the kohen gadol’s robe with pomegranates?

Insulated Deeds

Both the apple and the pomegranate are representative of the Jewish people. The Torah likens Israel to an apple (“Like an apple among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved”—Song of Songs 2:2) as well as to a pomegranate (“Your lips are like a thread of scarlet, and your mouth is comely; your temple is like a piece of pomegranate within your locks”—ibid. 4:3). But while the apple represents Israel in a virtuous state, the pomegranate refers to the “hollow” or “empty ones amongst you.” As interpreted by the Talmud, the verse “your temple is like a piece of pomegranate” comes to say that “even the empty ones amongst you are full of good deeds as a pomegranate is full of seeds.” (Rakah, the Hebrew word used by the verse for “temple,” is related to the word reik, “empty.” Thus, “your temple” is homiletically rendered “the empty ones amongst you.”)

The pomegranate is more than a model of something that contains many particulars. On a deeper level, this metaphor also addresses the paradox of how an individual may be “empty” and, at the same time, be “full of good deeds as a pomegranate.”

The pomegranate is a highly “compartmentalized” fruit. Each of its hundreds of seeds is wrapped in its own sac of flesh, and is separated from its fellows by a tough membrane. In the same way, it is possible for a person to do good deeds—many good deeds—and yet they remain isolated acts, with little or no effect on his nature and character. So, unlike the “apple,” whose deliciousness is from core to skin, the “pomegranate” contains many virtues, but they do not become him. He may be full of good deeds, yet he remains morally and spiritually hollow.

This explains the connection between the pomegranates and the bells on the hem of the priestly robe. As explained above, the noisy bells represent the imperfect individual who is striving to transcend his deficient state. Although he is still a spiritual pauper, he refuses to act like one—hence the noisy friction that characterizes his life.

Beautiful Noise

To become an apple, one must first be a pomegranate. One must act unlike himself, like a poor man feasting at a rich man’s table: a clumsy spectacle, perhaps, but an inevitable one if a person is to transcend the animalistic, egocentric self into which every man is born. The first step to becoming perfect is to behave as if perfect. Indeed, before Elijah experienced G‑d in a “still, small voice,” he first beheld the wind, the storm and the fire.

Thus, Nachmanides sees the pomegranate-encased bells on Aaron’s hem as a preliminary phase of one’s divine service, rather than as the service itself. Beauty, however, is to be found in the “apple” perfection of the menorah: seven lamps of pure olive oil, representing the soul’s silent, tranquil flame. If the pomegranates on the priestly robe were for beauty, argues Nachmanides, they would not be pomegranates, but apples. These hollow fruits are purely functional, a preparatory stage in the soul’s quest for perfection and union with her source in G‑d.

According to Rashi, however, the beauty of Israel lies also in its “pomegranates.” In fact, in a certain sense, the struggle of the imperfect soul is even more beautiful than the serene perfection of her more virtuous fellow. For the perfectly righteous individual serves G‑d by being what he is, while every positive deed of the “empty ones amongst you” is an act of sacrifice and self-transcendence. So even before a person attains perfection—even if his entire life is spent in the quest for perfection—the clamor of his efforts is music to G‑d’s ear.

A Contemporary Application

There are those who claim that the Torah and its mitzvot are a private matter between the Jew and his G‑d, not something to be paraded in the streets. Tefillin, Shabbat, the sanctity of family life, “esoteric” concepts such as “divine reality” or “Moshiach,” are not to be hawked on a downtown sidewalk or catchphrased on a slick billboard. Never, in our history as a nation, has anything like this been done, they say. You are vulgarizing the soul of Judaism, they accuse.

But this is the “hem” of history, the lowliest and most superficial generation yet. To this generation, the still, small voice of G‑d sounds like alien noise. Should this voice be hushed, to be whispered only among the apples? Or should its call be sounded, noisy though it be, until it is heard above the din?

Speaking to this generation in its own language—the language of the soundbite, of incessant compartmentalization and hollow packaging—ever further raises the noise level. But fighting fire with fire is not only effective; it also brings to light facets of one’s own potential that would otherwise remain unrealized. The bells and pomegranates that broadcast the divine truth are more than the means toward a tranquil end; they are themselves things of beauty.

(Courtesy of MeaningfulLife.com)


1. Concerning the Robe (Me’il) the verse states, (25:33)

“And on its bottom hem you shall make pomegranates of blue, purple, and crimson wool, on its bottom hem all around, and golden bells in their midst all around.”

Rashi explains that even though the pomegranates were,

“round and hollow-like”,

nevertheless the simple understanding (Pshat) of “golden bells (pa’amonei zahav”) in their midst all around” is,

(not that the bells were placed inside the hollow of the pomegranates but rather)

that they were placed

between them all around. (Meaning) between two pomegranates, one bell was attached and suspended on the bottom hem of the robe.

Ramban questions this comment and states:

“According to Rashi’s explanation it appears that the ‘pomegranates did not serve any purpose’; And if they were just for “beauty” – ‘why were they made as hollow pomegranates, let them be made like golden apples? (תפוחי זהב)”?

The Rom (R' Eliyahu Mizrachi) answers:

“I do not know why he picked apples over pomegranates”

The commentators explain that the question of Ramban concerns the detail of them being “hollow”. For since, the bells were not hung in the hollow of the pomegranates, why were the pomegranates made hollow?

However, it remains not understood.

If the Ramban’s question only concerns the detail of their being “hollow”. – why does he mention it here at all, and even changes (from “pomegranates”) to “apples” (let them be made like golden apples?”)

2. One can seemingly explain:

We find that in the Menorah there were – decorations for beauty – cups, knobs and flowers. And the knobs were formed “like apples”.

Therefore, since the pomegranates of the Robe were placed (according to Rashi’s opinion) just for “decoration” – they also should have been (not in the form of pomegranates, but rather) “like apples” (Similar to the decoration (which was the form of a fruit) of the Menorah).

However, it remains not understood:

  1. This itself requires an explanation. Why is “beauty” specifically associated with “apples”?
  2. According to Rashi’s view, what is reason that, for the Robe, pomegranates were used for decoration yet for the Menorah apples were used?

3. Concerning the purpose (צוועק) of the pomegranates of the Robe, the verse states (35):

“and its sound shall be heard when he enters the Kodesh (the Heichal) before the L-rd”.

This was of such importance to the Avodah of the Kohen Gadol, that through “its sound shall be heard”, he was protected from dying (“he will not die”). For “from the negative we can learn the positive” (מכלל לאו אתה שומע הן).

One must understand:

Why was the “sound” – the ringing of the bells a necessity “when he enters the Kodesh”?

Seemingly, it is just the opposite – “not in the earthquake was the L-rd ()”, but rather in “a still small sound” (קול דממה דקה) (Melachim I 19:11).

As we see by the Kohen Gadol himself, his entering into the Holy of Holies (on Yom Kippur) was specifically without (wearing the golden garments – and therefore without the Robe with) the sound of the bells.

Ramban explains that “one who enters the Heichal of the King suddenly, is guilty of death” and the sound of the bells is akin to “asking permission” to enter and perform the Avodah.

(The reason the Kohen Gadol does not need “permission” to enter the c on Yom Kippur -

for seemingly it is even more stringent for the Holy of Holies (a Kalv’Chomer/a fortiori,

is because on Yom Kippur, G-d shows the virtue of Yidden, as it states, “the Torah did not require them to make use of an agent (to intercede on their behalf)”

(In other words, they do not require the bells to “make a sound like one who sends a messenger to inform that he is coming”)

According to this explanation, it comes out, that the “sound that is heard” from the bells is not a part of the Avodah, but rather just a preface and preparation to the Avodah.

However, since every aspect regarding the Avodah of the Kohen Gadol is precise, and how much more so, one that is connected with the penalty of death, as aforementioned –

                and the bells made a sound even during the Avodah itself –

it is logical that the “its sound shall be heard” is an aspect that relates to the Avodah itself.

4. One of the explanations of this is:

The Kohen Gadol performed his Avodah as an emissary of all Yisroel. This therefore means that, upon his “entering” – his coming “into the Kodesh”- he “takes” the entire Jewish people, along with him, “into the Kodesh”.

It is understood and clarified in many places, at length, that the Avodah of Baalei Teshuva –

 which is due to “distance” (ריחוק), he flees from evil –

is with a commotion (רעש), just like one who flees from deathly danger – with shrieks and commotion (געשריי און שטורעם).

Accordingly, this occurs in this type of Avodah of every Jew, even those whose have no sins, G-d forbid.

In other words, when one contemplates how much he is “far” from G-dliness –

  • Whether it is because his animal soul is still powerful within him, and therefore he possesses a sense of self (יש) and considers himself a thing that is separate from G-dliness;
  • Or even if it stems from his feeling of being from his good – namely from his G-dly soul.

(which indeed is a holy being (), but nevertheless a being that has a feeling of self, and not bitul) –


He is awakened with a sound of great agitation (Kol raash gadol) to “flee” from that condition.

(They once asked the Baal Shem Tov regarding the Chassidim who make gestures etc. (Tenuot) during prayer (davening). He answered that this is similar to one who, drowning in the sea, makes all kinds of gestures in order to save himself and screams with all his might to be saved. Certainly, in this regard, no one laughs at his gestures and screams).

This is no contradiction to the verse: “not in the earthquake”) – because the focus is on: “not in the earthquake was the L-rd (Havaya)”:

In other words, in order to be a receptacle to G-d‘s name (Havaya) (which is above worlds), the Avodah must be in the level of “a still small sound”, namely the epitome of Bitul (self-nullification).

Whereas, when one’s Avodah is (only) connected with fleeing from “self” (yeshus) and being (meitzius) which is related to the level of the name Elokim, which allows a place for self - this Avodah, as above, is connected specifically with tumult etc. (רעש).

This is the reason why the Avodah of the Kohen Gadol during the whole year was with a “sound shall be heard” (i.e. the bells on the robe) – because he must bring with him into “the Kodesh”, also the Yidden whose regimen of Avodah, entering the Kodesh –holiness - is with a sound of commotion (kol raash).

This is also alluded to in that which the bells were on the hem (בשולי /bottom edges) of the robe.

For the aspect of a “sound shall be heard” is connected with the lower levels of Yidden, whose Avodah is from distance (as aforementioned).

Therefore, the admonition is: “the sound shall be heard etc. so that he will not die” – meaning that the entire vitality (Klalot HaChayut) of the Kohen Gadol is dependent on this.

 If he does not possess the (aspect of) “the sound shall be heard “ meaning that he does not want to include in his Avodah, those very Yidden, whose level is that of the “edges of the robe”

(Even if is because he wants to stand at the level of “a still small sound”) -

his being, G-d forbid, becomes nullified (together with his Avodah) .

For the completeness of all Yisroel is dependent on the Avodah which includes all six-hundred thousand of Yisroel, from the heads etc. to the wood-choppers and water-carriers.

5. This, however, is only regarding the Avodah of the Kohen Gadol throughout the year, when his entering and his Avodah is only in the “Kodesh”. In that place, there is room for different levels of Yidden, from the heads etc. to the wood-choppers and water-carriers. Therefore, the sound shall be heard – it is with commotion.

Whereas, the Avodah of the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur, in the Holy of Holies, is without tumult. For then the Yidden are like angels - the revelation of the essential connection of Yidden with G-d. And since every Yid, even those who are at the level of “the edges of the robe”, stand there at the epitome of closeness and unity with G-dliness – Yechidah l’Yachdoch – even their entering into the Holy of Holies (through the Kohen Gadol) is also,

                Not as one who is far and becomes close (which is with a commotion etc.) but rather,

with the epitome of bitul - with a still small sound.

6. According to all of the above, one can also understand the difference between the view of Ramban

                (that “if it is for decoration .. make them like golden apples”)

and the view of Rashi

                (that in this case, they must be “pomegranates” (for decoration)):

Yiden are compared both to “apples” as well as to “pomegranates”.

The difference between them is:

  • The comparison to “apples” is when the Yidden are at a high level (ברום המעלה).
  • The comparison to “pomegranates” is with regard to Yidden who find themselves in a lower state (בשפל המצב), as it states, “thy temples are like a pomegranate split open” (k’pelach ha’rimon rakaseich)” – the “empty of you (Reiknin – note: a play on the word rakaseich/ temples). However, even they are filled with good and holiness – like the continuation and conclusion of the saying of the Sages: “Even the empty of you (Reiknin) are filled with Mitzvot like a pomegranate”.

In Rashi’s commentary - which is the simple understanding of the verse- where the Yidden are seen as they are simply (outwardly) - one sees them as the “edges of the robe”, namely in a level of “emptiness”. Therefore, they should have specifically been “pomegranates”- to show that even the “empty of you”

(and even those which are even lower – “even the sinners of Yisroel”)

enter with the Kohen Gadol into the “Kodesh”. In other words, they are a part of Klal Yisroel, and moreover – filled with Mitzvot like a pomegranate.

 In Ramban’s commentary, which also includes,

(Not just the Pshat (simple understanding, but also)

“sublime things . . for those who know the secrets” (ליודעים חן), the Pnimiyut of Yidden is emphasized. According to this level, a Yid has no relation to sin, as it states, “for Your people are all Tzaddikim (וְעַמֵּךְ כֻּלָּם צַדִּיקִים)

(from this reason, Ramban explains that “its sound shall be heard” is just a preparation to the Avodah, of the Kohen Gadol that comes after it, and not an aspect in the Avodah itself. For his entering into the Kodesh, even under the auspice as an emissary of Klal Yisroel, is in a level of the Avodah of Tzaddikim – with a still silent voice.)

This is the question (according to his explanation),

“If they were just for “beauty” . . let them be made like golden apples? (תפוחי זהב)”?”

In other words, if the “pomegranates” are (not for a use (שמוש), but rather) to evoke the beauty – the virtue of Bnei Yisroel (“for “beauty”)- one must emphasize,

not the quality which is alluded to in the “pomegranate”

(“Even the empty of you (Reiknin) are filled with Mitzvot like a pomegranate”),

But rather, the quality of Yidden due to their Pnimiyut. Namely, that each Yid is like a “golden apple” (and not an “empty vessel”, G-d forbid).

This is similar to the Menorah –

whose seven candles allude to (Yidden as they are) the seven levels in servants of G-d (עובדי ה׳) -

where each candle contained “(goblets) like apples” (as aforementioned par2).

7. Even though simply and outwardly, this Avodah is in a manner of “its sound shall be heard” – lower than the Avodah of “a still small sound” – nevertheless, the Avodah of commotion also contains a quality compared to the Avodah of bitul.

The Avodah of “a still small sound” is with a boundary (הגבלה). Indeed, it is true that the person (עובד) is standing in a state of bitul. However, this is in a manner of “contained light” (אור בכלי/ light in a vessel) – it is with a settling (התיישבות).

Whereas, with the Avodah of “its sound shall be heard”, the commotion itself depicts, that he is outside (ארויס) of the boundaries of “vessels” (כלים). He cannot contain the excitement (התפעלות) and therefore it comes out into a cry and sound (צעקה וקול). This is one of the reasons that it states that “In the place where Baalei Teshuva stand, even the complete Tzaddikim do not stand” (מקום שבעלי תשובה עומדין צדיקים גמורים אינם עומדין). For specifically in the “commotion” of the Avodah of Teshuvah, it evokes the bli gevul – infinite (בל״ג) - of the soul.

8. From all of the above, there is a special lesson for our generation – the generation of the heels of Moshiach:

There are those who claim:

Indeed it is true that due to the low standing of our generation, one must involve himself with spreading Torah and strengthening Judaism etc. Furthermore, one cannot suffice with sitting within one’s four Amot (his private surroundings) (even within the Four Amot of Torah), and waiting until someone turns (ווענדן) to him and requests that he should spread Torah etc. Rather one must venture outward (״דרויסן״), into the “outside” (חוצה) and seek Yidden who are “estranged” (נדחים) and influence them to do Teshuva (מאכן בעלי תשובה).

However, why is there a need to perform this work with such a great commotion? Why is it so necessary to go out into the street and call out there with a loud voice, that Yidden should put on Tefilin, put (אנקלאפן) Mezuzot on their doors, give Tzedaka, and so forth – a conduct which did not involve such commotion (שטורעם) even in the previous generations?!

The answer to this is:

According to all the signs that are stated in the conclusion of tractate Sotah, one sees that we are now found in the generation of the heels of Moshiach. Namely, in the lowest level (דרגא היותר תחתונה) – “the hems of the robe”. Therefore, one must know that in the hems of the robe there must be the “bells”. Namely, that the entering of this type of Yidden “to the Kodesh/Holy”, meaning under the wings of the Shechinah, is set up (אויסגעשטעלט) in a manner of ““its sound shall be heard””. On the contrary – specifically in the “commotion” of the Avodah of Teshuvah is there purpose of the elevation, as aforementioned.

9. Another aspect in this is:

When we see that among those who “transgress His Will” there is the “the sound of the multitudes of Rome” (קול המונה של רומי) – namely that all the aspects that oppose Judaism (לעו״ז) are done, not in private (בחדרי חדרים), but with the greatest publicity and noise (ורעש פרסום),

The way to counter and nullify this commotion of the Other Side – must be

“Through something of its own species and kind; (i.e., the Sitra Achra is most effectively attacked by utilizing the good contained within it as a weapon against itself). As our Sages expressed it: “From the forest itself comes (the handle for) the ax (which fells the forest)” (מיניה וביה אבא לשדיה ביה נרגא)”

This means that through that which even the Avodah of those who “perform His Will” is in a manner of “its sound shall be heard”, and specifically in the place where there is found the “the sound of the multitudes of Rome”,

This will bring the “If for those who violate His will, the wicked, it is so and they are rewarded for the few good deeds they performed, for those who perform His will, all the more so will they be rewarded”. Namely, that the Yidden will “dwell in peace and security” on their Land, specifically though the “sounding of the Great Shofar”, through the “The sound of the herald brings good tidings and proclaims” - the proclaiming of the Geulah, soon mamosh.

Msichas Shabbat Parshat Tetzaveh 5735



http://www.chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/1169/jewish/Noise.htm(external link)

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