Vol 36.24 - Tetzaveh 1 Spanish French Audio Video
|Hebrew Text: Chumash-Shmot
10 Six of their names: The names of the twelve sons of Jacob are inscribed on the two shoulder stones in the order of their birth, rather than in the order of their importance or prestige. This underscores their common, unifying factor—the fact that they are all Jacob’s sons. It is this underlying unity—the fact that all Jacob’s sons were united in their devotion to perpetuating Jacob’s ideology and learned how to channel their individual differences and strengths toward that goal—that makes their remembrance before God a source of merit for us. Just as a parent is happy to grant his or her children’s wishes when they are all cooperating lovingly, God is more ready to shower us with His beneficence when we follow in the footsteps Jacob’s sons and unite in our devotion to the ideals of Judaism.
The secret to achieving unity among ourselves is reinforcing our belief in the unity of God. The more we realize that God is the only true existence, the more natural it becomes for us to unite with others.
It is therefore appropriate that the six words and 25 letters of the names on each shoulder stone correspond to the six words and 25 letters in the first verse of the Shema (“Hear O Israel…God is one”),19 the declaration of the exclusivity of God in creation. Inasmuch as we are enjoined to recite the Shema twice a day, the two shoulder stones allude to these two times.20
In contradistinction to Rashi, Maimonides21 asserts22 that the names of Jacob’s sons were inscribed on the shoulder stones in their birth order according to their mothers, i.e., first the six sons of Leah, who was the first to give birth, then the two sons of Bilhah, then the two sons of Zilpah, then the two sons of Rachel. Furthermore, he maintains that the first name was engraved on the first stone, the second on the second, the third on the first, and so forth, as if the two stones were meant to be “read” side by side, like one stone instead of two.
Thus, while Rashi emphasizes the father, Maimonides emphasizes the mothers. In other words, while both authorities stress that the order is based on their birth, rather than their worldly status, Rashi takes their equality to its ultimate reduction—in their one, common parent, while Maimonides sees their common paternal origin expressed through the different mothers.
In general, quite apart and beyond her contribution of her own seed, the mother’s critical role in gestation is the development of the embryo into a fully-developed person ready to become part of humanity. In this context, Maimonides’ opinion emphasizes how each son of Jacob developed into a unique personality and then submitted to their common goal, while Rashi’s opinion emphasizes how all twelve sons a priori, in their soul-essence, share the same vision and goals.
Just as they reflect two different manifestations of fraternal unity, these two opinions also allude to two perceptions of God’s unity in creation: our earthly perspective, and God’s perspective.
From our earthly perspective, the world presents a question: inasmuch as the world clearly exists, how can we conceive of God as all that truly exists? The answer to this question is that yes, the world exists, but it exists only because God constantly creates it. Its existence is not intrinsic to itself, but depends on its Divine source. This way of affirming the exclusivity of God’s existence from the earthly perspective is referred to in Kabbalah as “the lower perception of unity.” From the heavenly perspective, this question does not exist, since from this perspective the world poses no pretense of self-sufficiency. This perspective is referred to in Kabbalah as “the higher perception of unity.” Rashi’s view of how the names are inscribed on the shoulder stones reflects the higher perception of unity, while Maimonides’ view reflects the lower perception.
Most of us catch an occasional glimpse of the higher perception of unity when God’s perspective becomes suddenly our own. This may happen spontaneously, as a Divine gift, or as the result of following a methodical program of contemplation and meditation on the logical proofs that lead to this higher perception. In either case, when we attain this perspective, our dedication to our Divine mission and the enthusiasm with which we fulfill it becomes inspired and natural.
The rest of the time, we fall back on the lower perception of unity. Even we take the world as a given and have to think twice to remind ourselves that there is a God, we can recall how this world’s apparent independent existence is a sham, and thereby remain committed and loyal to our task.
Generally, we are encouraged to try to experience the higher perception of unity when we recite the first verse of the Shema in the liturgy, the lower perception of unity when we recite the phrase “Blessed be the Name…” immediately after reciting the first verse of the Shema.
Now, as it happens, there are also six words and 25 letters in the phrase “Blessed be the Name…” traditionally recited immediately after the first verse of the Shema when it is read as part of the liturgy. Thus, in the context of Maimonides’ view, the six words and 25 letters of the names on the right shoulder stone can be taken to correspond to the six words and 25 letters in the first verse of the Shema, and the same amount of words and letters on the left stone to correspond to the same amount of words and letters in the phrase “Blessed be the Name….”23
Although the higher perception is of course the higher ideal, there is an advantage to life lived according to the lower perception. First, as much as God appreciates those who can sustain the higher perception, the efforts of those of us who struggle with the lower perception is in a way more poignant and more dear to God. Secondly, the inherent advantage of living life at the lower perception is that we thereby bring the consciousness of God’s exclusivity into the realm of reality where it is by no means taken for granted.
This is why24 even if we attain higher perception of unity when we recite the Shema, we must immediate recite “Blessed be the Name…” in order to descend into the lower perception of His unity.25
28 The Breastplate must not come loose from the Ephod: The Ephod hung from the High Priest’s back down to his heels, while the Breastplate rested in front, opposite his heart. While the “back” represents the external and mundane—as the disinterest expressed in turning one’s back on someone, the “front” signifies the internal and sublime—as the thoughts and feelings expressed on the face.26 The fact that the Breastplate must not become disconnected from the Ephod therefore means that the High Priest cannot endure any gap between the sublime and the mundane, the internal and the external. What is true in his idealistic and inspired heart must express itself even in his mundane and routine heels.27
19. Deuteronomy 6:4.
1. The verse states (Ex. 28:10):
“(And you shall take two Shoham stones and engrave upon them the names of the sons of Israel). Six of their names on one stone and the names of the remaining six on the second stone, according to their births.”
Rashi cites the words: “according to their births” (כתולדותם) and writes:
“According to the order in which they were born (i.e.,): Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, on the one; and on the second one, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin spelled full, (בִּנְיָמִין), for so it is written in the place of his birth (Gen. 35: 18) (totaling) twenty-five letters on each one (stone)”.
This requires explanation:
There are those that explain that Rashi’s intent is to negate the supposition that the explanation of “according to their births” is according to the order (the beginning) of their birth by the Matriarchs.
(For the one who began to give birth before her colleague, all of her children precede – even if some of them were born later than – the other children)
If so, the order would be all the children of Leah (Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun), the sons of Bilhah (Dan, Naphtali) the sons of Zilpah (Gad, Asher) and afterward the sons of Rachel (Joseph, Benjamin).
Therefore, Rashi explains, “the order in which” each one of the Shvatim “were born”, and not like the “order of their births” through the Matriarchs.
However, in addition to that which it still requires examination why there is a need to elaborate and delineate all this here, as aforementioned. Why would one think to explain that “according to their births” is – the order of the birth of the Matriarchs, and not like the order of their own births?
It also requires explanation:
Why does Rashi need to add, “Benjamin is spelled full, for so it is written in the place of his birth”? And in addition, the continuation, “twenty-five letters on each one (stone)?
Rashi does not come (to establish practical Halacha), but rather to explain the simple understanding of the verse. In the simple understanding of the verse, it just states “six of their names on one stone and the other six on the second stone”, and the order of their births. However, it does not state how they were written and how many letters were on each stone?
(Especially since, according to this, Rashi is adding another explanation to “according to their births”. For according to the beginning of his words, the explanation of “according to their births” is “the order in which they were born”.
Whereas, according to his concluding words ,“Benjamin spelled full, for so it is written in the place of his birth”, we find that “according to their births” comes to teach the manner of its writing (in other words, the way it is written in the place of his birth).
2. The explanation of all this is:
Even though, plainly, the explanation of “according to their births” is “the order in which they were born”. Nevertheless, there are two questions on this verse:
Because of these two questions, there is seemingly a place to explain that the verse is coming to differentiate here between the names that are engraved on the first stone - to the names that are engraved on the second stone. For on the first stone, the names of the more important Shvatim are engraved. Whereas, on the second stone – the names of the Shvatim that are not that important were engraved.
(For example, on the second stone the names of all the handmaids were written, or possibly, (also) those that Yaakov rebuked before his death, or so forth).
Therefore, Scripture calls them “the remaining”. This explanation can even apply to the order of their engraving on the stones - that on one stone, the engraving is according to the level of their importance (as is understood from Yaakov’s blessing: Yehuda, Yosef etc.). Whereas on the second stone, where it states, “the remaining”, the order is “according to their births”.
This, therefore is what Rashi is coming to tell us in his comment, because of which he needs to delineate their order in detail.
“Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, on the one; and on the second one, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin”
To teach that the word, “according to their births” refers to the two stones equally.
However, one could still ask:
Since this is so, why does it state, “according to their births” at the end of the verse, after the words “on the second stone”, and not in the beginning of the verse (or at the end of the previous verse), in a manner that it would be clear that it refers to both of them?
Therefore, Rashi continues and explains that,
“Benjamin is spelled full, for so it is written in the place of his birth”.
With this he comes to answer that the reason it states, “According to their births” at the end, is in order to allude to the manner of writing the name “Benjamin” (which is written at (the end) of the second stone).
Accordingly, it is also understood why Rashi adds,
“Twenty-five letters on each one”,
This is to negate the supposition that one stone has more importance than the second one, and so forth. Rashi tells us that there is no difference at all, between them, so much so that they are equal even in the number of letters on each stone.
Rambam writes the order of the Shvatim on the Shoham stones of the Ephod in a different manner:
There has already been debate in Rambam’s view, for it does not conform to any opinion in the Talmud, not according to the Tanna Kamma nor to the opinion of R’ Chanina ben Gamliel.
The commentators explain that Rambam’s view is that he maintains that the explanation of the word, “according to their births” is like the order that the Matriarchs gave birth to the Shvatim:
(Leah who gave birth first, has all her children in order, one after the other. The same is with Bilhah, Zilpah and Rachel)
“Their order is not on each stone individually, but rather on two stones (as one). Reuven on this (the first) stone, and Shimon after him, on the other (second) stone). Levi is under Reuven and Yehuda is under Shimon, and the same is with all of them”.
In other words, since Scripture states:
“Six of their names on one stone and the names of the remaining six on the second stone, according to their births”,
it implies that the order “according to their births” is not in the manner of their order, one after the other on one stone, and then one after the other on second stone – For it does not state, “according to their births” until after it states “the second stone”. In other words, after combining them together in a manner that their reading is from this stone to the second stone (according to the diagram in Rambam).
We thus find that even Rambam, following his view in the order of the names, emphasizes the equality between the two stones. Moreover, according to Rambam‘s view the equality of the two stones is even greater than that of Rashi:
Seemingly, one could say, according to what is explained in another place (Likkutei Sichos vol. 26 pg.196ff) that according to Rambam‘s view, the Choshen and Ephod together comprised one garment
(Even though in the enumeration of the garments of the Kohanim’s garments they are two garments.)
(According to this, it is understood that concerning the donning of the Ephod and the Choshen, it appears from Rambam‘s words that the girding of the belt of the Ephod (Cheishev) was done after Choshen was put on. This is not like the view of Ramban (and others) that the girding of the Ephod with the Cheishev of the Ephod was done before the donning of the Choshen).
Therefore, just as with regard to the Choshen,
where all the Shvatim were written individually, each one on a separate stone, and there were “four rows of stones as described by the Torah”,
Rambam does not expressly delineate which of the Shvatim were on each row, but he writes plainly,
“He should engrave on the stones the names of the tribes according to their order of birth. Thus on the ruby, the name Reuben is engraved and on the jasper, Benjamin is engraved”,
because the fulfillment of “according to their births” is not on each row individually, but rather in the names of the Shvatim on all of the twelve stones together.
Similarly is this with regard to the Shoham stones, in the shoulder straps of the Ephod (כתפות האפוד)
(Through which the Choshen and the specifically became attached, “so that they will cleave to each other and thus the Choshen will not be separate from the ephod”),
“The names of the Shvatim should be engraved on the two stones, six on one stone and six on the other according to the order of their birth”,
in a manner that it is like one stone. This fulfills, “according to their births”, when they are read “together”, immediately from its beginning Reuven, Shimon, as aforementioned.
However, according to this, one must slightly examine why according to Rambam, “according to their births” is not “According to the order in which they were born” (like Rashi) but ‘according to the order of the birth of the Matriarchs’. For seemingly “according to the order of their birth”, more implies the equality and unity of them, and it does not emphasize division (ההתחלקות) between them. Whereas, the ‘order of the birth of their mothers’, more emphasizes the difference between the Shvatim. For the sons of Leah were separate, and the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah were separate, and the sons of Rachel separate.
4. One could say that the explanation of this in Pnimiyut is:
The essence of the aspect of engraving the names of the Shvatim on the Shoham stones, in the shoulder straps of the Ephod, is stated in the verse,
“And you shall put the two stones upon the shoulder straps of the ephod as stones of remembrance for Bnei Yisroel, and Aaron shall carry their names before the L-rd upon his two shoulders as a remembrance”.
“as a remembrance: So that the Holy One, blessed is He, will see the (progenitors of the) tribes written before Him, and He will remember their righteousness”.
Since the aspect of the names of Bnei Yisroel is, raising them as a remembrance before G-d, this is connected and dependent on the Unity/Achdut of Bnei Yisroel together. For then they merit to be raised up before G-d. For all Bnei Yisroel are one complete standing (קומה אחת שלימה). Therefore, when there is discord and division between a person and his fellow, he is not fitting to be elevated to acceptance before G-d.
However, in this there are two levels:
“the order in which they were born” depicts their birth as it is from the perspective of the father, as opposed to the “order of their births” which is from the perspective of the mothers.
It is known that the essence of the being of a fetus (הולד) is from the father’s seed (מטיפת האב). Whereas the division of the form of the specific limbs (ציור פרטי האברים) is through staying nine months in the mother’s womb.
Similarly, it is in our case:
These are two manners that must be in the unity of Bnei Yisroel and in the Shvatim, in order that they are able to be elevated “before G-d”.
There is a quality to each one of these manners:
However, on the other hand, because of this reason itself, namely that the unity due to the father is through feeling their source - we find that they are united just at their source. However, in their current places, they are divided and separate from one another.
(As aforementioned, that according to Rashi’s view, “according to their births”, “According to the order in which they were born” is fulfilled, in each stone individually).
This is the innovation of the second manner – that even in the place of division they draw down and effect unity.
This is why, the second manner – Rambam‘s view – specifically emphasizes that even when they are on two separate stones, it comprises actual unity, as if they are one stone that are read together. For even in a place of division, they effect and draw down the unity of Bnei Yisroel.
8. This unity of the Shvatim of Yisroel, between them, is connected with their unity with G-d. Accordingly, it is understood that even the two aforementioned manners in the unity of Bnei Yisroel, are exemplified in the unity of G-d.
One can explain this according to what is written in the Sefarim (Sifsei Kohen on Torah) regarding the names of Bnei Yisroel that are on the shoulders of the Ephod:
The twenty-five letters on each stone correspond to the twenty-five letters of “Hear, O Israel: G‑d is our L‑rd, G‑d is one” (שמע ישראל ה' אלקינו ה' אחד). Twenty-five letters in the morning (Shema) and twenty-five letters in the evening (Shema).
There is another explanation, that the words of the verse:
“Six of their names on” (ששה משמותם על)
is the acronym
Meaning that they said Shema Yisroel.
In other words:
“Hear, O Israel: Gd is our Lrd, Gd is one (),
“Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom forever and ever” ()
(For in each one there are six words and twenty-five letters).
As it states in the Talmud that the Shvatim said, “Just as there is only one (G-d) in your heart, so too, there is only one in our hearts”
The difference between the two explanations is:
(Note: Yichuda ila'ah ( יחודא עילאה- Upper or Sublime Unity) refers to that which all of creation is nullified in the all-encompassing Being of G-d. There is no conception of independent existence).
(Note: Yichuda Tata'ah (יחודא תתאה - Lower Unity) refers to that which Creation perceives its own existence dependent on G-d. The world exists and yet it is subservient to G‑dliness).
which in Avodat HaShem is the level of Iskafia (), where one does not have a heartfelt desire for G-dliness (), but rather one must ‘bend’ himself – the level of the mind ruling the heart.
This is similar to the two aforementioned manners.
For according to the first manner, the difference between the two stones is not that recognizable.
Whereas, according to the second manner, as is emphasized in Rambam‘s words,
“The stone on which Reuven's name was written was placed on his right shoulder and the stone on which Shimon's name was written was placed on his left shoulder.”
even though there is an advantage to the Unity of,
“Just as there is only one (G-d) in your heart, so too, there is only one in our hearts”.
(Note: Yichuda Tata’ah – which refers to,“Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom forever and ever” (ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד) that corresponds to the above statement of the Shvatim)
for it effects and draws down the unity even in the place of division, the world of division (עלמא דפרודא). For
just as they (the six Sefirot) unite above into oneness, so she (Malchut/kingship) unites below into the mystery of oneness . . to be oneness corresponding to Oneness” (Note: Kaballat Shabbat prayer)
through this, it makes a loftier unity, more than as it is due to the Yichuda Ila’ah, on its own.
Whereas the morning and evening Kriat Shema, even though they are both, the level of Yichuda Ila’ah, the unity is as it is at its source, nevertheless, the morning Kriat Shema and evening Kriat Shema are two levels. In other words, as it is drawn down into the place of division, the unity is not felt so much as it is with Yichuda Ila’ah.
Through increasing in Ahavat Yisroel, unity of all Bnei Yisroel together, in all the aforementioned manners, for this is the foundation of the entire Torah, as the Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya,
“For the basis and root purpose of the entire Torah is to elevate and exalt the soul high above the body, to (G‑d), the root and source of all worlds, and also to draw down the infinite light of Ein Sof into the Community of Israel . . into the fountainhead of the souls of all Israel, so that “the One (G‑d) will reside within (Israel — but only insofar as they are) one,” i.e., united. But this indwelling of the light of Ein Sof in the Community of Israel is impossible if there is disunity between the souls, G‑d forbid, for “G‑d does not dwell in an imperfect, fragmented, place . .(for then it effects,) “Bless us, our Father, all as one with the light of Your Countenance.”
So much so, that we realize the complete and primary blessing in the days of Moshiach that,
“A great company shall they return there” (קָהָ֥ל גָּד֖וֹל יָשׁ֥וּבוּ הֵֽנָּה), “With our youth and with our elders we will go, with our sons and with our daughters”,
immediately, now, mamosh.
MSichas Shvatim Parshat Tetzaveh 5735