Appetizers for the Torah Portion of "Tetzaveh" - 5776
Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l
"And you will command..." (Shemot 27:20)
The word "command" linguistically indicates encouragement, and apparently this presents a difficulty. Why is this language of encouragement used in the Torah Portion of Tetzaveh, whereas in the Torah Portion of T'rumah in which the main donations for the Mishkan (Tabernacle) were discussed, this language of encouragement was not used at all? The explanation is that it is easier to give a lot at one time, than to give even a little bit but on a regular, daily basis. Therefore, the lighting of the Menorah which was done on a regular, daily basis, requires encouragement. (from the Gaon HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz)
"...crushed for illumination..." (Shemot 27:20)
Rashi explains, that the olives are crushed for illumination but not crushed for "Menachot" (meal-offerings). A person needs to be "crushed", that is broken in his own eyes, but only on condition that this will be for the purpose of "illumination", and that he doesn't come because of that to sadness and bitterness, G-d forbid. That is to say, that he does not come because of this to "Menachot" (meal offerings), which in Hebrew is linguistically related to weakness.
"Tarshish and Shoham and Yashfeh" (Shemot 28:20) [Translator's note: These are names in Hebrew of three of the precious stones on the Choshen (breastplate) of the Kohen HaGadol.]
The Yashfeh was the stone of the tribe of Benyamin, and the Ba'al HaTurim says this is hinted at by the Gematria (numerical value of the Hebrew letters of the words). The Gematria of Yashfeh with the Kollel (one more for the word itself) is equal to the Gematria of Benyamin son of Yaakov. In the Gemara there is a story told about Dama Ben Netina. The Jews came to buy from him a Yashfeh stone for the Choshen (breastplate), but since his father was sleeping at that time on top of the chest in which the Yashfeh was stored, he didn't want to wake him up. He honored his father, even though he lost a lot of money because of it. In reward for this, he received a reward from Heaven that made him wealthy after that. His cow gave birth to a Para Adumah (Red Heifer), and the children of Israel bought it from him for a great amount of money. The Meshech Chachma clarifies why the stone from Benyamin had been lost. All of the tribes caused sorrow to their father in the sale of Yosef, and even Yosef caused him sorrow about it because he didn't notify his father that he was in Egypt because he was afraid of the Cherem. (His brothers had imposed a condition of Cherem, ex-communication, on anyone who told their father about the sale.) But Benyamin honored his father (since he didn't participate in causing him sorrow through the sale of Yosef), and therefore the Shechina dwelled in his portion. Therefore when the stone of Benyamin was lost, the Holy One Blessed Be He showed them the greatness of the Mitzvah of honoring one's father through Dama Ben Netina, and this was precisely with the stone of Benyamin, because Binyamin had honored his father.
"... and the Choshen (breastplate) will not be loosened from upon the Ephod." (Shemot 28:28)
Why did the Torah emphasize the importance of the attachment of the Choshen and the Ephod to each other at all times? The "Chatam Sofer" says that the Sages said that the Choshen atones for the perversion of justice and the Ephod atones for idolatry. And these transgressions are connected to one another, for behold, the Sages said (in Sanhedrin) that anyone who appoints a judge who is not appropriate, it is as if he planted an Asheira (a tree which was worshipped as an idol) next the the Mizbeach (the sacrificial altar). Therefore, the Torah said to join the Choshen to the Ephod in order to teach us that these transgressions are equivalent to one another.
"And you shall make the Me'il...the opening of its head shall be folded over within it, its opening shall have a border all around...a golden bell and a pomegranate" (Shemot 28:31-34)
The Sages say that the Me'il (the robe of the Kohen HaGadol) atones for the sin of Lashon Hara (evil speech). The reason is, that there ought to be something that has a sound in order to atone for Lashon Hara, which occurs through sound, and the Me'il has a sound emanating from its bells. In addition, the Me'il was folded over at its top opening, to hint that one needs to greatly guard himself in order to keep his mouth closed. And also "a golden bell and a pomegranate" comes to hint to us that on the one hand, one needs to keep his mouth closed like a pomegranate and not speak forbidden speech, for the pomegranate is like an egg which is sealed and doesn't have a mouth. And on the other hand, when one's speech is for a holy purpose he shouldn't keep quiet but rather open his mouth, like the bells that made a sound for the purpose of holiness, as it is written "its sound shall be heard when he enters the Sanctuary" (Shemot 28:35), meaning that when it comes to a matter of holiness the sound of one's voice should be heard (for example, when praying or learning Torah). In addition the Chafetz Chaim writes that if one does so (that is, closes his mouth to avoid forbidden speech, but makes his voice heard for the purpose of holiness), "his voice will be heard when he enters the Sanctuary", that is to say, that his prayers will be accepted.
All the Clothing of the Kohen HaGadol serves as an Atonement
These are the things that the clothing of the Kohen HaGadol atones for: The Mitznefet (mitre) atones for having a coarse spirit. The Tzitz (golden plate on the mitre) atones for brazenness, and for blood that was dashed or fat that was burned (in the Temple) in a state of impurity. The Choshen (breastplate) atones for the perversion of justice. The Me'il (robe) atones for Lashon Hara (evil speech). The Ephod (apron) atones for idolatry. The Avnet (girdle) atones for improper thoughts. The K'tonet (tunic) atones for bloodshed. The Michnesayim (breeches) atones for immorality.
"And I will dwell among the children of Israel" (Shemot 29:45)
It is told about one of the early Tzadikim (Righteous Men), that when he was still a little boy, his father said to him: "If you tell me where the Holy One Blessed Be He is, I will give you one gold coin". The little one answered: "If you tell me where he can't be found, I will give you two gold coins, because the Holy One Blessed Be He fills the whole world with His Glory".
The Torah Portion of "Tetzaveh" has 101 verses, 4 positive commandments and 4 negative commandments. The Haftorah is: "Atah Ben Adam" (Yechezkel 43)
We say Borchi Nafshi.
May you all have a light-filled and happy Shabbat.
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772