Parshas Tetzaveh

This week’s Sedra starts with Hashem commanding Moshe Rabeinu to in turn instruct Klal-Yisroel to take extra virgin and pure olive oil for lighting the Western Light (of the Menorah). Rashi comments on the interesting contrast between this oil used for the purpose of light, and the oil which was to be used in the recipe for the Mincha/bread offerings. Rashi points out that the oil we are commanded to use for the Mincha offerings only has to be pure, not extra virgin, in other words it could be non-virgin oil that was merely filtered or purified in some form causing it to be pure. However, for the Menorah the oil has to be pure simply because it came from the very first drop squeezed out of the olive.

Rashi leaves it at that, and merely explains how we know and understand these differences. The Midrash Tanchuma, however, takes this contrast yet a step further. The Tanchuma says that one should note this peculiarity. While we would usually assume that one would be more finicky as to what they eat and less picky as to the fuel one is using for light, Hashem does just the opposite. Hashem is particular as to the oil we should use to light the Menorah while He is far less particular as to the oil for the Bread Offerings.

On the surface this Midrash seems to be pointing out a rather obvious point. Upon reflection, however, there is an apparent problem. True, people are far more particular with what they eat than with what they burn for light. In fact, many fuels used for light aren’t fit for human consumption, let alone being as special or tasty. However, individuals are only so picky over what they eat because they taste it.  Since physical ‘tasting’ is not something that applies to Hashem, why should we assume that there is any difference to Hashem between the light of the Menorah and bread offerings?

Furthermore, the Tanchuma emphasizes a number of times that the light of the Menorah isn’t meant to be so much so for Hashem’s sake but rather for our sake, for Hashem doesn’t need the miniscule light that shines from the Menorah.

In order better to understand this issue of Hashem’s order of priorities differing from those of mankind, as well to answer what the Midrash is trying to get at by equating our preferences to those of Hashem, we should look more carefully at what the Bread offerings and the Menorah lights represent (see Chassam Soffer in his Toras Moshe).

The Gemorah (Bava Basra, 25b) tells us that someone who wants to prosper in Torah knowledge should face slightly towards the south while praying because the Menorah was in the south and the Menorah is the source of all Torah knowledge and wisdom. The Gemorah continues and says that if one would like to prosper in monetary wealth one should face slightly north while praying because the Shulchan (the table upon which the Twelve panim-breads, a type of bread offering, were kept) was in the north and the Shulchan was the source of monetary wealth in the world.

In light of the above cited Gemorah, we might want to reorient our perspective slightly. Rather than viewing Hashem as being particular as to what He ‘eats’, or as to the fire that is being burned to ‘give Him light’, perhaps we should understand that Hashem is being particular as to what we should eat, or as to how we should eat, and as to how we should approach learning and acquiring Torah knowledge. Hashem is being particular that already for the source of Torah for the world (the Menorah) the highest and purest level of quality is required, while for the source of wealth (the Shulchan), even though the oil is still required to be a quality product, second level quality is deemed adequate.

Maybe Hashem is sending us an important message: in the same way that Hashem requests that we set up the light of the Menorah (the source of all Torah knowledge) with only the best and purest (in every sense of the words) of oils, so too must we give the greatest and optimum efforts to our Torah study.

Just as Hashem only required that we use second rate oil for the bread offerings, the source of wealth and sustenance, we too should view our luxuries and even livelihoods as secondary.  Perhaps the idea of the light needing oil that was purified wasn’t merely because light needs clean oil to burn clean, but rather it is meant to be taken as a lesson that we must do everything in a way that is clean and pure from sin; that we must remove all selfish reasons for making our livelihood, and work only for the sake of Hashem.

The Menorah is indeed for our sake, it is the source of Torah, the light that can ultimately guide all of us.



This week’s Sedra deals at length with the fashioning of the Bigdei Kehuna (Priestly vestments). It deals both with the garb of an ordinary Kohen and that of the High Priest. One of the Begadim of the Kohen Gadol was his Meil (coat). The Psukim describe the Meil and instruct us as to the bells and pomegranate-like clusters and bells alternating with one another that must adorn the coat. The Torah explains that these decorations were for the purpose of making noise while the Kohen-Gadol came and left the Kodesh.

The idea of the Kohen-Gadol as a noise maker seems at best odd and has attracted the attention from many a commentator. In Drush the explanation given is as follows: just as it is inappropriate to enter someone’s domain and to take him by surprise, so too it is wrong to enter the Kodesh without, so to speak, knocking and thus announcing one’s coming.

While this answer carries a very important lesson, it only answers why the Kohen-Gadol entered wearing it and why it had to make noise, but it doesn’t answer why he had to leave wearing it.  The Midrash explains that from the fact that we see he had to wear these Begadim upon entering and upon leaving it can be thus deduced that he was obligated to wear them the entire time. This point only makes us wonder all the more why it was essential for the Kohen-Gadol to make noise the entire time that he was performing sacrificial ceremonies.

A marriage counselor once said that one of the most detrimental things to a marriage is the ignoring of one spouse by the other. This marriage counselor claimed that it is better to fight with one another than to have nothing to do with each other. He further explained that once a couple doesn’t communicate with one another their relationship becomes dead. A dead relationship cannot be fixed because it no longer exists, whereas a relationship that is damaged may still be fixed because it is still there.

While it is obvious that it is not a good thing for a couple to argue or insult one another, at the same time if they do so they at least keep up a dialogue between one another. This is important because the main idea of a relationship is that each person involved is aware of the other’s existence.

This may be the lesson here: perhaps the Torah is emphasizing that with Hashem as well we must always keep an interactive relationship. It is imperative that the whole time the Kohen-Gadol is performing service to Hashem he must be generating noise because that way he is keeping an interactive relationship with Hashem.

While we may not be Kohanim-Gedolim who are performing services in holy garb, we do constantly perform services in various capacities. We must bear in mind that we must always communicate with Hashem, we must keep our relationship with Hashem very much alive. The Kotzker once said: “you can be for Hashem; you can be against Hashem, but you can’t be without Hashem.



Early in this week’s Sedra Hashem instructs Moshe Rabeinu to appoint Aharon his brother to be the Kohen Gadol. The Midrash tells us that Moshe Rabeinu wasn’t so eager to do so. The Midrash relates (Shemos Rabba 37, 4) that when Hashem instructed Moshe to appoint Aharon Kohen Gadol it was difficult for Moshe Rabeinu. The Midrash explains that Hashem answered Moshe Rabeinu that it was difficult for Him to give the Torah to Klal-Yisroel, yet nonetheless He did. The Midrash then explains Hashem’s retort with the following Mashal: There was once a man who married a woman very dear to him. After they were married for a decade without children the man asked his wife to help him find another wife so that he could have children. The man explained to his dear wife that although he didn’t really need her consent, he nevertheless wished to give her more power through her being the one to select the additional wife.

There are many complexities with this Midrash. Firstly, how could someone as great and as humble as Moshe Rabeinu begrudge giving his older brother the position of Kohen Gadol? Furthermore, what is the answer of the Midrash? And thirdly, what is so remarkable in being named an intermediary to appoint someone else to a position of power? How can being such a conduit be equated to having power?

Perhaps we need to pay greater attention to the broader context within which this takes place.  Hashem comes to Moshe Rabeinu to instruct him regarding the Avoda in the Mishkan, and eventually in the Beis Hamikdash. What is involved is not merely a position of power, but rather the highest level in Avodas Hashem. Thus it already seems more understandable for Moshe to desire such a position. Therefore Moshe Rabeinu truly had a hard time coming to terms with passing on such a special position to his brother.

When Hashem gave Klal-Yisroel the Torah it is true that Hashem somehow relinquished some of that which belongs to Him. But for whose sake was Hashem doing this? For the sake of Am-Yisroel fulfilling the Torah – something that Hashem “couldn’t” do on His own. While there may, therefore, have been “so to speak” some sort of difficulty for Hashem to “part” from the Torah in some capacity Hashem nonetheless did so in order to facilitate more Torah and Mitzvos in the world.

This would help to explain the Mashal. The power the first wife would have over the second is that of the facilitator. Perhaps this is the message the Midrash is trying to convey: that the moment we understand that the purpose of the Torah in this world is to facilitate the greatest Kiddush Shamayim possible, we then understand that what it involves is not per say a competition, but rather a joint effort for the ultimate greatest Kiddush Shamayim.  If we would only internalize this message – how much more would we truly be Mekadesh Shem Shamayim?



In this week's Sedra we read of the Choshen (Breastplate) and the mystical Urim VeTumim that were laid inside the Choshen. The Choshen had twelve stones corresponding to the 12 tribes of Klal-Yisroel.    Additionally, the Choshen was attached by two shoulder straps to the Ephod (the Kohen Gadol's vest). The Torah instructs us that upon each of these shoulder straps there would be an onyx. The Torah further instructs us that upon each of these onyxes would be engraved the names of six tribes together again totaling 12. Combination of the Choshen, the shoulder straps, and the Urim VeTumim, created a very special and essential part of the Bigdei Kehuna. When all three of these parts were worn by the Kohen Gadol fastened to one another they created a channel of communication between Am-Yisroel and Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

When the Kohen Gadol was wearing all three of these vestments together he was able to ask Hashem to advise Klal-Yisroel in times of need. While this is an amazing thing there is a most puzzling element to it. The way Hashem would communicate His answer to Klal-Yisroel was through the letters of the names of the Shevatim. Various letters would light up and the Kohen Gadol was supposed to decode what it was that Hashem was telling Klal-Yisroel by putting the letters in the right sequence to spell out Hashem's Message. This was indeed a direct channel to Hashem, but why did Hashem have to send it to the Kohen Gadol in the form of a code? While most of the time the Kohen Gadol successfully decoded Hashem's message, he theoretically could err as did Eli HaKohen with Chana. The Navi relates that Eli HaKohen beheld Chana standing with her eyes closed and her lips moving unresponsive to what was going on around her. The Navi tells us that Eli thought she was a drunken woman. Chazal explain that Eli was actually at a loss as to what Chana was doing and that he asked Hashem through the Ephod what was going on.  Eli mistakenly decoded the answer as שכרה instead of כשרה (‘shikora’ - a ‘drunk’, instead of ‘keshera’ - a Kosher woman, or ‘KeSara’ – like Sarah Imeinu who also had to daven for children). Why did Hashem have to communicate with us in a manner that allowed for mistakes?

The Rashba in his Teshuvos says that one miracle that never was and never will be is that of a person becoming a Talmid Chochom without learning. While some people may be more apt to acquiring Torah knowledge and understanding than others, no one can become knowledgeable without actually learning. There are certain smarts that a person can obtain somewhat innately, but Dvar Hashem must be acquired.

If Hashem would arrange for a simple automatic way to get answers from Him, this would then cheapen Dvar Hashem. Thus no matter how simple Hashem made it for us to be able to obtain His Will – He nonetheless needed to make it something that would be accessible only through understanding Dvar Hashem. The Torah instructs us Betzedek Tishpot Es Amisecha – to judge our fellow Jews favorably. Perhaps had Eli HaKohen's initial attitude towards Chana been less hostile, he then might have interpreted the Urim VeTumim more favorably and have understood correctly the answer. This would seem to be why Eli, upon realizing he had erred immediately gave Chana a Brocho.   Eli  HaKohen understood that he had erred by having too negative an outlook and aimed to fix it by speaking constructively and giving Chana a Brocho.

Many a time people marvel at our Talmidei Chochomim's abilities to understand and interpret things. Their understanding, at times appearing as nothing short of miraculous or supernatural, is perhaps just their being able to see things correctly. Our Gedolim have the ability to see things the way Hashem intends for them to be seen because they view things through the Torah's teachings and dictums.

While it may be difficult for all of us to attain the levels our Gedolim have, we can still begin to understand the world and Hashem's messages all that much better by learning Toras Hashem and keeping to its dictums.




This week’s Haftorah is from Yechezkel. It was chosen because it discusses the Bayis Shlishi and particularly the Chanukas hamizbeiach (inauguration of the Altar) in the Third Temple. This mirrors the end of the Parsha, which discusses the Chanukas hamizbeiach in the Mishkan.


In the Haftorah (like in most of Sefer Yechezkel) Yechezkel is referred to as אדם בן - human. The first time the Navi does this is in the second Perek. The Meforshim (see Rashi and Metzudas Dovid) comment that since Yechezkel had such awesome Nevuos, the references to him as "human" are there so that the Prophet shouldn't view himself as being more than human.


In our Parsha, the Torah discusses one of the greatest channels of communication between Man and Hashem, the Urim veTumim. The Kohen Gadol could ask the Urim veTumim a question and receive in code form an answer from Hashem. The coded answer had to be uncoded and as such left room for a margin of error. This too is seemingly a reminder that no matter how much a human may understand of Hashem and His ways a human is mortal and imperfect.


The whole concept of Mishkan and Mikdash is that of בתוכם ושכנתי, that Hashem will dwell amongst us. While we are in the middle of being instructed to build a sanctuary in our midst for Hashem, we are simultaneously being reminded that we must put everything back into perspective and overstep a bit our boundaries.


Essentially, we are being told that while we must recognize our mortality we must continue to strive and build the eventual Ultimate Sanctuary, the Bayis Shlishis foretold by Yechezkel.


May we build it soon in our days.