1 – One set of chains or two? ושתי שרשרת      כח:יד

Immediately following the description of the eifod is a parsha comprised of three pesukim.  These pesukim talk about the chains that connected the choshen to the shoulder straps of the eifod.  Rashi learns that these chains described in this parsha are the very same as those described in 28:22 in the context of the choshen, and that it is only mentioning them now – immediately following the eifod – to explain part of the purpose of the golden settings (that held the avnei shoham at the end of the shoulder straps).

The Rambam (Hilchos Klei Ha’Mikdash 9:8-10), however, writes as follows: “Two gold chains are inserted into the two upper rings of the choshen…two gold chains are inserted into the two upper rings of the shoulder straps of the eifod…the end of the two gold chains of the choshen are then connected to the two upper rings of the shoulder straps of the eifod…and the two gold chains of the upper rings of the eifod’s shoulder straps are lowered until they reach the upper rings of the choshen in order that they should be held fast to one another.” The Rambam clearly holds that there were two sets of chains: one set for the upper rings of the eifod’s shoulder straps, and another set for the upper rings of the choshen.  The eifod chains were then connected to the choshen rings, and the choshen chains were connected to the eifod rings.  What emerges, then, is that the Rambam understood the aforementioned pesukim differently from Rashi; namely, that the chains being described in these pesukim are not the same as those described in the context of the choshen.  Rather, these chains are separate, and a continuation of the details of the eifod.


2 – What is the urim v’tumim? ונתת אל חשן המשפט את האורים ואת התומים      כח:ל

In parshas Shmos (4:14), Rashi brings the Chazal that says Aharon Ha’Kohein was zocheh to wear the choshen because he rejoiced over his younger brother’s superlative acheivements, and didn’t feel bad about it at all.  The Ran (in his derashos) asks a Brisker kashya on this: No matter what, he has to wear the choshen because it’s one of the eight vestments of the Kohein Gadol, without which he would be mechusar begadim?!  The answer, says the Ran, is that this Chazal is not referring to the actual choshen, but the klaf with the Sheim ha’meforash that was inserted into the folds of the choshen.  That was an additional component, and the lack thereof would not disqualify him; it does not make him mechusar begadim.  This is the way Rashi explains the choshen as well.  The pasuk says (28:30), “v’nasata el choshen ha’mishpat es ha’urim v’es ha’tumim, you shall put the urim v’tumim into the choshen ha’mishpat.”  Rashi explains that the urim v’tumim is a klaf that has the Sheim ha’meforash written on it, and it is placed in the fold of the choshen.  In Bayis Sheini, continues Rashi, the Kohein Gadol did have a choshen because without it he would be mechusar begadim, but the klaf with the Sheim ha’meforash they did not have.

The Rambam, on the other hand – when he writes about those things that were missing in Bayis Sheini – says as follows (Hilchos Beis Ha’Bechira 4:1): “Even the urim v’tumim that were in Bayis Sheini did not respond with ruach ha’kodesh, and they would not inquire of them…and they only made them in order to complete the eight vestments for the Kohein Gadol so that he should not be mechusar begadim.” The Raavad immediately takes issue with this Rambam.  He says that the urim v’tumim have no relevance to the issue of lacking any of the eight vestments because it is not included in that count of eight.  Clearly, the Raavad is learning like Rashi and the Ran, that the urim v’tumim was an additional item – the klaf with the Sheim ha’meforash written on it – that added the dimension of ruach ha’kodesh, but not that it was an intrinsic part of the eight vestments of the Kohein Gadol.

When the Rambam describes the choshen in Hilchos Klei Ha’Mikdash (9:6-8), he makes no mention of a klaf with the Sheim ha’meforash written on it.  This does not come up anywhere in the Rambam, so it is clear that he held that there was no Sheim ha’meforash inserted into the fold of the choshen.  The question then begs itself, how did the Rambam understand the pasuk, “v’nasata el choshen ha’mishpat es ha’urim v’es ha’tumim, you shall put the urim v’tumim into the choshen ha’mishpat”? The answer to this question is found in the pirush al ha’Torah of Rabbeinu Avraham ben Ha’Rambam (usually printed as an adjunct to his Seifer Ha’Maspik L’Ovdei Hashem) here in parshas Tetzaveh.  He writes that although the straightforward reading of the pasuk would indicate that the urim v’tumim was something additional that was placed into the choshen, Chazal explain that it is actually just a description of the stones that are affixed on to the choshen. Rabbeinu Avraham concludes, clearly paraphrasing his father, that the choshen that they had during Bayis Sheini was only to maintain the outer form of the full set of eight vestments so that the Kohein Gadol would not be mechusar begadim, but the inner purpose of the stones – the urim v’tumim quality of revealing the future – was lacking.  It comes out, then, that according to the Rambam the urim v’tumim is not an additional component.  There was no Sheim ha’meforash inserted.  It is just a quality that the choshen was imbued with when the ruach ha’kodesh was present during Bayis Rishon.

As far as the Ran’s kashya – that if the urim v’tumim is synonymous with the choshen then how could it be that Aharon was only zocheh to it because of the way he reacted to Moshe’s appointment – we could answer that it is similar to what Chazal say elsewhere.  Chazal say that in the zechus of Avraham avinu saying “anochi afar va’eifer” we were zocheh to the mitzvos of afar sotah and eifer parah adumah. ----------------------------------

3 – The mitzvah of kohanim wearing bigdei kehuna והלבשת אתם     כח:מא

In Seifer Ha’Mitzvos (mitzvah 33), the Rambam counts Kohanim wearing their bigdei kehuna as a full-fledged, independent mitzvah in the minyan ha’mitzvos.  The Ramban, though, argues and says that it is not an independent mitzvah, rather it is part of the mitzvah to carry out the avodah in the Mikdash, since they cannot do so without wearing their bigdei kehuna. The Rambam holds that since the bigdei kehuna include shaatnez – he paskens like the opinion in the Gemara that even the avneit of the regular kohanim was made with shaatnez – the kohanim can only wear them when they are engaged in avodah.  They have to don their bigdei kehuna only at the last possible moment before they begin the avodah, and the moment they finish the avodah they have to immediately take them off.  That is shitas ha’Rambam.  Interestingly enough, the Rambam only seems to make an issue of this regarding regular kohanim.  At the end of Hilchos Kilayim (10:32) he only mentions the avneit.  But what about the choshen and the eifod of the Kohein Gadol, about which the pesukim says explicitly that they were comprised of shaatnez?! My grandfather told me an answer in the name of the Beis Ha’Levi.  The Rambam holds that the mitzvah of wearing bigdei kehuna for the Kohein Gadol is different than that of the regular kohanim.  For regular kohanim, it is only a mitzvah for them to wear their bigdei kehuna when they are actually involved in doing avodah.  When it comes to the Kohein Gadol, though, any time he wears his eight vestments of kehuna gedola it is a kiyum mitzvah.  Similar to the mitzvah of tzitzis, that for as long as you wear them, it is a mitzvah.  Likewise the Kohein Gadol.  For him, as long as he wears his bigdei kehuna gedola, it is a mitzvah; and that mitzvah of course overcomes the issur of shaatnez.  It is possible, though, that even for the Kohein Gadol this mitzvah is limited to within the area that is defined as Mikdash, but in Medinah not.

According to this statement of the Beis Ha’Levi, the pesukim read extremely well.  Numerous times – when talking about the bigdei kehuna – the pasuk employs an expression of “bigdei ha’kodesh l’Aharon ha’kohein v’es bigdei vanav l’chahein, the sacred vestements for Aharon ha’kohein and the vestments of his sons to serve as kohanim.”  This expression is employed in Ki Sisah 31:10, Vayakheil 35:19, and Pekudei 39:41. Clearly, the pasuk is distinguishing between the function of the vestments of Aharon versus those of his sons.  When it comes to his sons – who are of course regular kohanim – the vestments are strictly for the purpose of l’chahein, which means to make them suitable to act as kohanim, to carry out the avodah.  Regarding Aharon, though, it just says that his vestments are for him, thus implying that his mitzvah of wearing his vestments is not limited only to the purpose of him performing avodah.


4 – Zachor, Agag’s Execution

Right before Shmuel Ha’Navi executed Agag, the king of Amalek, he declared, “Just as your sword made women barren [of their children], so too will your mother become barren [of you]!” The Brisker Rav posed the following question: why did Shmuel have to give that reason for executing Agag? After all, Agag is from Amalek, and there is a mitzvah to wipe out Amalek?! So why didn’t he just say, “I am hereby going to fulfill the mitzvah of wiping out Amalek”?! This can be understood, explained the Brisker Rav, according to the opinion that holds the mitzvah of wiping out Amalek is only through waging an official war (see, for example, the comments of the Minchas Chinuch, mitzvah 604). By the time Shmuel was confronted with the presence of Agag, the war was long over and Agag was languishing as a prisoner. As such, there was no imperative to execute Agag insofar as the mitzvah of wiping out Amalek is concerned. That is why Shmuel declared that Agag deserved to die, regardless, for all the heinous crimes he had committed over the course of his evil rule. (From Reb Matis Feld)


5 – The Essence of Purim

As we all know, there is a tremendous amount of excitement on Purim.  It is supposed to be totally for kedusha and in a manner that 100% conforms to Torah mandate.  Alas, the reality on the ground is often anything but.  The instances of undesirable and sometimes even tragic occurences – both spiritual and physical – runs the gamut.  This fact forces us to wonder.  Chazal decreed that shofar is not blown when Rosh Ha’Shana falls out on Shabbos.  Likewise, the mitzvah of dalet minim is suspended on Shabbos.  Why?  Simply because we are concerned that someone may come to carry them through a public domain and thus violate Shabbos.  Because of the potential of someone being nichshal – albeit not all that likely – Chazal cancelled these mitzvos.  Why, then, did they not nullify Purim?  Seeing that Purim – which is only m’d’Rabbanan, as opposed to shofar and dalet minim – carries potential for the occurrence of serious problems, why did Chazal not see fit to annul it?

By the second set of luchos, Rashi explains that “there is nothing better than modesty.  Because the first luchos were given amidst a tremendous amount of drama, commotion, and excitement, it was susceptible to ayin hara and ended in disaster.  The second luchos, on the other hand, were given under conditions of quietude and modesty and lasted.”  The question, though, is this: what was the whole purpose of the gigantic to-do of the first luchos?  Hashem obviously knew the lesson of “there is nothing better than modesty” even before the debacle of the eigel ha’zahav, so why didn’t he just do it in the quiet, modest manner right from the get-go?

What we can derive from this is that the great commotion and excitement, the kolos u’brakim was an absolute necessity.  When Torah comes into the world, it comes in with brilliant lightning bolts and crashing thunder.  This is what makes an enduring imprint on the entire creation – which stood in absolute stillness and attentive silence when Hashem appeared to His nation – that Torah has come down to this realm.  Likewise, it is what engraved the eternal impression of Torah on the hearts of the Jewish People and caused it to be absorbed into their very lifeblood.  Although the first luchos did not manage to endure because of the ayin hara that the great to-do brought about, the indescribably powerful impression that came along with them – which is critical for Torah’s perseverance – endures forever.

The underlying, fundamental characteristic of Purim is the hadar kibluha b’ahavah, the willing reacceptance of Torah – specifically Torah sheh’b’al peh – with great love and desire.  The exterior manifestation of this kabbalas ha’Torah of Purim is the great and eminently public commotion of the spectacular salvation of the Jewish People to which the whole world bore amazed witness.  This fantastic drama and fireworks is only fitting for a kabbalas ha’Torah.  Nevertheless, the reacceptance of Torah itself that occurred on Purim was completely quiet and modest.  It was hidden.  The whole world had no idea that Klal Yisrael reaccepted the Torah with love.  It was Klal Yisrael – in the private sanctum of their hearts – that took advantage of the Purim miracle’s thunder and lightning to lovingly reaccept the Torah in a way that it would remain forever engraved on their hearts. So too is it for all generations.  The great commotion that takes place outside on Purim day is what enables each ben Torah to experience the powerful impression of Purim which empowers him to reaccept the Torah with great love.

What is further fascinating about all this is the day that was chosen to be the Yomtov of Purim for all generations.  It was not on the day that the miracle of salvation took place – which was on the day before Purim – it was the day of menucha, when Klal Yisrael rested following their victory over their enemies.  This, in stark contrast to all other Yamim Tovim that were instituted on the day that the miracle thereof took place! The reason for this, explained my rebbi Rav Yisrael Elya Weintraub, is that the miraculous salvation is not the main thing we are commemorating and celebrating on Purim.  Rather it is the hadar kibluha b’ahavah, the loving reacceptance of Torah that is the primary cause for celebration and joy; and this took place specifically from within the state of menucha that Klal Yisrael experienced the day following their divinely orchestrated victory. During their day of menucha – which parallels the menucha of Shabbos and is thus a taste of Olam Ha’Bah – when they were able to contemplate all that had happened and fully absorb its implications, they became so inspired by the miracle they had experienced that they were moved to reaccept the Torah with such powerful love and yearning.  This, explained Rav Weintraub, is the essence of Purim and is why Chazal instituted it specifically on this day. (From notes of Rav Twersky zt”l and notes of a talmid) -------------------------

6 – V’nahafoch Hu

The underlying meaning of v’nahafoch hu is that what initially is perceived as a cause is really an effect, and what seems to be an effect is really the cause. Haman was hanged on the 17th day of Nissan (see Rashi on Megillas Esther 4:17).  Yet, Mordechai waited until the 23rd of Sivan to send the new royal missives throughout the kingdom (8:9).  Why?  Why not send the new letters immediately?  The Gra explains that one of the reasons for this delay was so that Klal Yisrael would daven for a total of seventy days, corresponding to the seventy years of galus Bavel, the end of which they were at (pirush Ha’Gra, Megillas Esther 8:9). This comment of the Gra, if you really think about it, is astounding in its implications! Essentially, Haman’s demise meant the nullification of the death threat on Klal Yisrael.  Nevertheless, Mordechai wanted them to think that they were still in mortal danger so that they would daven from the depths of their hearts, pouring out their souls to the Ribbono shel Olam.  Seventy days of this highest level of teffilah was necessary.

There were two facets to this necessity of seventy days of teffilah.  The Gra says that each day of teffila corresponded to one of the years of galus Bavel.  During those years, there was no avodah in the Beis Ha’Mikdash.  Teffilah is called avodah sheh’b’leiv, and it functions as a stand-in for avodas ha’korbanos.  The seventy days of teffilah was necessary to make up for the lack of avodah in the Beis Ha’Mikdash for seventy years.  Yom la’shana.  Furthermore, the implication of the Gra’s words is that they needed the zechus of this teffilah in order to leave galus Bavel, return to Eretz Yisrael, and rebuild the Beis Ha’Mikdash. It stands to reason, then, that it was for the sake of these seventy days of teffilah that the whole gezeirah of Haman had to happen.  V’nahafoch hu!  What at first appears to be a circumstantial, ancillary effect of the events that took place – namely, the teshuva and teffilah of Klal Yisrael in their time of tzarah – was actually the whole cause and reason for all of the events of Purim to begin with!

Another result of the events of Purim was the hadar kibluha b’ahava (Shabbos 88a). Because Klal Yisrael was so inspired by the miracle that Hashem did for them, they reaccepted the Torah with love (Rashi ibid).  Once again, this would seem to be an incidental effect of the events that took place.  In truth, though, this was a root cause of all the events of Purim. There is a famous statement of the Pirkei Heichalos that during the time period of the second Beis Ha’Mikdash, Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu opened up the gates of wisdom.  The primary manner in which this was manifest was throught the development of Torah sheh’b’al peh.  It was specifically during the period of Bayis Sheini that the full depth and power of Torah sheh’b’al peh emerged and came to the fore. However, there was a serious problem.  At Matan Torah, Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu suspended Har Sinai over Klal Yisrael like a barrel and told them, “If you accept the Torah, great; and if not, your burial place will be right where you are.”  Therefore, there was a potential for a modaah rabah l’Oraysah – that Klal Yisrael could claim their acceptance is not truly binding since there was a significant element of coercion involved (Shabbos 88a).

But what, you may ask, with naaseh v’nishma – that Klal Yisrael willingly initiated full acceptance of the Torah?  The Medrash Tanchuma on parshas Noach says that Klal Yisrael’s declaration of naaseh v’nishma was in reference to Torah sheh’b’ksav, and the kafah aleihim har k’gigis was for Torah sheh’b’al peh.  Torah sheh’b’al peh is the part of Torah that demands one to put forth great exertion and toil.  When one begins a sugya, he is in the dark.  It is the part of Torah that requires the most of a person.  That is why they needed to be coerced, to a certain degree, to accept it. Now, at the close of galus Bavel, the tekufa of Bayis Sheini is about to commence.  The time period which will mark the seminal development of the chochma of Torah sheh’b’al peh.  But that cannot happen so long as the modaah rabah l’Oraysah is still around.  Chochma cannot be given to those who are not truly prepared to work on it.  It was absolutely necessary, therefore, that this modaah rabah be nullified.  This, then, is one of the major reasons that Purim had to happen.  V’nahafoch hu!  The hadar kibluha b’ahava is not an incidental effect of the Purim experience, it is a root cause.

Chazal tell us that Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu first puts the mechanism for salvation in place, and only subsequently brings about the tzarah.  Thus, Esther was firmly ensconced in the royal palace before Haman’s horrible decree was issued (Megilla 13b). But let’s think about this for a moment.  What caused Haman’s terrible ire to be roused to the point that he wanted to do away with all of the Jews?  Of course, it was the fact that Mordechai refused to bow to him.  Take note, though, of the following words of the pasuk: “And all the servants of the king that were stationed at the gate of the king would kneel and bow to Haman…and Mordechai would not kneel and he would not bow (3:2).”  It is clear from the pasuk that this requirement for everyone to bow to Haman was only for those stationed b’shaar ha’melech, by the king’s palace, and not in all 127 countries under the dominion of Achashveirosh.  As such, had Mordechai not been at the shaar ha’melech, the events of Purim would never have taken place!  And what brought Mordechai to find himself daily at the gate of the king’s palace?  Esther!  Because Esther was in the palace, Mordechai frequented there to keep as much of an eye on her as possible.  It emerges, then, that v’nahafoch hu: the refuah of Esther being in the palace was itself what caused the makah! (Audio recording) ----------------

7 – What Happened to the Music?!

The Megillah details, at great length, the accoutrements of the great party made by Achashverosh. A glaring omission seems to be the musical accompaniment. Certainly, at such a lavish ball there must have been plenty of fine music, no? If so, why does the Megillah not make any mention of it? The answer is that, really, we have no need to know about the details of that party. After all, why should it be significant? The details are mentioned only to indicate the many pleasures that the Jews of that time sinfully enjoyed. Since their illicit enjoyment was inextricably bound up with the terrible decree that almost befell them, the Megillah details at length what that aveirah entailed. Music, though, was not part of that aveirah. Why? Because music is not a pleasure of the body, but of the soul. And it is simply not possible for a Jewish neshamah to experience any enjoyment from non-Jewish music. Accordingly, that detail of the party remained irrelevant. (From Reb Ephraim Berger)

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