Hadrash Ve-Haiyun
Dor Revi'i

Torah Insights on the Weekly Parsha
by Efraim Levine

The Reisha Rav
HaGoan R' Aaron Levine zt"l
Author of
Hadrash Ve-Haiyan


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They shall make the ephod of gold, turquoise, scarlet wool and twisted linen with a woven design. (Shemos 28:6)

With regard to the construction of the various appurtenances of the mishkan, the Torah formulates it instruction in the singular: “you shall make.” The only exception is the instruction regarding the aron, whose command is given in the plural “and they shall make” (Shemos 25:10). The commentators explain that the Torah conveys with this change of expression that with regard to the study and support of Torah, which is represented by the aron, no individual may excuse himself by claiming that others can fill the need. Every individual has his unique obligation that cannot be fulfilled by others.

With this idea in mind we may similarly ask, why here in parshas tetzaveh does the Torah command with regard to all the vestments “and you shall make,” in the singular, yet with regard to the ephod the Torah commands “and they shall make” in the plural. What is special about the ephod that the Torah specifies that all have a portion in its fashioning?

In attempt to answer this question, let us review a popular thought from parshas ki sisa. Moshe requested Hashem that he be allowed to see His Honor. Hashem replied that He would not show His face but only His back (Shemos 33:18-23). The commentators homiletically explain the dialogue as follows: Moshe requested of Hashem a profound understanding into the workings His conduct in relation to this world. Hashem replied that it is impossible for a human being to understand His actions as they occur. Only in retrospect can one contemplate and understand. This idea is captured with the precise words of the posuk. The words “my face that you may not see” is symbolic of the present and future. However, the words “my back that you may see” is symbolic of the past.

From this passage we may derive the concept that the front of the body represents the present and future whereas the back represents the past.

The commentators explain that the kohen gadol was a microcosm of the spiritual talents and potential of the Jewish people. The various vestments that cover the different sections of his body represent the beautification and glorification of different qualities.

It is noteworthy that according to Rashi the ephod was a garment that was fashioned to cover the back of the kohen gadol’s body. We may now understand the difference in expression between the ephod and the other vestments. Only with regard to the garments that were worn on the front of the kohen gadol did the Torah command that they be fashioned in the singular because they represent the ability to deal with the present and prepare for the future. This power is limited to select individuals who are gifted with Divine insight and assistance in dealing with the present and preparing for the future. The ephod, which covered the back of the kohen gadol represents the beautification, glorification and preservation of the Jewish people’s spiritual past. Preserving and glorifying past spiritual accomplishments does not require special talent, thus every individual is required to participate.

Thus we may conclude that every individual is expected to preserve his past spiritual attainments. However, with regard to present challenges and the future one should seek the spiritual guidance from his leaders.