As part of the description of the Choshen, the Torah teaches that “you shall place the Urim Vetumim within the Choshen.” According to Rashi, the Urim Vetumim was a Divine Name placed between the folds of the Choshen. According to the Rambam the Urim Vetumim were in the stones of the Choshen itself.
Through the Urim Vetumim, the leader of Bnei Yisroel would be able to inquire of Hashem about matters of national concern. The name Urim Vetumim alludes to the fact that their words were illuminated (Or) and their words were precise or complete (Tam).
Our sages explain that the letters from the names of the Tribes would light up to spell out the answer. The Kohen would need Divine insight to be able to arrange the letters to decipher their meaning. This miraculous communication did not continue in the Second Beis Hamikdash.
The wordחשן (Choshen) shares the same letters as נחש (snake), the representation of evil and negativity in the world. Both words also share the same Gematria as משיח – Moshiach.
Golus was brought about by our sins and what is apparent is the reality of the snake. The Geulah and Moshiach, represented in the form of a Gematria, is ever-present within the world, but hidden so that we do not see it.
Tisha B’av can be viewed in the same way. We see the snake, as we mourn for the destruction of the Temple and our exile. But hidden within, Tisha B’av is the birth of Moshiach and the beginnings of the preparations for the Third Beis Hamikdash. The same is true in our personal moments of darkness as well.
Like the Urim Vetumim, we need to decipher and decode our perceived reality to see its true nature. Whether we see נחש or חשן – the snake or the Divine Spirit - is in our control. If we open our eyes, with light and precision, we can see the reality of Moshiach.
May we merit the immediate coming of Moshiach and the return of the Urim Vetumim together with all of the priestly garments, in the Beis Hamikdash Hashlishi.
~ Based on Sefer Halikutim entry Choshen, Likutei Sichos vol 11, p 133
One of the garments worn by both the Kohen Gadol and the regular Kohanim was an Avneit – a sash. The Avneit was 32 Amos (approx. 16 metres) long and was wrapped around and around the Kohen’s chest (heart).
Clothing, which surrounds the body from without, represents transcendent light (Ohr Makif). The body of the Kohen represents inner light (Ohr Penimi). The Avneit held the clothing of the Kohanim firmly around their body, representing the joining of the transcendent light to the inner light.
Chassidus discusses 5 different levels of the soul. The lower 3 are the conscious levels of the soul that are enclothed and manifest within our body; Nefesh – expressed in our actions, Ruach – expressed in our emotions and Neshama – the intellectual dimension. These are also called the inner Kochos (capabilities) of the soul.
The fourth level of the soul, Chaya, is transcendent (Makif), lying beyond our consciousness. It is expressed in Emunah and in a supra-logical desire of the soul for G-dliness.
The Makif experience is lofty, but detached. Chassidus illustrates this with the Talmudic example of a thief praying to Hashem for success in his robbery. Because his Emunah is transcendent, it is divorced from his conscious thinking and does not influence his actions; so, he can believe and steal at the same time.
We need to draw down the transcendent to pervade the conscious; to channel our Emunah and deep desire, into the inner levels of the soul.
Fusing two opposites requires a power that is greater than both of them. Beyond Makif, there is the ”Makif of the Makif”. This refers to the Yechida, the essential core of the soul. The essence is the essence of all levels of the soul; both conscious and transcendent. On this level, they are no longer opposites and can be united. This is the lofty source of the Avneit.
~ Based on Maamar Admor Hazaken 5572 and Sicha Vayakhel Pekudei 5750
The words קודש לי-ה-ו-ה – holy to Hashem - were engraved on the Tzitz. According to one opinion, the two words were written on one line, however the Halacha follows the opinion that the words were written over two lines; קודש ל – holy to – on the bottom and the Name י-ה-ו-ה (Havayah) above.
To be “holy to” represents our efforts to become holy to Hashem through Torah study, prayer and keeping of Mitzvos. In Kabbalah, this personal effort to lift ourselves upwards is referred to as Isarusa D’lesata, an awakening from below.
Our Isarusa D’lesata elicits a flow of G-dly energy, light and blessing from Above. This is referred to as Isarusa D’Leila, an awakening from Above. It is represented by the Divine Name, whose letters represent the process by which G-dly revelation flows into our world.
The view that Kodesh LaHashem was written on the same line, refers to an Isarusa D’leila that can be reached and accessed by our Isarusa D’lesata. This is the flow from Above that is caused by and directly commensurate with our personal efforts below.
But there is a higher level of Isarusa D’leila. This revelation comes from a level of G-dliness that far transcends the worlds and cannot be accessed or ‘caused’ through our actions. Our actions are merely the catalyst for this gift from Hashem. When we serve Hashem with the best of our (limited) abilities below, He rewards us with this infinite revelation.
The two levels of Isarusa D’leila correspond to two levels of the name י-ה-ו-ה discussed in Kabbalah. This is alluded to in the Torah by the two names Havayah Havayah written before the 13 Attributes of Mercy. These two names are separated by a Pesik (vertical line), illustrating how the higher Havayah is completely beyond.
The lower Havayah is the Name that is within the framework of the worlds. This is the Havayah that is “inline” with our actions to become “holy to”. As a gift, Hashem then rewards us with the supernal Havayah, the essential Name of Hashem that proceeded Creation, which sits above and beyond our actions.
~ Based on Or Hatorah Parshas Tetzaveh p1734
 Talmud Shabbos 63b
 Mishneh Torah laws of the Temple vessels 9:1-2
In Tanach, the forehead is used as a metaphor for the trait of brazenness. When Yirmiyahu rebukes the Jewish people for their idolatry, he tells them “you had the brazenness (מצח) of an immoral woman”. The word מצח literally means a forehead.
The commentaries explain that an uncovered forehead is a sign of brazenness and Chutzpah. Whereas a covered forehead is a sign of humility and modesty
Our sages teach that the Tzitz, which was worn was worn on the מצח – forehead of Aharon, atoned for the sin of brazenness. The sin of brazenness is that despite knowing better, one acts audaciously with disregard, doing as they wish.
The Tzitz covering the forehead is a sign of humility. The word Tzitz also means to gaze, representing a constant of awareness of the presence of Hashem. This awareness brings us to humility and surrender.
On a deeper level, brazenness, like all middos, can be positively used in the service of Hashem. This is the directive in Pirkei Avos to be עז -brazen - like a leopard… to do the will of your Father in Heaven. We do this by being undaunted and unashamed in the face of mockery or challenge to our faith and keeping of Torah and Mitzvos.
This is the hidden meaning in Moshe’s describing Bnei Yisroel as a stiff-necked people. Deep inside, every soul possesses an absolute, irrational and unyielding dedication to Hashem that we need to actualise.
The Tzitz is a reminder that we need to harness this holy brazenness, that our ‘forehead’ should be Kodesh LaHashem.
~ Based on Or Hatorah Parshas Tetzaveh p1756
 Yirmiyahu 3:3
 Metzudos Dovid
 Zevachim 88b, Shir Hashirim Rabbah 4:4
The Book of Shir Hashirim is a metaphor for the loving relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people. The verse teaches “the voice of my Beloved… He stands behind the wall, watching through the windows, peering through the cracks.” The word peering - מציץ - is related to the word ציץ - Tzitz. It is also related to the word ניצוץ, meaning a spark – a tiny glimmer of light.
Rabbi Eliezer teaches that from the day the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed, an iron wall separates the Jewish people from their Father in Heaven. Iron represents the forces of negativity. For this reason, iron tools could not be used on the Temple Mount when building the Beis Hamikdash. On the contrary, iron represents the nation of Edom – Rome – who destroyed the Beis Hamikdash.
Hashem loves us with an infinite love. When the Temple stood, this love shone openly and could be felt and seen by everyone. But our sins create a wall of separation that conceals this Divine revelation.
When we have thoughts of Teshuvah, these thoughts create small cracks in the iron wall of separation. We may not have the full revelation, but even in the darkness of Golus, through these cracks we can peer through and receive a small glimmer of this light.
The Tzitz, sitting over the forehead, represents our thoughts of Teshuvah, that break through the concealment; allowing a spark of this light to shine through and enabling us to peer through and catch a glimpse of our Beloved.
Our sages teach that the “voice of my beloved” is the voice of Moshiach, who will come when we do Teshuvah. With enough cracks, the walls of Golus and separation will crumble and we will merit to see the full revelation of our Beloved once more.
~ Based on Or Hatorah Parshas Tetzaveh p1732 onwards
 Shir Hashirm 2:8-9
 Brachos 32b
 Shir Hashirim Rabbah Parsha 2
 Rambam Hilchos Teshuvah 7:5
The Tzitz was a golden head-plate that was worn across the Kohen Gadol’s forehead from ear to ear. It was two fingerbreadths in height. Engraved on the Tzitz were the words Kodesh LaHashem – holy to Hashem.
The brain is the seat of the intellectual capabilities of our soul. We use these intellectual capabilities in Davening to meditate on the greatness of Hashem, His transcendence and the secret of His oneness. The objective of these meditations is to flow through to arouse feelings of love and fear of Hashem with which we pray.
With these meditation and emotions, we rise up beyond the world and attain a deep spiritual sense of yearning and connection. But unfortunately, we can’t stay there.
When we finish Davening and enter the challenges of the material world, the deep understandings and emotions that we experienced in our meditations, swiftly fade away. This is represented by the forehead, the bone which covers over the brain, represents a concealment over the intellect.
We might not be able to remain in the same state of deep understanding and feeling throughout the rest of our day. But we can make a firm resolve and commitment to conduct ourselves in accordance with the realisations that we attained during Davening and to keep it in the forefront of our minds.
This resolve is the represented Tzitz, which was worn constantly over the forehead, engraved with the words Kodesh LaHashem. It is the reminder throughout our day, long after we leave the protective cocoon of the Shule, that no matter where we are, we are “holy to Hashem” and are here in this world to serve Him wherever we are and in everything that we do.
~ Sefer Halikutim, Tzemach Tzedek entry Tzitz
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THE NOISY JEWThe hem of the Me’il was decorated with golden bells. The Torah teaches that the sound of these bells “would be heard when he enters the Holy Place before Hashem and when he leaves”.
Normally, the service of Hashem is associated with silence – as taught in the Book of Kings that Hashem is not found in the… the loud noise…, but rather in the soft still voice. So why was it necessary to have the noise of these bells accompany the Kohen Gadol as he came before Hashem?
When a person stands close to their friend they can communicate with a soft whisper. But when one finds themselves calling-out from afar, they need to raise their voice and shout.
The service of the Tzaddikim, who find themselves close to Hashem, is calm and quiet. They do not experience struggle and turbulence and they do not require any major self-transformation.
In contrast, the Baal Teshuvah finds themselves distant from Hashem. They must confront their struggles and challenges as they detach themselves from their former environment and experience, to draw close to Hashem. Their Avodah is a “noisy” one, as they go through a complete self-negation and transformation.
The noise of the bells represents these Baalei Teshuvah; the “noise” that comes from those who find themselves spiritually on the hem and yearn to rise upwards. When the Kohen Gadol entered the Holy, he did so on behalf of all of the Jewish people; not just the silent Tzaddikim, but also the noisy bells.
But on Yom Kippur, when he entered the Holy of Holies, the Kohen Gadol did not wear the golden garments, including the Me’il with its bells. The Holy of Holies is the essence of the soul. On Yom Kippur, the essence of every Jew is revealed. On this level, every Jew is not just close to Hashem, but united with Him in absolute oneness. Since there is no distance, there is no need for noise.
~ Based on Likutei Sichos volume 16 Tetzaveh 2
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In our previous posts we discussed the relationship between the Choshen and the Ephod and the names of Bnei Yisroel engraved on their different stones. In this post, we will extend the connection to a third garment – the Me’il
The Me’il was a robe made of blue wool. On its hem there were decorative adornments of golden bells and pomegranates created with coloured wool.
Specifically concerning these three garments, the Torah emphasises that the Kohen Gadol would wear them “before Hashem”;
The book of Tanya describes three categories of Jews; Tzaddikim – the perfectly righteous who have no desire for negativity, Beinonim – those who struggle with negative impulses but always manage to control themselves to do the right thing and Reshaim - those who succumb to their negative desires and have fallen spiritually.
The Choshen, worn in the front over the Kohen Gadol’s heart, represent the Tzaddikim, who serve Hashem with an inner service of feeling and desire. The Ephod, worn from behind, represents the service of the Beinoni, who still has spiritual struggles to contend with. The Shoham stones on the shoulders depict how the Beinoni’s main service is to control their actions.
The Reshaim are represented by the pomegranates on the hem of the Me’il. These are the Jews who appear lowly, hanging off the hem. Still, our sages teach that even the sinners amongst the Jewish people are full of Mitzvos like a pomegranate [is full of seeds].
Externally, in their spiritual standing, the Jews in each of these categories are worlds apart. But in their inner essence, ‘Before Hashem’, every Jew has an equal, inseparable connection and purity. As a leader and representative of the Jewish people, the Kohen Gadol’s job was to lift every Jew up and bring them ‘before Hashem’ and reveal their essential self.
Today is the Yartzheit of Aharon, the first Kohen Gadol to wear these garments. Aharon was known for his deep love for every individual. We can all reflect on this message: Instead of judging others based on how we view them, let’s try to see each person the way they are “before Hashem”.
~ Based on Likutei Sichos volume 21 Tetzaveh 2
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The names of the 12 Tribes were engraved on the Shoham (onyx) stones affixed to the shoulder straps of the Ephod. 6 names were written on each stone, as taught in the Torah; ששה משמותם על, “six of the names on [one stone]”. The division and spelling of the names ensured that there were exactly 25 letters on each stone.
The first letters of these words ששה משמותם על spell שמע - Shema. The verse Shema Yisroel has 25 letters. The two stones with 25 letters each, represent the two times each day that we are commanded to recite the Shema; once in the morning and once at night.
The stone on the right side corresponds to the attribute of Chessed. This represents the morning Shema which is recited at a time of light and revelation. The left stone corresponds to the attribute of Gevurah. This represents the evening Shema, recited at a time of concealment, darkness and challenge.
In the first verse of the Shema, we accept upon ourselves Hashem’s kingship and surrender ourselves to Him. Day and night also represent different phases in our lives.
When the sun shines on us and we experience physical and spiritual success, we feel secure and it is easy to forget about Hashem, as we attribute our success to our own doing. In our ‘daytime’ we need to say Shema, to humble ourselves and recognise the true source of our blessings.
Likewise, when we struggle with darkness and go through hard and challenging times, we feel down and alone. In this state it is hard to find motivation to serve Hashem. In our ‘night-time’ we need to say Shema, to realise that we are not alone and that Hashem is in control and there for us when we turn to Him.
This is the inner message of the two Shoham stones on the side of Chessed and the side of Gevurah. No matter what circumstances or stage of life that we find ourselves in, be it bright or dark, we are able to and need to say Shema, our connection to Hashem.
 Or Hatorah Tetzaveh p1667
The Zohar describes the relationship between the Choshen and the Ephod using the verseאחור וקדם צרתני, which can mean “You have fashioned me front and back.” The Ephod worn at the back and the Choshen worn at the front, represent 2 different pathways of serving Hashem. The difference between them is analogous to difference between the back of a person and their front.
When looking at someone face-to-face, we see animation and expression, which convey their emotions. In contrast, when looking at someone’s back, we cannot discern any emotion.
A face-to-face relationship with Hashem is one that is permeated with feeling and desire. The word for face (Panim), is related to the word Penim, meaning inner. This inner service is represented by the Choshen, which was worn at the front and over the heart, the seat of emotion.
A “back-sided” relationship with Hashem represents our service when we lack feeling. In Kabbalah, this Avodah is called Iskafia, compelling. When we are not inspired and we lack feeling, we must use our mind to dominate the heart, to compel ourselves to serve Hashem even when our heart is not in it. This service is represented by the Ephod.
These 2 pathways are the different services of Tzaddikim and Beinonim. The Tzaddik is constantly alight with fiery love and passion, always inspired to serve Hashem with an inner service. The Beinoni struggles with physical desires, dullness of heart and lack of inspiration which they must overcome to serve Hashem.
Even though one was worn at the back and the other over the heart, both the Choshen and Ephod are holy and both are integral parts of the Kohen Gadol’s clothing. If either were missing, his Temple service would be disqualified.
Hashem formed a unique few “front”, to serve Him without struggle and with inner feeling. Most of us He formed “back”, with inner battles that we need to confront and overcome. Neither Avodah is superior to the other, they are both holy garments and Hashem has Nachas from both, as long as we apply ourselves to the service that He has destined for us.
In our next few posts, we will focus on two of the garments of the Kohen Gadol; the Ephod and the Choshen and the relationship between them.
The Ephod was a type of apron that was worn from behind and would drape down to the heels of the Kohen Gadol. On the shoulder straps there were two Shoham (onyx) stones on which were engraved the names of the 12 Tribes, 6 names on each stone.
The Choshen was a woven breastplate that the Kohen Gadol wore above his heart. It had 12 different precious stones set in golden settings, with the name of one of the 12 Tribes on each stone.
The Choshen was tied to the Ephod with Techeiles-wool threads and the Torah gives an explicit warning (and prohibition) “and the Choshen shall not be detached from the Ephod”.
Worn from behind and extending down to the ankles, the Ephod represents the lowest and most mundane aspects of our lives and the lowest and most external levels of our psyche. The Choshen, worn over the heart, represents the loftiest levels of the soul. The two encompass our entire being, from our greatest spiritual qualities to our most basic functions.
The Torah’s prohibition teaches us that we need to make sure that the two are constantly secured together, uniting these two extremities of our lives.
Our lofty G-dly feelings should not only be channelled into our spiritual activities of prayer and study. We need to make sure that everything that we do, even our most mundane, is permeated with the influence and inspiration from the deepest levels of our souls.
~ Based on Sicha Adar 21, 5748
Dedicated לע"נ ר' דוד בן יוסף – In loving memory of Zaidie Ainsworth
The Torah describes the function of the Kohen Gadol’s clothing as לכבוד ולתפראת, literally “for honour and beauty”. In Chassidus, the word Kavod (honour) is associated with the Sefira of Malchus and Tiferes (beauty) is associated with the Sefira known as Tiferes.
What is significant about these Sefiros and how are they reflected in the Priestly garments?
In our last post, we discussed the 2 categories of clothing of the Kohen Gadol; white garments and gold garments.
The colour white is associated with the Sefira of Chessed, so the white garments represent the attribute of Chessed, loving kindness. The golden garments represent the Sefira of Gevurah, discipline and restraint. The Torah teaches that gold is found in the north, which corresponds to the left side, Gevurah.
A single, stark colour is not beautiful. Beauty is created through the synthesis and blending of different colours together in the right balance. So too, a single Sefira; either Chessed or Gevurah on its own, is not beautiful. Beauty is found in the Sefira of Tiferes which blends together a balance of Chessed and Gevurah.
In a similar way, the Sefira of Malchus receives from all of the Sefiros and brings their energies together.
By wearing the white garments (Chessed) and gold garments (Gevurah) simultaneously, the Kohen Gadol’s clothing are both לכבוד (Malchus) and לתפארת (beauty).
On a basic level, the message is that a single homogeneity, where we all must think and be the same is not beautiful. Like a tapestry, the beauty of our people and communities is when we bring our diversity and unique qualities together.
The lesson also plays out in our relationships. An approach of pure Chessed - indiscriminate giving, openness and tolerance without expectation and rules, is not beautiful. Too much rigidity and discipline without empathy and compassion is also not beautiful.
Like the Kohen Gadol, we need to mix the two together, allowing them to temper one another, to create a balance that is both honourable and beautiful.
The 8 items of clothing worn by the Kohen Gadol are divided into 2 categories;
Bigdei Zahav: 4 coloured garments that had gold in them; the Tzitz (head-plate), Ephod (apron), Choshen (breast-plate) and Me’il (robe).
Bigdei Lavan: - 4 garments of white linen; the Mitznefes (turban), Kesones (tunic), Michnasayim (breeches) and Avneit (sash).
The Ariza”l explains that the 4 white garments correspond to the 4 letters of the Name י-ה-ו-ה, which represents G-dliness that is beyond the worlds. The 4 golden garments correspond to the 4 letters of the name אדנ-י, representing the concealment of G-dliness within the veil of nature.
Wearing the combination of the 2 sets of garments reflects how the transcendent light of י-ה-ו-ה is enclothed and hidden within אדנ-י.
The Kohen Gadol wore these 8 garments every day of the year. But on Yom Kippur, when entering the Holy of Holies, the Kohen Gadol only wore 4 white linen garments, representing a pure revelation of transcendent G-dliness that is not hidden within nature.
Our day-to-day Avodah is to engage with the world through our physical activities, to draw down G-dliness. This is like wearing the combination of the gold and white garments.
But from time-to-time, we need the Yom Kippur experience; moments of spiritual elevation and inspiration where we rise completely beyond physicality, like Yom Kippur when we fast, negating our body as we ascend into the Holy of Holies of our souls. This gives us the strength to come back into the world to uplift it.
On a daily level, this is when we enter the Holy of Holies of prayer, where we rise above the world to connect with our soul. Once we have connected Above, we can put on the golden garments as we set out to bring this connection into the world and every aspect of our daily life.
In yesterday’s post, we discussed how the Bigdei Kehuna are “garments of light” which reveal G-dliness. In truth, every garment creates some degree of concealment. So why are they called “garments of light” and why were they needed in the Beis Hamikdash which was a place of revelation?
In Chassidus, garments illustrate the paradox that it is necessary to conceal in order to reveal.
Light that is too intense cannot be received in a meaningful way. Its intensity will overwhelm the receiver and remain inaccessible in their experience. To be ‘revealed’ within their reality, it is necessary to veil or filter the intensity of the light.
An opaque curtain, like the “garments of skin”, blocks out the light entirely. But a sheer curtain allows the light through. With the subtle layer of concealment, the light becomes useable and can be of benefit to the recipient. This is the function of the “garments of light” – concealment for the purpose of meaningful revelation.
In Chassidus, the Kohen Gadol represents the lofty level of Ahava Rabbah, an intense revelation of G-dliness that is completely beyond the worlds. In order for this light to be drawn down and manifest within the worlds, it needs to be enclothed within garments – the Bigdei Kodesh that the Kohen would cover himself with.
In our interactions and relationships with others, we also need garments.
Sometimes in our desire to share, we may be too intense and overwhelm those around us by not giving them enough space or consideration. We may come across too strong in our opinions. Or we may share our emotions too intensely, smothering the other with our love and closeness.
Before we share our inner self with someone else, we need to think about it from their experience; how it will be received in the most meaningful way – for them.
If we ‘hide’ ourselves too much, it defeats the objective; a concealment that conceals. But a considered level of toning down will ensure that our desire to give, is meaningfully received; a concealment that reveals.
Clothing was first introduced after the sin of the Tree of Knowledge, when Adam and Chava realised they were unclothed and Hashem made them כתנות עור, “garments of skin”. The Midrash teaches that in the Torah of Rabbi Meir these words are written as כתנות אור (with an Alef), meaning “garments of light”.
Chassidus explains that both are true. Before the sin they had “garments of light”. After the sin they were replaced with “garments of skin”.
Before the sin, physicality did not conceal G-dliness and the physical body did not hide the light of the Neshama. This is like the translucent “garments of light” that allow light and holiness to shine through. As a result of the sin, physicality became corrupted so that it became oppositional and concealed G-dliness. This is the opaque “garments of skin”.
The Beis Hamikdash was a microcosm of Gan Eden, a place where G-dliness was openly manifest and physicality itself radiated holiness. In this space, the garments of the Kohanim are called Bigdei Kodesh, holy garments that reveal holiness like the “garments of light”.
Tanya teaches that our thoughts, speech and actions are like garments. The thoughts, speech and action that express our Animalistic Soul are “garments of skin”, which hide the light of our Neshama and bring further concealment to the world.
When we serve Hashem with the thoughts, speech and action of Torah and Mitzvos which express our G-dly soul, we are like the Kohanim serving in the Beis Hamikdash. These are Bigdei Kodesh, “garments of light” that enable our Neshama to shine forth.
With these ‘garments’ we also refine the physicality of the world, bringing it one step closer to Moshiach when once again physicality will reveal G-dliness, just as it did in Gan Eden and in the Beis Hamikdash.
One of the steps in the order of the morning Tamid was Hatavas Haneiros. According to the Rambam, this refers to the lighting of the Menorah. Other authorities maintain that the Menorah was only lit in the afternoon. The Hatavas Haneiros in the morning was the cleaning and preparing of the Menorah with new wicks and oil to be lit in the evening.
When the Menorah was prepared or kindled, not all seven lamps were done at once. The Kohen who was tasked with preparing or lighting the Menorah would do five of the lights. A different Avodah would be performed and then the Kohen would complete the remaining two candles.
According to the sages, the Avodah that made the separation was the offering of the Ketores.
In Chassidus, Ketores represents the essence of the soul and its desire for and oneness with Hashem. With this desire, the Neshama seeks to transcend the world and cleave to Hashem.
The Menorah reflects the conscious levels of the soul, which are very much within the world. The seven branches represent the seven Middos, the emotions of the soul.
These emotions are divided into two groups; the first five Middos are the primary emotions of the Neshama for its own Avodah. The final two, Yesod and Malchus refer to the soul’s ability to interact with and influence the world around it.
The ultimate objective is that the experience of oneness (the Ketores) not remain detached from the world and isolated in moments of spiritual upliftment.
We need to permeate our conscious day-to-day living (the Menorah) with the absolute awareness, connection and surrender to Hashem of the soul’s essence; not only in the holy activities of our lives (the five Middos) but also in our day-to-day worldly involvements as well (the final two Middos).
The sheep for the Tamid offering would be Shechted in the northern side of the Azarah. A Kohen had to collect its blood in a sanctified vessel and carry it to the Mizbeach. The blood would be applied to the north-east and south-west corners of the Mizbeach and the remaining blood would be poured on the base.
On a personal level, sacrifices represent the refining and elevating of our animalistic side, which is the source of our selfish drives, negative emotions and the pursuit of physical gratification.
The lifeforce (Nefesh) of the animal is its blood - כי הדם הוא הנפש. In addition to meaning soul, Nefesh can also mean desire. The boiling blood represents the Animalistic soul’s passionate desires for materialism.
The Animalistic soul itself is not intrinsically bad. Its strong desires can be harnessed and redirected in a positive way towards G-dliness. Through this we fulfil the directive of the Shema as explained by the sages, to love Hashem with both of our inclinations.
Draining the blood from the animal represents removing our passion and excitement from its expression in selfish, material desires.
Pouring the blood on the Mizbeach teaches us that our passionate desire and enthusiasm can and should be channelled towards the service of Hashem.
In the Midrash, the sages debate which verse encapsulates the essence of the Torah. Ben Zoma teaches that it is the verse _Shema Yisrael_, which proclaims Hashem as King and declares His oneness. Ben Nanas (and elsewhere Rabbi Akiva) teach that it is the verse ואהבת לרעך כמוך – to love your fellow as yourself.
Rabbi Shimon ben Pazi says that it is the verse את הכבש האחד תעשה בבוקר “the first lamb you shall sacrifice in the morning and the second lamb you shall sacrifice in the evening.” The Midrash concludes that Rabbi Ploni said that the Halacha accords with ben Pazi.
Seemingly, the verses of _Shema Yisrael_ and _Veahavta_ embody beliefs which are more central. Why does the Midrash consider a verse discussing the daily Temple sacrifices to be more fundamental?
The Mahara”l explains that the uniqueness of this verse is that it expresses the idea of consistency in the service of Hashem, like a dedicated and faithful servant
This is why the daily sacrifice was called the Tamid, meaning constant – an offering in the morning and an offering in the evening, day-in, day-out without change. Whether it was Shabbos, Yomim Tovim, Yom Kippur or a regular weekday, the Tamid was brought without fail.
The glue that builds solid relationships is not the moments of ecstasy and passion. Rather it is the small daily expressions of loyalty and dependability done with consistency. The same is true in our relationship with Hashem.
The message of the Tamid is that above all, Hashem wants our simple, consistent, daily acts, performed with discipline and dedication, which communicate “I am always thinking of You”.
In the next stage of the Avodah, the Kohanim would arrange the pyres on top of the Mizbeach, including the large pyre for the sacrifices and the smaller pyre for the incense. In addition, 2 blocks of wood would be placed on the main fire each morning, referred to as the Shnei Gizrei Eitzim.
Our sages tell us that fireball would fall from Heaven onto the altar to consume the Korbanos. Nonetheless, it was still a Mitzvah to place wood on the Mizbeach each day, to fuel the fire in a natural way, through earthly, human effort.
The same is true in maintaining the love that the Neshama has for Hashem. Love is like a fire. The flames of passion burn with intensity. But if not maintained, the flames eventually die down and the fire will go out.
Our relationship with Hashem has ‘fireball’ moments. We become inspired on the Yomim Tovim and Yomim Noraim. We may experience a personal awakening from Above where we feel connected and Hashem draws us close, through little or no effort of our own. This love comes to us as a gift from Heaven.
But to keep our love burning, we can’t rely only on these fireball moments to do the trick. Hashem wants us to feeding the fire on a daily basis through our own earthly efforts. We do this in study and prayer, by using our own minds and hearts to meditate on Hashem’s greatness and try to connect to Him and sense His presence.
The earthly fire, fuelled by the wood each day was the magnet that elicited the fireball from Heaven. When we try to cultivate and develop our love for Hashem through our own efforts, the fire from below, Hashem will respond with a powerful revelation of His presence within our lives with His fire from above.
Before removing the excess ashes from the Mizbeach and taking them outside of the camp, the Torah teaches “he shall remove his garments and put on other garments”. The Kohen would have to change his clothing, to prevent his Priestly robes becoming soiled.
Even though the removal of the ashes was also a necessary part of the Temple service, it could not be compared to the actual Avodah that was performed inside the Beis Hamikdash. To highlight this, a more inferior set of clothing was worn for removing the ashes.
Rashi illustrates this with a parable; the clothing worn by a servant when cooking for their master, should not be worn when pouring the master’s drink.
Cooking the meal is a necessary preparation to be able to serve the meal, but the cooking is merely a means to reach the ultimate objective, to serve the meal and honour one’s master with it. The removal of the ashes was a necessary preparation, to create space to serve Hashem with the new offerings.
In yesterday’s post, we explained that the removal of the ashes represents our inner work to confront and remove our negative issues and baggage. Our sages teach that a person should only start to pray having experienced a sense of contrition.
But this should only be a preparation to make space for a deeper emotional experience. Once we start the Avodah of davening itself, we must push away this sense of contrition and daven from a place of true joy and love.
Like the Kohen removing the ashes, we don’t want our dealing with negative baggage to sully us, so we must ‘put on other garments’. But after we’ve removed our ashes, we divest ourselves of these ‘garments’, pushing away all association with the negative, to honour our Master with the fresh, clean garments of joy and positivity.
The first Avodah that was done each day in the Beis Hamikdash was Terumas Hadeshen.
One of the Kohanim, selected by a lottery, would go up onto the Mizbeach and take a panful of ashes. He would bring the ashes down the ramp and place them on the side of the Mizbeach, where it would become absorbed on the floor of the courtyard.
In addition to the Terumas Hadeshen, the Kohanim would remove the excess ashes from on top of the Mizbeach. These ashes would be taken to a designated place outside of the camp.
The ashes are the residual that remains after the Korbanos have been burned. The choice parts of the Korban would burn and ascend on High. The ashes that remain are the Pesoles, the ‘waste’ that remains below.
There are two types of Pesoles. One type cannot be elevated and we must distance it completely and remove it from our camp. The other type of Pesoles has some good quality in it that can be refined, elevated and incorporated into the side of Holiness.
In Avodah, these two types of Pesoles are Merirus and Atzvus; bitterness and depression.
One has to serve Hashem with joy. Therefore, both Merirus and Atzvus, being negative emotions, are considered as Pesoles; undesirable states of mind.
But there is a difference between them. Merirus is feeling bad about one’s self and spiritual standing in a way that leads to resolve to change and active steps to grow. There is a positive element within Merirus that ultimately leads a person back to Simcha.
Atzvus – depression, is an overwhelming feeling of lowness that leads to despondency and giving up.
Merirus, like the ashes placed by the side of the Mizbeach that remain within the Azarah, can be elevated and used as a tool in our service of Hashem. Atzvus, like the ashes that were taken out of the camp, must be removed entirely from our experience.
~ Based on Maamarim Kuntreisim volume 1 page 545
When the Beis Hamikdash stood, the central focus of the service of Hashem revolved around the sacrifices that were offered by the Kohanim.
Even though the Temple no longer stands, it does not mean that we no longer have the Avodah of Korbanos.
Our sages teach that whoever occupies themselves in the Torah-study of the sacrifices, it is considered as though they have offered those sacrifices. And our daily prayers were enacted in place of the Korbanos.
In our morning Davening, as we read the description of the daily Tamid offering, we quote the Posuk ונשלמה פרים שפתינו “We will repay the bulls (of the sacrifices) with our lips”, alluding to how our words of prayer are in place of the sacrifices.
The word ונשלמה can also mean to complete. This suggests that there is an advantage in our prayers and Torah study about the Korbanos, which completes a deficiency in the actual Korbanos.
The physical observance of the sacrifices was limited - in time, place and soul. They could only be performed in the Beis Hamikdash, at specific times and by the Kohanim alone. But the study of Torah transcends all of these limitations.
Every Mitzvah is eternal. Those Mitzvos that we can no longer observe physically, can be observed spiritually, through the inner lessons that they teach us. Over the next 3 weeks, we will be exploring the inner lessons from the various elements of the daily order of the sacrifices.
May our learning about the Avodah of the Beis Hamikdash and applying these lessons to our daily lives be considered as though we have offered Korbanos to Hashem. And may this hasten the restoration of the Beis Hamikdash and the daily Avodah once more.
The sacrificial altar in the Mishkan was very different to the Mizbeach in the Beis Hamikdash.
In the desert, the Mizbeach was constructed as a hollow shell built out of acacia wood. The wood was covered with copper-plate.
The Torah says that the Mizbeach had to be made as a מזבח אדמה, an altar made of earth. How did the Mizbeach in the Mishkan meet this criterion?
At each place that Bnei Yisroel camped the hollow of the Mizbeach would be filled with earth. So, the Mizbeach had dust on the inside and copper on the outside.
In one of the prophesies of Yishayahu, Hashem says about the Jewish peopleמדעתי כי קשה אתה וגיד ברזל ערפך ומצחך נחושה – “I know how stubborn you are, that your neck is like an iron sinew and your forehead is like copper”.
A copper forehead is a metaphor for brazenness – ones holds their head up strong and does not show shame or humility. Rashi explains that the Mizbeach was covered in copper to atone for the sin of brazenness.
But like all Middos, the Middah of brazenness can also be used in a holy sense. It represents being strong in one’s service of Hashem and to not be embarrassed from those who mock at us.
Like the copper coating this brazenness should only be an outward and external show. On the inside, we need to be filled with earth, reflective of humility, as we say in our daily Shemoneh Esrei “let my soul be like dust before all”.
~ Based on Reshimos booklet 108
When the Kohen entered the Kodesh to clean the Menorah in the morning, he would find the 2 eastern lamps still alight. They would be left to burn throughout the day. In the evening all 7 lamps would be lit and would burn through the night.
In our previous post, we explained that 7 branches of the Menorah represent the 7 emotional drives of the soul, which parallel the 7 Divine energies of the Sefiros.
In Tehillim, Hashem’s presence is likened to the sun. Daytime represents a state where Hashem’s presence is openly revealed. We experience illumination and the physicality of the world does not create any concealment.
Night represents spiritual darkness, when we do not perceive G-dliness. We grope around in confusion and we suffer the challenges presented by the material world.
To remain strong in a night-time state, we need the light of all 7 candles – to actively engage with and illuminate each aspect of our soul. For example, it is not enough to just fulfil the Mitzvos with love (Chessed). One also needs to have a feeling of awe (Gevurah) to keep them from sin. The same is true for each of the 7 Middos.
When we experience spiritual daytime, the light of the 6th candle suffices. Because Hashem’s presence is revealed, all we need is to reveal Yesod - our deep connection to Hashem. This connection will be enough to influence all of the other dimensions of our psyche.
But the prerequisite to attaining Yesod is Malchus - humility and surrender to Hashem. And so, when the sun of Hashem shines in our lives, these 2 candles are all that we need.
~ Based on Reshimas Hamenorah, Torah Or 29a
The Talmud teaches that Hashem did not ‘need’ the light of the Menorah. Rather, the light of the Menorah served as a testimony to the entire world that Hashem’s presence rests amongst the Jewish people.
More specifically, the testimony was the miraculous ‘western lamp’ (נר מערבי). The other candles of the Menorah only burned through the night. Even though the ‘western lamp’ contained the same amount of oil, it would burn through the day as well. The Kohen would use it to light the other candles that evening.
According to the view that the Menorah stood facing from east to west, it would seem that the ‘western lamp’ refers to the western-most lamp; the one closest to the Holy of Holies.
However, the commentaries explain that the ‘western lamp’ was actually the 2nd lamp from the East. It is called the ‘western lamp’ because it was the first lamp towards the West.
The 7 branches of the Menorah represent the 7 emotional drives of the soul, which parallel the 7 Divine energies of the Sefiros. These give rise to 7 different ways in which we serve Hashem; love (Chessed), discipline (Gevurah) etc.
The western-most flame corresponds to the first Sefira - Chessed (love and kindness). The 6th candle corresponds to the attribute of Yesod and the 7th candle corresponds to the attribute of Malchus. Yesod is Hiskashrus – a deep bonding and intimate connection with Hashem. Malchus is humility.
So, the unique ‘western lamp’ is Yesod. It is used to light the others because Yesod – a deep intimate connection with Hashem – is the source that ignites and leads to all of the other specific modes of serving Hashem.
The Torah describes this lamp as being ‘before Hashem’ (the Divine presence that rested in the Holy of Holies which was to the West). This is because the intimate connection of Yesod places us face-to-face before Hashem.
But the 6th lamp is only the ‘western lamp’ because it sits to the west of the 7th flame. Whilst the primary aspect of serving Hashem is our Hiskashrus, one cannot attain this deep connection (Yesod) without first having humility (Malchus).
~ Based on Reshimas Hamenorah and Igros Kodesh Volume 3 p229