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לימוד תורה

The breastplate, the heart and the law of Halacha

Parasha in our everyday life – Tetzave 5782

Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - Rosh Yeshivat Hesder 'Meir Harel' Modi'in

We have a hard time with opinions different from our own, in front of relatives; we have a hard time with different opinions from ours, in front of friends, and in public! We are sure we are right, and the whole truth is by our side, and are even able to reason why the second opinion is wrong and illogical! Most of the time it brings us to express our opinion, try to convince of its righteousness, and even argue. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we don't, and each one keeps his opinion. And then?! We go breaking stuff?! Or accept the fact that there are differences between us, and remind ourselves כִּי אֲנָשִׁים אַחִים אֲנָחְנוּ “for we are kin" (Bereshit 13:8), and embrace each other?!

It is especially difficult for us when it comes to disagreements in areas that are extremely important and even existential to us, the nation, and we are able to reason why the other opinion is clearly wrong, even harmful and sometimes dangerous. We express our opinions in different ways and try to convince ourselves of its righteousness. Sometimes we even go out on a personal or public struggle, with all our might, to tip the scales. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we do not, and the second opinion remains as it was. And then...?!

From our distant past we know incidents in which there were amongst us those who refused to embrace, who fought for their opinion; at that time, they felt they 'could no longer give up'. And 'it's about time the other side gives up'. And even led to civil war, havoc and destruction. And we even set aside fasting and soul-searching days for these. And we hope the lesson was learned.

However, in the month of Adar we also know from the distant past, events in which the leadership learned to include the diversity and managed to gather אֶת כָּל הַיְּהוּדִים "all the Jews", escaping the evil decree and turning the bowl upside down וְנַהֲפוֹךְ הוּא "the opposite happened" (Esther 9:1).

On Shabbat Parashat Tetzave, we read about the Mitzvah of making the priestly garments:

וכמו שהארון הוא ראש כלי הקדש. חשן המשפט הוא ראש בגדי הקדש. ובו היו האורים והתומים.

"And just as the Ark is the head of the sanctuary, The Choshen HaMishpat- חֹ֧שֶׁן הַמִּשְׁפָּט breastpiece of judgment, is the head of the holy garments. And in it were  האורים ואת התמיםThe Urim VeTummim". (Tzror HaMor on Torah Shmot 28:15)

In the breastplate are engraved, as one, twelve special precious stones, of different types and colors, bearing the names of the tribes of Israel, which the High Priest carries over his heart during his work:

וְנָשָׂ֣א אַ֠הֲרֹ֠ן אֶת־שְׁמ֨וֹת בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֜ל בְּחֹ֧שֶׁן הַמִּשְׁפָּ֛ט עַל־לִבּ֖וֹ בְּבֹא֣וֹ אֶל־הַקֹּ֑דֶשׁ לְזִכָּרֹ֥ן לִפְנֵֽי ה' תָּמִֽיד׃

"Aaron shall carry the names of the sons of Israel on the breastpiece of judgment over his heart, when he enters the sanctuary, for remembrance before Hashem at all times". (Shmot 28:29)

That heart that unites all the people of Israel; Am Israel should always be on his heart, and in his thoughts:

להתפלל עליהם. ובראות את שמות בני ישראל כתובים בחזה כתובים על לוח לבו. לא ישכחם בעבודתו ובתפלתו… וכן שנושא ומכפר עונם בעבודתו.

Pray for them. And seeing the names of Am Israel written in the chest on the tablet over his heart. He will not forget about them during his work and his prayer… and he will bear and atone for their punishment in his work”. (Tzror HaMor on Torah Shmot ibid)

For this reason, and as a central message of values, we chose our Yeshiva’s Parochet to have the breastplate embroidered and above it, this verse.

The High Priest must include the complexity: on the one hand, all together as one people, and on the other hand, each with its diversity as every stone by itself:

לכן נחרתו על החושן שמות בני ישראל להורות על אחדותם ע"י אהרון

That is why the names of Am Israel were engraved on the breastplate to command their unity by Aaron” (Malbim ibid)

The complexity of the Hoshen HaMishpat is especially evident in the field of jurisprudence and halacha:

שֶׁהַחֹשֶׁן מְכַפֵּר עַל מְעַוְּתֵי הַדִּין

“[and Aaron shall bear] The judgment of the people of Israel — the object by means of which they are judged and admonished whether they should do a particular thing or whether they should not do it. But according to the Midrashic statement (Zevachim 88b), the breast-plate atoned for those who pervert judgment was called “judgment” in allusion to the pardon thus given for perverse judgment”. (Rashi ibid)

The Gemara learns from the breastplate how to hold disagreements between Torah scholars in Halacha:

מכאן לתלמיד חכם שאמר דבר הלכה שאין מזיחין אותו ואמרי לה אין מזניחין אותו ואמרי לה אין מזחיחין אותו מאן דאמר מזיחין כדכתיב (שמות כח, כח) ולא יזח החשן

“The Gemara adds: From here one learns with regard to a Torah scholar who states a new matter of Halacha that one does not move [meziḥin] him from his position; and some say: One does not disregard [mazniḥin] him; and some say: One does not attribute his innovative statement to his conceit [mazḥiḥin]. The Gemara explains: With regard to the one who says meziḥin, it is as that which is written: “And the breastplate shall not be loosed [yizaḥ] from the ephod”. (Chullin 7a).

מזניחין - משקצים את דבריו. מזיחין - לומר גאותך גרמה לך שלא הטית אוזן לשמוע דבר כהלכתו מפי רבך. לישנא אחרינא: מגביהין ומסלקין אותו מדבריו

"[Mazniḥin] –Disregard- His words are silenced. [Meziḥin] – Does not move from that position. Because your pride made you not listen to anything said by your Rabbi. In other words, remove him from his words" (Rashi ibid).

תלמיד חכם שאמר דבר הלכה מחדשת הן דרך הוראה הן דרך גדר הן להחמיר הן להקל אע"פ שהוא מבטל בזה מנהג קדמונים אין ראוי להחזיקו בכך במדת יוהרא ונטילת שם במה שאין ראוי לו לסרב בדבריו מצד שלא נהגו הקדמונים כן אחר שהוא מראה פנים לדבריו ושהוא כדאי לסמוך עליו שכל תלמיד ותלמיד מקום הונח לו להתגדר בו … כלומר שאין מעמידין אותו בחזקת שכחן ומורה בדרך שלא נתקבל בה כן

“A Torah scholar who has taught a renewed Halacha to aggravate and exacerbate, or to ease and alleviate, even though he is abolishing with this an ancient custom, it is not proper to hold this against him in the name of arrogance and he does not deserve his words to be refused because of the ancients who did not do so; everyone deserves the opportunity to grow and he should be trusted as every scholar has a place to define”. (Meiri on Chullin)

On the other hand, a Torah scholar who comes to rule on a new thing, has the responsibility to sit, and discuss it with other Torah scholars, in order to distill and examine it well, and not אַל תְּהִי דָן יְחִידִי, “judge not alone, for none may judge alone save one” (Pirkei Avot 4:8). G-d forbid an oversight will come out from under his hand, and will risk 'putting the breastplate over the vest'.

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