Torah: Ex 27:20-30:10; Prophets: Ezek 43:10-27
By Rabbi David Markel Hall
V’atah tetzaveh b’ney et-Yisra’el means, "and you command the children of Israel". These are not suggestions or subtle hints. G-d is commanding the children of Israel to do the things listed here.
A picture is being painted for us of how to come before the L-rd. We are not to come to Him without blood sacrifice and our vestments should be beautifully ornate. Looking at the materials used in the clothes of the choheyn Gadol (High Priest) we see richness and finery far beyond what the average "schmo" would wear. The vestments were made of gold and precious jewels as well as the finest possible cloth. The blue colors used in the vestments were from a muscle found in the sea. The root for water, mayim, is the same as the root for heaven, shamayim, so we are reminded that it is G-d who created the earth and everything in it. Additionally because the blue in his vestments looks like the blue in the sky, a connection is established between the choheyn Gadol and the heavenly throne of G-d.
The breastplate was called choshen mishpat, the "breastplate of judgement" (Exo 28:15). It was decorated with jewels and gold. In verse 30 we come across the first mention of the "Urim" and "Thummim". These stones were to be placed in the breastplate of judgement.
Much mystery surrounds the nature and operation of Urim and Thummim. Their description can be found in verse 9. HaUrim means "the light". It is interesting to note that Yeshua is "the light of men" (John 1:4). HaThummim My¥m§t¡h means "the perfections" or in this garment, "complete truth". The names of six of the patriarchs were engraved on each stone.
Josephus writes of them;
"For as to those stones, which we told you before, the high priest bare on his shoulders, which were sardonyxes, (and I think it needless to describe their nature, they being known to everybody,) the one of them shined out when God was present at their sacrifices; I mean that which was in the nature of a button on his right shoulder, bright rays darting out thence, and being seen even by those that were most remote; which splendor yet was not before natural to the stone. This has appeared a wonderful thing to such as have not so far indulged themselves in philosophy as to despise Divine Revelation. Yet will I mention what is still more wonderful than this: for God declared beforehand, by those twelve stones which the high priest bare on his breast, and which were inserted into his breastplate, when they should be victorious in battle; for so great a splendor shone forth from them before the army began to march that all the people were sensible of God’s being present for their assistance. Whence it came to pass that those Greeks, who had a veneration for our laws, because they could not possibly contradict this, call that breastplate the Oricle. …"
The notes in Josephus say that it was not the light, shining from the stones, which told messages to the priest, but a voice coming from the mercy seat, speaking the instructions to the priesthood. Baruch haShem!
When all is said and done, the priesthood came before G-d in the finest clothing available, wearing fine ornate jewelry and being cleansed and even perfumed in the prescribed manner. How much more should we apply these things to our physical and spiritual walks, before presenting ourselves to HaShem?
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