TETZAVEH (Exodus, 27:20-30:10) — “Bless Your Heart!”

What is the role of the Priest?  The main job of the Kohain today, in post-/pre-Temple times, is to bless the Nation of Israel.  In the Diaspora, this event takes place on the Yom Tov Festivals, 13 times a year.  In many parts of Israel, it is done daily.  The main gist of the Kohain’s blessing is a request that G-d give us protection and peace. 

During Temple times, there was/will be much more to do. The Kohain, a direct descendent of Aaron the High Priest, was in charge of officiating in the Temple.  The Kohanim brought the various offerings in the Temple, and served as spiritual advisors to the Nation. 

The High Priest was, as the title implies, the leader of the Kohanim.  There were special offerings that only he could bring.  He conducted the Yom Kippur service, achieving atonement for his People.  His fellow priests accorded him great honor, and he had special golden garments that he wore in the Temple.


Wouldn’t it be great to always know the correct answer to your question? 

In the Temple, this was the case.  The High Priest wore a breastplate over his heart.  The breastplate was embedded with stones that lit up to answer questions.  There were twelve precious stones on the breastplate, each with the name of one of the Tribes of Israel engraved on it.  When the High Priest was asked a question, certain letters lit up.  The High Priest would then determine the answer by figuring out what the letters were spelling. 

How did this lofty and holy work end up in the hands of the “Aaronites?”  What did Aaron do to deserve such honor? 

It all goes back to the Burning Bush.  G-d wanted Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt; Moses didn’t want the job.  He used every argument he could to avoid it.  G-d insisted.  Finally, Moses’ main reason came out; he was concerned about his older brother. 

Aaron was already a prophet and a Jewish leader in Egypt.  Moses felt that by coming to Egypt as G-d’s emissary, he would be slighting the honor that was due to his brother. “Please, G-d,” he begged, “send your usual messenger.” (Exodus, 4:13) 

Apparently, Moses misjudged his brother, as G-d testified: “Aaron your brother… is coming to greet you, and when he sees you he will rejoice in his heart.” (Ibid, verse 14) 

Not only was Aaron not hurt by the selection of Moses as leader; he was absolutely thrilled! Aaron was unconcerned about his own honor.  He was proud of his younger brother, and happy to see his success. 

The Talmud (Shabbos, 139a) says that this selfless pleasure on Aaron’s part led to his own elevation to Priesthood.  The breastplate, the conduit through which he could communicate with G-d, was worn over his heart.  This gift to Aaron was a reward for “when he sees you he will rejoice IN HIS HEART.”


Aaron’s children bless us with a prayer for peace.  A person can only be at peace when he is free of jealousy.  When we look at others and wonder why we can’t have what they have, we are questioning G-d’s Master Plan.  Aaron understood that there was no reason for him to lead the Nation out of Egypt if G-d wanted Moses to do it. 

If we spend our lives looking over our shoulders, trying to keep up with the “Jones-steins,” we’ll never be at peace no matter what we have.  There is a degree of serenity that comes with the realization that G-d gives each of us what we are supposed to have. 

The Talmud asks, “Who is rich?” It then answers that the one who is rich is he who is satisfied with what he has.  The greatness of Aaron was that he was more than simply satisfied with what he himself had.  He truly rejoiced in the achievement of others. 

Why are the Kohanim given the responsibility of praying for us to have peace?  They are the children of Aaron…we know that when THEY pray for us…they really mean it.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz



 “Hide and Seek”  (2010) 

… when a righteous man like Moses says something, G-d listens.  Moses “cursed” himself, albeit conditionally … Even that request could not go totally unanswered … 

Read more


 “Heartburn — Full Time!” (2008) 

…Torah study is a full-time job: 

This Book of the Torah is not to leave your mouth.  You shall contemplate it day and night, in order to observe, to do, all that is written in it.  (Joshua, 1:8) 

… Rabbi Yochanan … said that if one recites the Shema every morning and every evening, he has fulfilled the requirement of “This Book of the Torah is not to leave your mouth.  You shall contemplate it day and night.” 

…   How… do we define a few moments of prayer in the morning and then again in the evening as a fulfillment of that verse?  A quick 2-minute Shema twice a day, spending the rest of the day engaged in trivial pursuits, and we call that “contemplating it day and night”?  Who are we trying to fool? … 

Read more.


  “Clothes FAKE the Man” (2007) 

…How does such an event take place?  How do children of Holocaust survivors participate in a conference whose purpose was to deny the obvious truth?  How could they stand arm-in-arm with people who want to see them dead? 

There are only two possibilities.  They are either wicked, evil, despicable people, or they are out of their minds… 

Read more


“Light up your Life!” (2006) 

…The Menorah, which remained lit 24/7/365, could only be fueled with oil that was “crushed for lighting.”  Olives were crushed by hand in a mortar until a single drop, totally clear of sediment, came out.  This “custom-made” clear olive oil, crushed for lighting, was the only oil that was acceptable for the Menorah.  (Obviously, they went through a lot of olives!) 

After the first drop came out, the olives were ground in a mill.  The resultant oil, although unfit for the Menorah, was acceptable as an ingredient in meal offerings.  Rashi explains that the Menorah lighting oil could not have any sediment in it.  For the meal offerings, however, this was not a problem. 

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, of Blessed Memory, explains why the Menorah was different from the meal offerings… 

Read more.


“Tea Leaves and Poison Ivy” (2005) 

Yale University is one of the most prestigious centers of learning in the world.  There is a great deal of knowledge that can be acquired in that historic institution. 

I once tried to read a Yale diploma.  There was a problem.  While I can speak, read, and understand, at various levels of proficiency, English, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Yiddish, I wasn’t prepared for the diploma from “Universitatis Yalensis.”  When it comes to reading or understanding Latin, as the saying goes, “It’s Greek to me!” 

But wait! I noticed an old friend! Was that – yes! It was! – Hebrew! Perhaps I would be able to read something after all. The logo consisted of an open book with Hebrew letters… 

Yale University!  That honored, venerable storehouse of knowledge!  How could people who are so intelligent act so goofy?! … 

Read more.


“Galbanum in Spice, so Everything’s Nice!” (2004) 

… The Priest was required to burn incense on a special Altar every morning and every afternoon.  The sweet smell of the incense serves to endear us to our Creator.  In fact, the Talmud tells us that while Moses was in Heaven receiving the Torah, the Angel of Death divulged to him that he could “assuage” G-d’s anger with incense.  (See Deuteronomy, 17:6-15, where Aaron ends a Divine plague by igniting incense.) 

Why was the incense so special and powerful?… 

Read more.


“Dress to Impress” (2003) 

… Why is the Torah putting so much emphasis on clothes?  Does it really matter how the Kohain is dressed?  Doesn’t that seem superficial?  Isn’t it what’s inside, what’s in his heart, that really counts? … 

Read more.


“Bless Your Heart!”  (2002)

… Wouldn’t it be great to always know the correct answer to your question? 

In the Temple, this was the case.  The High Priest wore a breastplate … embedded with stones that lit up to answer questions. … When the High Priest was asked a question, certain letters lit up.  The High Priest would then determine the answer by figuring out what the letters were spelling. 

How did this lofty and holy work end up in the hands of the “Aaronites?”  What did Aaron do to deserve such honor? … 

Read more.


 This is the weekly message at www.torahtalk.org.   Copyright © 2000-2011 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.


Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (www.Brisrabbi.com)  and chaplain in Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.


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Published in: on February 21, 2002 at 7:34 am  Leave a Comment  

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