Tetzaveh draws us in to the details of cult practice, the roles and rules associated with Temple worship and we meet a variety of people who will occupy many verses of Torah as we move forward.
27:20 introduces us to the call to keep a light lit regularly in the Temple. Our tradition saw “light as the symbol of the Divine in mankind” and the doing mitzot was the way that we kept the light of the sacred burning within the world. The more we did mitzvot, the greater the benefit to society and mankind. But how to decide what and how to carry out this “call?”
In chapter 28 we are introduced to the garments that Aaron will wear. Elaborate, to say the least! But central to this is the wearing of the “breastplate of decision” or choshen mishpat. This piece of ritual garb was to be worn (as we see in 28:30) over the heart. Midrash plays with this fact, and the fact that Aaron, in wearing this over his heart, carries with him the demands, hopes and dreams of an entire people. Mussar, indeed, links this to the midah of anavah or humility, for it requires great humility to accept this challenge and responsibility and not allow one’s ego to take over.
But let me suggest another view. As we get older, we often learn that when we are called on to make a decision, there is that challenge between heart and head. Let me suggest that this verse that speaks of the choshen mishpat worn over the heart, can be seen as a message for us, in that, as we age, we become more accustomed to listening to our heart/soul than our head. When it comes time to make decisions, I often suggest to people that they check how their gut feels, how they feel inside their soul, how their body is responding ,rather than what their mind tells them to do. It is my belief that more often than not, our hearts and souls tell us the right way. Maybe that is really why that breastplate of decision is over the heart!
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.