Tetzaveh 5782


Hashem’s concern for injustice[1]

ואלה הבגדים אשר יעשו חשן ואפוד וגו’ לאהרן אחיך וגו’ ועשו את-האפד זהב תכלת וארגמן וגו’ ועשית חשן משפט מעשה חשב וגו’‏
These are the garments that you shall make for Aharon, your brother: The Choshen and the Eiphod…You shall make the Eiphod out of gold, techeiles, and argaman…You shall make the Choshen of Justice, the work of a craftsman…[2]

One of the prominent features of parshas Tetzaveh is the focus on the bigdei Kehuna, the Priestly garments. The Kohanim had to wear four special articles of clothing for their Temple service to be accepted[3]. The Kohen Gadol had four additional articles of clothing as part of his uniform. The Torah introduces these special garments by first mentioning the Choshen, an ornate breastplate, and then mentions the Eiphod, a type of decorative apron. What’s interesting is when the Torah proceeds to describe how to make them, it starts with the Eiphod, and only then discusses the Choshen. Why is there this switch in the order?

Our Sages ask[4]: why is the topic of Temple offerings juxtaposed to the bigdei Kehuna[5]? The answer is to teach us that just like Temple offerings provide atonement, so too do the bigdei Kehuna. The Choshen atones for injustice in civil court cases, whereas the Eiphod atones for idol worship. Now, based on this, we can understand why the Torah starts off mentioning the Choshen first, and only then the Eiphod.

Let’s consider for a moment, which upsets Hashem, so-to-speak, more? Idol worship? Or injustice in court? One might think that it would be idol worship, as it’s a direct affront to Hashem’s honor. However, in reality, Hashem cares more about injustice in court. Hashem can forgive His honor, and overlook the idol worship. However, when His children are being wronged, and no one is there to correct it, that’s what really bothers Him.

We see this with the contrast between the generation of the Flood[6], and the story of the Tower of Bavel[7]. The Tower of Bavel was all about waging war against Hashem. Mankind wanted to be free from G-d’s influence. This was the biggest affront to Hashem’s honor, yet they were simply punished with dispersion. On the other hand, almost the entirety of mankind was wiped out because violent theft was rampant. We see that human injustice is punished more severely than affronts to Hashem Himself.

To demonstrate this priority in Hashem’s eyes, the Choshen Mishpat, the breastplate of justice, which atoned for unjust courts, was mentioned first. Only then was the Eiphod, which atones for idol worship, mentioned. However, that’s from Hashem’s perspective. From our perspective, it’s the other way around. We care more about Hashem’s honor than our own. As such, the actual production of the bigdei Kehuna focused on Hashem first, and mentioned the Eiphod before the Choshen[8].

Good Shabbos

[1] Based on Kli Yakar to Exodus 28:4

[2] Exodus 28:4, 6, 15 with Targum Onkelos ad. loc.

[3] See ibid 29:9 and Zevachim 17b

[4] Arachin 16a; Zevachim 88b

[5] This is referring to the Temple offerings discussed in Leviticus Chapters 6, 7 and the bigdei Kehuna discussed in ibid Chapter 8

[6] Genesis 6:9-9:17

[7] Ibid 11:1-9

[8] The Kli Yakar compares this to something similar which occurs in parshas Masei, where Hashem was more concerned for the Jews’ honor, and the Jews were more concerned for Hashem’s honor. For more on this, see https://parshaponders.com/mattos-masei-5781