Parshas Vayakhel.





This Parsha starts with Moshe teaching the Jewish people about Shabbos. Among all the forbidden types of work he mentioned one: “Don’t burn fire”. Why was this first mitzvah that Moshe explained to our nation when he came down from Mount Sinai and why is kindling fire mentioned specifically?




In general most of the types of work forbidden on Shabbos are not mentioned directly by the Torah. They are however hinted by the juxtaposition of the mitzvah to build the Sanctuary and the prohibition of doing work on Shabbos[1]. Any of the types of labor that were involved in building of the Tabernacle had to be stopped during Shabbos. There were altogether 39 types of such work and we thus learn from this Parsha the 39 prohibited actions on Shabbos[2].


Now the one work our Parsha mentions explicitly is the prohibition to kindle the fire. The Ramban[3] writes, that indeed until now we would not know if the laws of Shabbos are the same as of Yom Tov (holidays) or more strict. On holidays we are permitted to kindle fire from already existing fire and use it for cooking. This Parsha starts by explaining that on Shabbos even that is forbidden[4].


Another interesting explanation may be as follows. It is known that in our day the main cause of Shabbos violation is “kindling fire”. Driving a car, lighting the lights[5] and using most electric devices falls into this category one way or another[6]. Most Shabbos violators find it hardest to avoid this particular prohibited work[7]. This may be the reason why the Torah emphasizes here this particular category of labor.


There is actually a halachik application in this. The Shulchan Aruch[8] says that if we are certain we can’t stop someone’s accidental violation of a mitzvah, we should not rebuke this person. It is better that he will be doing his transgressions by mistake. Exclusion is the law that is mentioned directly in the Written Torah. In our case, since the Torah mentions the prohibition of burning fire on Shabbos, we are supposed to rebuke even a person who will not listen[9].


Our sages teach us that when our nation will keep two consecutive Shabbosim properly, we will be redeemed[10]. May we all deserve to see this fulfilled.


Parshas Pekudey.





In this Parsha learn about the making of the priestly clothing. The two most perplexing articles of clothes are called Choshen Mishpat (breastplate of judgment) and Ephod. Besides the great detail used in the description of these two clothes, there is a special mitzvah mentioned, that they should be attached together through certain belts with special stones. Indeed this is counted as one of 613 commandments of our Torah: not to detach Choshen and Ephod[11]. The Torah describes twelve precious stones used for Choshen Mishpat. The stones had engravings of the names of the twelve tribes and certain other words. At last, the Torah mentions inserting obscure “Urim” and “Tumim” into the breast plate. What is the significance of these two articles of clothing, why do they have to be attached and what are Urim and Tumim?




As we mentioned in the previous Parsha, the details described in the priestly clothing are extremely important. We will now discuss two of the articles of clothes of High Priest: the Choshen and the Ephod. The Choshen was a small (9 inch) square cloth made from wool and linen[12]. It contained 12 different precious stones in three columns, four gems in each column. The stones had the names of twelve tribes engraved on them[13] as well as the names of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yakov and the words “Shivtey Yeshurun[14]” (Tribes of Yeshurun[15]). There were altogether 72 letters on these stones, corresponding to the seventy souls that came to Egypt and Avraham with Yitzchak[16].


Ephod was a long garment also made from multicolored wool and white linen. It was like an apron but warn from the back. It had two shoulder straps with a precious stone in each. These stones also had the names of the twelve tribes, six names on one stone and six on the other[17]. The Choshen was worn on the breast and connected from the top to the Ephod through the shoulder straps. The bottom of the Choshen also connected with straps going below elbows to the Ephod in the back.


As we mentioned in Parshas Tetzaveh, the Choshen corresponded to Zer Anpin[18] and the Ephod – to Malchus. This explains the unique relationship between these two articles of clothes[19] and the mitzvah to keep them connected.


Now one of the purposes of the Choshen with Ephod is to gain a certain prophetic inspiration[20]. There were specific rules, according to which the stones could be used to ask Hashem[21]. The Urim and Tumim were special Divine Names inserted into the Choshen[22]. The GR”A[23] says that Urim were the 42-letter Name and Tumim – the 72-letter Name[24].


When a question was asked, the Kohen Gadol was concentrating on the first Divine Name and some letters on the stones shown with spiritual light. This was still not enough to understand the message, since the same letters could compose different words. The kohen now concentrated on the second Name and was able to put the letters together to form words and sentences. The word Urim thus comes from the word “light” and Tumim from “perfection” – composition of the words. In general the usage of Urim and Tumim required time and great concentration[25] and not every time the Kohen Gadol deserved to get an answer[26]. Since the mystery of Urim and Tumim was known to the head of the generation, they sometimes used a similar technique to receive Divine answers to their questions. This explains why there were many Ephods in ancient time in Israel[27].


Even though during the Second Temple period the Kohen Gadol still had all eight clothes, we did not deserve to be able to use the Urim and Tumim[28]. When we deserve the final redemption the Urim and Tumim will be used again, as it says (Ezra 2:63): “… until there will be a kohen with Urim and Tumim[29]”.




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[1] See Mishna Shabbos 7:2 and Talmud there. See also Rabeynu Bachye 35:1.


[2] The Zohar (2:197; 2:203) and the Arizal additionally explain that since the Golden Calf was primarily built by the erev rav (mixed multitude of Egyptians that joined our nation when we left Egypt), Moshe now gathered only the Jewish People and reiterated the mitzvah of Shabbos, the sign between Hashem and the “Children of Israel”.


[3] On Shemos 32:3 in the name of Mechilta here.


[4] For another explanation see Etz Hadaas Tov that breaking Shabbos causes the fire of Gehinom to burn. See also Zohar 2:203a.


[5] See Keren Ledovid, 80. See however Chazon Ish, Orach Chaim 50:9 that sometimes the work involved with turning on the light is “cooking” or “building” the electric chain, see however Beer Moshe, Vol 6, Kuntras Electrik, 23:23 that according to most opinions the work involved is “burning” not “cooking”.


[6] One might argue that carrying object on the street is an even more common Shabbos violation. The truth is indeed carrying is the other work mentioned in the Torah in the verse (Shemos 16:29) “Don’t come out of you place” which means not to carry anything out from our places (Talmud, Eiruvin 17b, see Tosafos Shabbos 2a beginning with words Pashat). Note that according to many opinions most of our streets don’t have a status of Reishus Harabim and therefore carrying there is only a rabbinical prohibition, but driving a car is prohibited by Torah law according to all opinions. Moreover, while driving one ends up breaking Shabbos a hundred times every second (Nishmas Shabbos 5:273).


[7] In fact the first Shabbos transgression of the Conservative movement was driving cars. This happened after they found it too difficult to get the congregants to come their “Temples” on foot especially outside the big cities. With time most of them ended up desecrating the Shabbos in many other ways as well.


[8] Orach Chaim, 608:2.


[9] See however the commentaries to the halacha regarding when this law actually applies.


[10] Talmud, Shabbos 118b.

[11] Rambam, Sefer Hamitzvos, Negative Commandment 87 based on the Talmud, Makos 22a .


[12] Note that most of the clothes of the High Priest included wool and linen. Normally such mixtures are forbidden to be worn, (they are called shatnez). This is one of the cases where something that is a kilkul (destruction) actually serves as a rectification in the Temple. The Great Holiness of the Temple made it possible for the root of wool to rectify the root of linen (see GR”A to the fourth chapter of Sifra Detzniusa starting with words “Zeh Sod Shatnez”).


[13] See Bemidbar Raba 2:7 regarding which stone corresponded to which tribe. See also Pirke DeRabbi Eliezer (37) that when there was a sinner in one of the tribes, its’ stone stopped shining.


[14] See Talmud, Yoma 73b.


[15] Yeshurun is another name for Israel.


[16] See also our words to Parshas Noach.


[17] Containing altogether 50 letters.


[18] A collection of main Sefiros of Hanhagah – from Chesed till Yesod.


[19] See the Arizal, Shaar Hamitzvos, Parshas Tetzaveh. See also Rekanti (28:30). In general our whole tikun in this world is to re-unite the Malchus with Zer Anpin. Many pronounce before performing a mitzvah: “Leshem Yichud Kudsh Berich Hu Ushchinte”  - for the sake of unification of Hashem with His Shechinah. When we show our readiness to “receive” the Divine Good, Hashem gives it to us. We show our readiness through performing the commandments!


[20] However this was lower than the level achieved by regular prophets (see Ramban, 28:30).


[21] See Talmud, Yoma 73a.


[22] This is why the Torah does not mention the “construction” of  Urim and Tumim, as opposed to the articles of clothing (see Ramban, 28:30).


[23] In Aderes Eliyahu (28:30), see Beer Yitzchak there. See also Zohar 234b.


[24] See our words to Parshas Vaera.


[25] According to some interpretations, one of five sins of King Shaul was not waiting till he gets an answer from Urim and Tumim during his first war with Plishtim (see Shmuel 1:14:19).


[26] See Talmud, Yoma 73.


[27] See Ramban, 28:30, see also GR”A on Shmuel 1:1:16 for an interesting explanation of why Eli judged Chana to be drunk. He saw the letters “Shin” “Chaf” “Reish” “Hei” light up on the breastplate and thought they spell “Shichorah” – drunk. In truth he did not put them together correctly and the message was “KeSarah” – like Sarah – meaning she is childless. This supports the fact that at times Urim and Tumim were used for personal inquiries even though their main intended usage was for the King or someone very needed to Jewish people.

[28] Sotah 48b.


[29] Meaning until Moshiach will come (Sotah 48b).