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Torah Sparks

February 15, 2003 - 5763

Annual Cycle: Exodus 27:20 - 30:10 (Hertz, p. 339; Etz Hayim, p. 503)
Triennial Cycle II: Exodus 28:31 - 29:18 (Hertz, p. 342; Etz Hayim, p. 508)
Haftarah: Ezekiel 43:10 - 27 (Hertz, p. 350; Etz Hayim, p. 520)

Prepared by Rabbi Lee Buckman
Head of School, Jewish Academy of Metropolitan Detroit

Department of Services to Affiliated Congregations
Rabbi Martin J. Pasternak, Director

Torah Portion Summary

(27:20-28:30) Instructions concerning the oil for the Ner Tamid, the fashioning of the ephod and breastplate.

(28:31-39) The directions for the High Priest's uniform.

(28:40-43) The clothing of Aaron's sons, i.e. the ordinary kohanim (priests).

(29:1-18) Instructions for the ritual consecrating Aaron and his sons as kohanim.

(29:19-37) Instructions for the consecration of Aaron and his sons during their seven days of inauguration.

(29:38-46) Instructions concerning the Tamid, the daily sacrifice.

(30:1-10) Instructions concerning the fabrication of the incense altar and its special function.

Discussion Theme: Models of Spirituality

"You shall make the robe of the ephod of pure blue. The opening for the head shall be in the middle of it; the opening shall have a binding of woven work round about - it shall be like the opening of a coat of mail - so that it does not tear. On its hem make pomegranates of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, all around the hem, with bells of gold between them all around: a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, all around the hem of the robe. Aaron shall wear it while officiating so that the sound of it is heard when he comes into the sanctuary before the Lord and when he goes out-that he may not die." (Exodus 28:31-35)

  1. Because the Holy Blessed One commanded in Leviticus 15:17 that "no person should be present in the Tent of Meeting when the High Priest enters to make expiation until he leaves," God commanded that the sound be heard when the priest enters so that listeners will know to vacate the premises. (Rashbam)
  2. Therefore God commanded that the bells be made in order that the sound therefrom be heard in the Sanctuary, that the priest enter before his Master as if with permission. For he who comes into the king's palace suddenly, incurs the penalty of death according to the court ceremonial... (Nachmanides)
  3. The tinkling attracts the attention of the worshipers outside the Tent to the fact that the High Priest is performing the ritual; or the bells sent out a message that no mishap had occurred in the course of the priestly duties such as had happened to Aaron's two sons. Another possibility is that the High Priest himself reminded by the sound of the bells on his robe that he is to attune his heart and mind to his solemn duties and that he must be fully conscious of the fact that he is in the presence of God. (Nachum Sarna)
  4. The bells, clappers jangling from a hollow center, symbolize a mode of spiritual ecstasy: literally, a standing outside oneself, an overwhelming consciousness of the nothingness of the human person within the priestly robes. The High Priest as he enters the sanctuary loses all sense of his own destiny, of the contingencies, the idiosyncrasies of his own existence. The bell becomes an image for a hollowness that resounds almost unbearably with God's presence. (Rabbi Yaacov Leiner, Beit Yaacov, quoted in Aviva Zornberg's The Particulars of Rapture)
  5. In reality, modesty is usually praised for the average person and certainly for a great leader. However, that is true only in secular or mundane matters. In matters of holiness, on the other hand, when we are dealing with matters that relate to national holiness, the sanctity of life, critical matters of destiny, then it is incumbent upon the leader to let his voice be heard loudly. He should speak confidently and commandingly to draw attention to the significance of the message. Hence, the Torah states that the sound should be heard when he enters the Sanctuary. (Chatam Sofer)

Sparks for Reflection

Each of the commentators presents a different model of spirituality by way of his interpretation of the bells' purpose. One model focuses on the primacy of ethics and derech eretz. Another presents a model of the worshiper losing himself, loses a focus on the self, in order to feel God's presence. Another suggests that some acts should be done with quietness; but when it comes to serving God, one should unashamedly call attention without embarrassment almost as a missionary would. Examine the commentaries above. What are the different models? Which one "resonates" within you?

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