Parashat Tetzaveh 5781 Purim

by Meir Sendor

The essential purpose of the Mikdash is to be a place for divine revelation and guidance, as it says: “I will meet with you there and I will speak with you from above the ark-cover, between the two keruvim that are on the ark of testimony, that which I will command you to the Children of Israel (Ex. 25:22).” All the sacrifices and services of the incense, menorah and show-bread are preparatory, to purify and elevate Israel to be worthy to receive HaShem’s revelation and guidance. Moshe Rabbenu heard HaShem speaking to him from the Holy of Holies directly (Lev. 1:1; Num. 7:89). In Moshe’s time and in later generations the Kohen Gadol also received revealed guidance from HaShem by way of the Urim VeTumim, the divine Name inserted into Choshen Mishpat, the breastplate of judgment he wore on his chest. Hashem, by way of the Urim VeTumim, spelled out a message by illuminating letters from the names of the twelve tribes engraved in the twelve gemstones of the Hoshen Mishpat. Maimonides describes the process of asking for and receiving guidance, based on the account in the Gemara Yuma 73a-b:

How did they ask? The Kohen stood with his face facing the Ark, and the questioner behind him with his face facing the back of the Kohen. The questioner asks [for example] “shall I go up or shall I not go up?” He does not ask in a loud voice, nor does he just think in his heart, rather, with a soft voice like one who prays, within himself to himself. Then instantly Holy Spirit enclothes the Kohen and he gazes at the breastplate and sees in a vision of prophecy “go up,” or “do not go up” in letters that stand out from the breastplate in front of his face. Then the Kohen answers him “go up” or “do not go up.” … A regular Kohen does not ask, rather, the king or a member of the court or one whom the public needs (Hilkhot Klei ha-Mikdash 10:11-12).

This oracular process is revelatory through and through. The Kohen is not looking at the questioner, and the questioner asks their question in a voice that the Kohen cannot physically hear – he articulates the words but in a way that only he can hear, just as in the silent prayer of the Amidah. The Kohen is then elevated into a prophetic state of mind. The divine response is given by illuminating all at once the relevant letters that are engraved in the gemstones. Then the Kohen, in his prophetic state, combines the letters in the proper order to reveal the answer, and conveys it to the questioner.

The prophetic skill of the Kohen Gadol, to interpret the divine message, is a skill we all need to cultivate in our own way, on our own level. HaShem is communicating with us at all times, using all phenomena and occurrences around us, and our job is to learn to put it together. So I figured to give us all a bit of an experience of putting together our own message, in the spirit of the parashah and in the spirit of the Megillah, whose events are partly driven by a different kind of oracle, the Purim or lots that set the timing for the events that unfold. So here you are – twelve statements for you to arrange as you see fit: a Do It Yourself blog post.

(For those of you reading this on your phone, maybe this time it’s worth looking at it on a full-sized format.)


Chag Purim Sameach!

P.S. Let us know what you come up with!

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