Nachal novea; makor chochma -
A flowing river; the source of wisdom (Mish. 18:4)

Parashas T'tzaveh

(Exodus 27:20-30:10)

"You [the Jews] shall make the breastplate of Judgment..." (Exodus 28:15)

This week's parasha talks about the lavish and very expensive clothing and ornaments that the Jews were commanded to make for the Cohen Gadol (High Priest). This is in addition to the very expensive materials that went into the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) detailed in last week's parasha. No inferior materials or goods were permitted to be used in the Mishkan and later in the Bais HaMikdash (Temple), only the best of everything. Why did Hashem (G-d) command that everything connected with the Mishkan have to be of the absolute highest quality? Does the Torah not warn the Jews in many places about the potential spiritual dangers from excessive luxury and preoccupation with wealth? The verses point out, "When [the Jews] have eaten and are satisfied [with an overabundance of material wealth] ... Your heart will become lifted up, and you will forget Hashem, Your G-d..." (Deut. 8:12, 14) If material luxury can be a spiritual threat, why was the Mishkan intentionally constructed in such opulence? The choshen mishpat (breastplate of judgement) the Cohen Gadol wore upon his chest when he officiated in the Mishkan was particularly expensive - the most lavishly decorated ornament of all. It contained twelve precious jewels, one stone for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. The gems were donated by the twelve princes as opposed to every other article in the Mishkan which was all donated by the common Jews. What was so special about the choshen that it was thusly singled out for distinction?

According to tile Talmud, "The Torah is concerned with the money of Israel." (Rosh HaShana 27a) The holy Baal Shem Tov explained this teaching as follows: whenever one eats, wears, or makes use of anything, the pleasure he derives is from the life force contained in that particular thing. The amount of enjoyment the person has is dependent on how intimately his soul is connected to the n'tzotzos k'dushos (holy sparks which are units of Hashem's light that give existence and power to those people or objects which possess them) in the item. Thus, if a person loves a certain food, it is because the root of his soul is strongly connected to the n'tzotzos k'dushos contained by that food. Conversely, when he dislikes something, it is from a lack of common ground between his soul and the item's essence. When a person uses a utensil or eats a particular food with the ultimate purpose of serving Hashem, the n'tzotzos k'dushos contained in the item are rectified. When a person has finished rectifying all the sparks in a given item which relate to his soul, sometimes Hashem will take it away from him and give it to someone else who will rectify other sparks in the item which are associated with another root. (Tzava'ath HaRivash p. 231) The Baal Shem Tov's words imply that because the Mishkan was the possession of the nation of Israel as a whole, all of the n'tzotzos k'dushos contained in its materials nourished the soul of each Jew. And even though there was only one Cohen Gadol who performed the sacrificial rites together with his fellow cohanim (priests), the spiritual energies produced by each component of the Mishkan and the sacrificial rites affected every single Jew.

As was mentioned last week, although the Mishkan and Bais HaMikdash no longer exist, we can learn many practical lessons from the sacrificial service. In addition, the recitation of the Torah verses that apply to the sacrificial rites have practically the same spiritual impact as the service when the Mishkan and Bais HaMikdash were fully operational. For the holy Ari taught that each commandment must be performed on the levels of action, thought, and speech, with each aspect of the commandment producing spiritual energies that effect the world in different ways. Let us explore, based on the elucidations of Rabbi Nachman and his chief disciple, Rav Noson, some of the spiritual effects of the breastplate which today are accessed by reciting the pertinent Torah verses.

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The twelve princes of Israel were the ones who donated the twelve precious stones placed in the choshen wom by the Cohen Gadol while performing the Mishkan/Bais HaMikdash service. The Talmud says that the material world mirrors the spiritual world. Thus, the lavish and costly materials that were commanded to be used in the Mishkan's construction and service, especially the precious jewels of the choshen, represented something spiritually inestimable. Just as a man gives his bride-to-be a precious, diamond ring to express his feelings towards her, Hashem gave the Jews the precious and valuable Mishkan as a tangible sign of His immense love for them. Indeed, the focus of all of Hashem's creation was the Jewish people, for it was they who would serve and bring knowledge of Him into the world. The soul of each Jew is bound spiritually to every component of the Mishkan. Therefore, the Jewish people as a whole, through the Mishkan's and Bais HaMkdash's rituals had the ability to manipulate the universal spiritual energies contained in the ga'vee'nim e'lawim (many-colored spiritual lights) emanating from Hashem. More specifically, these spiritual energies were incorporated in the twelve different stones of the choshen. Each one of the stones had its own unique color, and its own spiritual energy which corresponded to the color associated with and attributes of each of each of the twelve tribes. For example, the stone of the tribe of Re'uven was a sardious and the stone for the tribe of Shim'on was a topaz. Each tribe had a unique spiritual talent that was consistent with the spiritual resonance of one of the colored gemstones, a talent in which Hashem took special pride when it was used serve Him, Furthermore, the unique abilities of each tribe reflected a particular aspect of Hashem, from which the world could learn. [This pertains to the talents of an individual as well.] Each tribe camped next to and marched behind its own colored flag, which was the same color as its tribal stone in the choshen. It was the spiritual energy of those colors from which the Jews accessed the power that enabled them to conquer the land of Israel. For the ga'vee'nim e'law'im were activated by and could be utilized in the physical world through the apparatus of the choshen gemstones and of he tribal flags. Once the choshen and flags activated these spiritual energies, they linked up to the holy spiritual energies that lay dormant within the land of Israel. These energies had been covered over by the immoral and corrupted behavior of the Canaanites who inhabited the land. When activated, the spiritual energies that lay dormant in the holy land drained the Cannanites of their physical power and ability to wage war, enabling the Jews to annihilate them with great ease.

The twelve princes had to be the ones to donate the precious stones used for the breastplate, because they were the leaders of their respective tribes. They were chosen for their positions because they were the greatest Tzaddikim (saints) of their generation, as the Talmud says, "They were called [and appointed] princes because they acknowledged the sovereignty of only Hashem [alone]." (Talmud Yerushalmi: Horayot 3:1) In addition, the sages said, "They [the princes] neither participated in the sin of the golden calf nor any of the other sins [committed by the Jews in the desert]." (Pirkei DeRabi Eliezer 45) Therefore, the spiritual energies that were connected to each tribe could best be activated by its prince. Thus, it was imperative that the prince donate the tribal stone to be used in the choshen, in order to most fully activate his tribe's spiritual powers. (Lekutai Halachos: Orach Chaim: Hilchos Birkas Ha'Maw'zone 4:10)

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The choshen's effect on the individual when worn by the Cohen Gadol in ancient times and today, through the recital in the synagogue on Shabbos (the Sabbath) of the verses pertinent to the commandment to wear it, can be understood as follows: Each part of the human body is connected to awesome spiritual chambers, that when properly activated, produce energies that rectify the world. The Mishkan, and later the Bais HeMikdash, was associated with the power of the hands as the verse says, "Your residence, [the Mishkan/Bais HaMikdash], 0 Hashem, which Your hands have established [and therefore instilled with the spiritual power of the hands]." (Exodus 15:17) The structure of the Mishkan/Bais HaMikdash and the sacrifices emitted all of the spiritual powers associated with the hands. The site of the Bais HaMikdash is the focal point of the world, where heaven and earth meet and from where all the earth's sustenance and bounty originates, as the verse says, "The built-up Yerushalayim is like a city linked together [with Heaven, i.e. the Heavenly Jerusalem]" (Psalms 122:3) The entire world is spiritually dependent on and connected to the site of the Bais HaMikdash. This is why King Solomon knew what type of trees to plant and in which locations, because he knew the spiritual pathways that best nourished each type of tree, as the verse says, "And he [King Solomon] spoke concerning the trees." (1 Kings 5:13) All knowledge and wisdom in this world emanates from the Temple site, as the verse says, "From Zion [the Temple site], the Torah [the source of all wisdom] will go forth, and the word of Hashem [Who controls all things] from Jerusalem [from where all wisdom and the spiritual powers of Hashem can be accessed]." (Isaiah 2:3) Therefore, the spiritual equipment that was employed in the Temple can be used to access the awesome spiritual powers that lay dormant there. One such implement was the choshen mishpat. The choshen was suspended over the Cohen Gadol's two shoulders, between his two arms, resting over his heart. The position of the choshen, therefore activated the power of the hands. When the letters engraved upon the choshen were illuminated by the Divine Presence, the Cohen Gadol was empowered to know all the paths to finding the appropriate solution to any problem because the choshen spiritually illuminated the lines on his hands which look like roads and pathways. The physical hands mirror the supernal hands of the upper world. These supernal hands record and are the access point for all events and activities that transpire in the world. Therefore, when the choshen unleashes the power of the physical hands, it activates the power of the supernal hands in heaven, providing advice on how to handle any given situation. This is why the choshen is referred to as the choshen mishpat (breastplate of judgment). The heart is an extension of the hands. It is the hands that carry out the wishes of the heart to take and possess a desired object. In addition, one of the main pulses is located at the hands, which is regulated by the heart. Everything that has happened to a person can be detected in the pulse. Therefore, the choshen provided the heart, through the hands, with the proper advice in any matter. In addition, the choshen neutralized or made secondary a person's desire for excessive wealth, including the urge to acquire wealth through illegal means such as theft or exploitation. For the desire for wealth blinds. a person from distinguishing fight from wrong. The choshen caused its wearer to acknowledge the truth, which is that Hashem provides a person with his material needs and therefore, unscrupulous business practices, which are a violation of Torah law, should be avoided.

To bless the people according to the Torah's directive the cohanim (priests) would raise their hands, which would cause the Divine Presence to rest upon their hands. This activated the power of the supernal hands, rectifying and bringing blessing to the entire world. (Lekutai Halachoth: Orach Chaim: Hilchos Tefilah 4:22-24) Thcrefore, money and luxury, when used for holiness, activates the highest and greatest spiritual powers. As long as wealth and any other power is connected to Hashem, it brings great benefit to the world. However, if one does not respect Hashem's wishes that he connect his wealth or his other powers to Hashem, it could ultimately Icad to destruction. May we merit to see the rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdash very soon. Amen!!


We mentioned that the most precious materials were used in the Mishkan's construction. When one's wealth or any other material item is used to serve Hashem, that item or physical item is sanctified. The following story illustrates these points:

Napoleon Bonaparte and his French armies were on the move, on their wiy to invade Russia. Napoleon had dreams of conquering the massive Russian army. On his way, he passed through the town of Lelov, where the renowned Reb Dovid lived. Napoleon was informed that the saintly Reb Dovid had great spiritual powers and possessed prophetic vision. Napoleon wanted to know if he would succeed in his Russian campaign and decided to ask the Rebbe.

Disguised as an ordinary soldier, Napoleon entered the humble abode of the Lelover Rebbe. As soon as Napoleon entered the Rebbe's room, he unbuttoned his soldier's uniform and revealed his true identify. Napoleon asked, "They say that you can see into the future. Will I succeed in conquering Russia?" "I don't have good news. You will suffer total defeat," replied the Rebbe. The emporer's face burned with rage. Clenching his fist tightly, he hisscd, "Rabbi, if you are wrong, you'll be in deep trouble."

Napoleon and his armies continued on into the heart of Russia - towards the capital city, Moscow. They won victory after victory. However, upon their capture of Moscow, due to their lack of provisions and the bitter cold, they were too weak to beat back a Russian counter-attack and Napoleon was eventually defeated.

The once glorious monarch fled from one city to the next until he reached the town of Lelov. He remembered the Rebbe and said, "That holy Rabbi - he was right after all. I must stop and pay my respects to him." "Rabbi, you were right. I would like to leave you mv royal, velvet robe to remember me by," Napoleon said to the Rebbe. Reb Dovid thanked Napoleon for his gracious gift and the monarch continued his flight. Eventually he was caught and sent into exile.

Reb Dovid kept the cloak. It was a magnificent, rich, soft, bright red, velvet cloak. Reb Dovid treasured the cloak, not because he cared for beautiful garments, but because it represented that even the monarchs of world acknowledged that Hashem rested with the Jews.

When Reb Dovid passed away, his son and successor, Reb Moshe inherited it and took the cloak with him when he and his followers moved to the land of Israel. There he built a yeshiva. Reb Moshe had Napoleon's majestic cloak cut and sewn and fitted to be used as the curtain for the holy ark. (Chassidic Tales)


Rabbi Nachman stressed that everyone must study at least one law from the Codes, the "Shulchan Aruch", daily, without fail. This study is a great spiritual remedy. A legal conclusion determins what is permitted or forbidden after sifting through the various opinions. Study of the codes helps seperate and rectify the evil of one's sins (Sichos HaRan 29): Ezra [the leading sage at the beginning of the second era, who has one of the books of the bible named for him] instituted that people should wash their clothes in honor of Shabbos (the Sabbath). Therefore, a person should try not to wear one shirt [without washing it] for more than one Shabbos. We should wash our clothes for Shabbos on Thursday, because on Friday we will be too busy with other Sabbos preparations. (Mishna Berurah 242:5)

HITHBODEDUTH (secluding oneself)

Rabbi Nachman taught that as well as reciting the mandatory daily prayers contained in the prayer book, we should also speak to Hashem, just as we would confide in our best friend: in seclusion, in the language and style with which we feel most comfortable. This is based on the advice of our sages, just to mention two sources: "Rebbe Yitzchak said: 'Why were our forefather's barren? Because Hashem desires the prayers of the righteous.'" (Talmud: Yevamoth 64a) "Hashem seeks nothing other than to hear the prayers of Israel." (Medrash Tehillim 116:1). In these sessions, one can openly discuss anything and everything with Hashem. One can praise Him, unload and unburden his feelings, aspirations, problems and wants. These encounters not only strengthen one's faith in Hashem, relieve stress and worry, help to accomplish goals, sharpen the mind and build an intimate and personal relationship with Hashem, but they cultivate the notion that Hashem really exists and can be counted on for all one's needs. The following is an example of a Hithbodeduth session:

A prayer of the poor when he is enwrippcd [in his affliction], and before Hashem he pours out his prayer [or conversation]: Hashem hear my prayer, and let me cry come before You. Do not hide Your face from me, in the day of my distress, incline Your car to me: in the day when I call, answer me specdily. For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are dried up as a hearth [oven]. All day my enemies taunt me; those who mock me, swear by me. For I have eaten ashes like bread, and mixed my drink with tears. He has turned to the prayer of the lonely one and has not despised his prayer. To hear the anguished cry of the prisoner; to liberate those who are doomed to die. (Selected verses from Psalm 102)

Volume 3, Issue 19