The Shining Letters
This Shabbat we will read the Torah Portion “Te’tzaveh” in the book of Exodus.
In this portion the Torah tells us in detail about the priestly garments to be worn by all the priests – kohanim.
One (out of eight) of the garments that the High Priest – Kohen Gadol had to wear was a breastplate – Khoshen containing twelve precious stones inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel as described in the following verse:
“You shall make a breastplate of judgment, an act of skillful workmanship, like the work of the ephod you shall make it; gold, blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen shall you make it.” (Exodus 28:15)
Twelve precious stones set into gold casings were embedded unto the breastplate, upon which were inscribed the names of the 12 tribes of Israel.
The gems were arranged in four rows and three columns.
Additionally, the breastplate contained the names of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
On each stone six letters were written. The letters contained those of the name of one of the tribes and additional letters from the names Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to complement to six letters.
For instance: the first stone had the five letters of Reuben ראובן and the first letter of Abraham – א
The second stone had the five letters of Simeon שמעון
and the second letter of Abraham – ב
The third stone had the three letters of Levi לוי
and the three last letters of Abraham – רהם
And so on with the rest of the names… on the other stones.
Finally and the words Shivtei Yeshurun (“tribes of Jeshurun”) שבטי ישרון were added in similar manner, and the name of Binyamin בנימין containing six letters occupied the last stone, thus featuring all twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
Altogether there were 72 letters on all the stones. Our sages comment on that that six letters appearing on each stone were the reminders of the six days of the Creation.
And all the 72 letters were the reminders of the 72 hours during which the world was created.
(The world was created in 6 days during the 12 hours of the day time – thus the creation took place in 72 hours).
In the previous Torah portion the stones of the breastplate were called – “Avney Miluyim”
אַבְנֵי-שֹׁהַם, וְאַבְנֵי מִלֻּאִים, לָאֵפֹד, וְלַחֹשֶׁן
Onyx stones, and stones to be set, for the ephod, and for the breastplate (Exodus 25:7)
“Avney Miluyim” – literally means – “the stones that are filled out”…
The founder of the Chassidic movement, Ha’Baal Shem Tov taught that each of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet contains within it a “filling” of all the other letters of the alphabet.
For instance, writing out the letter Alef – א
in full provides 3 letters: Alef, Lamed and Pey – אלף
Then the second letter of the aLef, Lamed could be expanded with its inner filling of the letters Lamed, Mem, Dalet – למד and the third letter Pey could be expanded with its inner filling of the Pey and Hey – פה
and so on.
Writing out the letter Beit – ב
in full provides also three letters: Beit,Yod and Tav – בית
Here again we can expand each of these inner letters…
Furthermore, each of those letters can be further expanded, to produce even more letters, until the entire Hebrew alphabet is reconstituted.
The engraved letters shone in their expanded forms….
These can be attained by spelling out each letter in full.
The Breastplate of Judgment was a prophetic device, worn by the High Priest.
Using combination of those Hebrew letters that would light up on the breastplate (Urim Ve’Tumim), the High Priest was able to reveal the future and, for instance, advise the People of Israel whether to go on a war or not.
Through it questions could be asked of G‑d.
When the king or the High Court would ask a question, the priest would see various letters sparkle or bulge out.
Using Divine Inspiration, he would then be able to combine the letters to spell out the answer.
Since G‑d commanded that all twenty-two letters be inscribed on the Breastplate, when the priest would be enwrapped in Divine Inspiration, the letters would shine in their expanded forms.
This enabled them to receive everything they needed to know.
This is the meaning of “onyx stones and stones to be set [in Hebrew, ‘Avnei miluyim’], for the ephod, and for the breastplate”. (Ex. 25:7)
In Hebrew “Avnei miluyim” אבני מלואים (stones to be set) can be read alternatively as “stones that are filled out” – meaning that the engraved letters shone in their expanded forms.
Watch now a short video clip from the “Temple Institute” with additional explanations.
Let’s now take a look at the Hebrew root מלא
מלא – MALEH – Full, Complete, Abundant
מלא מפה לפה – MALEH MI’PEH LA’PEH – completely full/occupied (for a room/hall)
בפה מלא – BE’PHE MALEH – Explicitly, with full confidence
The word מילואים MILUYIM – reserve service is very much known to everyone in Israel
כרוב ממולא – K’RUV ME’MULAH – staffed cabbage
Wishing you a Shabbat FULL of Joy, Light and Blessing!
Yoel & Orly
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