Last week's Parsha lists all the materials needed for building the Mishkan. At the end of that list, in this week's Parsha, comes the precious stones used for the clothing of the Kohein Gadol . Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz asks why these stones, which are the most valuable of all the materials, are enumerated last. He answers that they come last because a basic, important ingredient was missing. Since the donors had easy access to these stones, there was no act of good will by the donors in giving them. It is human nature to toil over that which is most dear to us. However, that which comes easily to us does not require much effort on our part, and as a result it does not take up a big place in our hearts. The central institution of Avodah, service of God, must be founded on the highest level of good will; the giving of that which is toiled over and is very dear to the donor. Since no effort was needed on behalf of the donors in offering the stones, the Torah lists those stones last.
We can learn from here an important lesson in life. The focus of our investments of time and effort will turn out to be the things we hold dearest. However, one must be thankful for his or her blessings and must try not to have selfish goals. In addition, one must consider whether it is the worth the time and effort to chase after something. We see this in the story of Purim, which we will be reading shortly. Haman required everyone to bow to him when he passed by, yet Mordechai refused to comply. Haman, a rich and powerful minister of the king, could not appreciate any of his blessings so long as Mordechai refused to bow. This attitude ultimately led to Haman's downfall. Haman's efforts were only directed to self-aggrandizement. He invested every fiber of his being into ascending the ladder toward further honor and recognition. His mistake is a lesson to all generations.
In our generation, which provides us with so many opportunities to excel, we must constantly ask ourselves as follows: "Are we really dedicating our lives to things of substance?" Or, like Haman, are we chasing after empty dreams that vanish as soon as our eyes are opened? Let us all learn from Haman's mistake and consider what is truly important and deserving of our precious time. Let us make our efforts and goals something fit to give to the King of Kings.
by Kevin Beckoff
Parshat Tetzaveh states (28:15): “Ve’asita Choshen Mishpat,” “And you shall make a breastplate of justice.” Chazal explain (Zevachim 88b) that the Choshen is associated with justice because the breastplate atoned for failures of justice. The Akeidat Yitzchak adds that the Choshen relates to the four main areas that cause unethical justice. The first area is favoritism based on wealth or scholarly abilities. The Chosen served as an antidote to this by having all of the Shevatim engraved in chronological order, as opposed to ordering them by factors like size, wealth, or abundance of eminent personalities. The second case is where a judge feels the case is petty and therefore is likely to make a mistake in his judgment. In contrast, the Choshen had stones that were precious and stones that were not, but all were treated equally. The third case is when the judge is scared of one of the sides in the case. It is for this reason that the name of Hashem was etched into the stone of the Chosen, which showed that fear of Hashem should overpower all other fears. The last and most severe case is failure due to lack of knowledge. The Urim VeTumim was embedded in the Choshen to remedy this situation. When Bnei Yisrael needed an answer, they could ask a question of the Urim VeTumim and receive Hashem’s response. Today, although we do not have a Choshen, it is crucial to think about what the Choshen stood for and to make sure not to corrupt justice.
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