Rav Moshe Twersky Hy"d ztz"l
1 – One set of chains or two?
ושתי שרשרת כח:יד
Immediately following the description of the eifod is a parsha comprised of three pesukim. These pesukim talk about the chains that connected the choshen to the shoulder straps of the eifod. Rashi learns that these chains described in this parsha are the very same as those described in 28:22 in the context of the choshen, and that it is only mentioning them now – immediately following the eifod – to explain part of the purpose of the golden settings (that held the avnei shoham at the end of the shoulder straps).
The Rambam (Hilchos Klei Ha’Mikdash 9:8-10), however, writes as follows: “Two gold chains are inserted into the two upper rings of the choshen…two gold chains are inserted into the two upper rings of the shoulder straps of the eifod…the end of the two gold chains of the choshen are then connected to the two upper rings of the shoulder straps of the eifod…and the two gold chains of the upper rings of the eifod’s shoulder straps are lowered until they reach the upper rings of the choshen in order that they should be held fast to one another.”
The Rambam holds that there were two sets of chains: one set for the upper rings of the eifod’s shoulder straps, and another set for the upper rings of the choshen. The eifod chains were then connected to the choshen rings, and the choshen chains were connected to the eifod rings.
What emerges, then, is that the Rambam understood the aforementioned pesukim differently from Rashi; namely, that the chains being described in these pesukim are not the same as those described in the context of the choshen. Rather, these chains are separate, and a continuation of the details of the eifod.
2 – What is the urim v’tumim?
ונתת אל חשן המשפט את האורים ואת התומים כח:ל
In parshas Shmos (4:14), Rashi brings the Chazal that says Aharon Ha’Kohein was zocheh to wear the choshen because he rejoiced over his younger brother’s superlative achievements, and didn’t feel bad about it at all. The Ran (in his derashos) asks a Brisker kashya on this: No matter what, he has to wear the choshen because it’s one of the eight vestments of the Kohein Gadol, without which he would be mechusar begadim?! The answer, says the Ran, is that this Chazal is not referring to the actual choshen, but the klaf with the Sheim ha’meforash that was inserted into the folds of the choshen. That was an additional component, and the lack thereof would not disqualify him; it does not make him mechusar begadim.
This is the way Rashi explains the choshen as well. The pasuk says (28:30), “v’nasata el choshen ha’mishpat es ha’urim v’es ha’tumim, you shall put the urim v’tumim into the choshen ha’mishpat.” Rashi explains that the urim v’tumim is a klaf that has the Sheim ha’meforash written on it, and it is placed in the fold of the choshen. In Bayis Sheini, continues Rashi, the Kohein Gadol did have a choshen because without it he would be mechusar begadim, but the klaf with the Sheim ha’meforash they did not have.
The Rambam, on the other hand – when he writes about those things that were missing in Bayis Sheini – says as follows (Hilchos Beis Ha’Bechira 4:1): “Even the urim v’tumim that were in Bayis Sheini did not respond with ruach ha’kodesh, and they would not inquire of them…and they only made them in order to complete the eight vestments for the Kohein Gadol so that he should not be mechusar begadim.”
The Raavad immediately takes issue with this Rambam. He says that the urim v’tumim have no relevance to the issue of lacking any of the eight vestments because it is not included in that count of eight. Clearly, the Raavad is learning like Rashi and the Ran, that the urim v’tumim was an additional item – the klaf with the Sheim ha’meforash written on it – that added the dimension of ruach ha’kodesh, but not that it was an intrinsic part of the eight vestments of the Kohein Gadol.
When the Rambam describes the choshen in Hilchos Klei Ha’Mikdash (9:6-8), he makes no mention of a klaf with the Sheim ha’meforash written on it. This does not come up anywhere in the Rambam, so it is clear that he held that there was no Sheim ha’meforash inserted into the fold of the choshen. The question then begs itself, how did the Rambam understand the pasuk, “v’nasata el choshen ha’mishpat es ha’urim v’es ha’tumim, you shall put the urim v’tumim into the choshen ha’mishpat”?
The answer to this question is found in the pirush of Rabbeinu Avraham ben Ha’Rambam. He writes that although the straightforward reading of the pasuk would indicate that the urim v’tumim was something additional that was placed into the choshen, Chazal explain that it is actually just a description of stones that are affixed on the choshen. Rabbeinu Avraham concludes, clearly paraphrasing his father, that the choshen that they had during Bayis Sheini was only to maintain the outer form of the full set of eight vestments so that the Kohein Gadol would not be mechusar begadim, but the inner purpose of the stones – the urim v’tumim quality of revealing the future – was lacking. It comes out, then, that according to the Rambam the urim v’tumim is not an additional component. There was no Sheim ha’meforash inserted. It is just a quality that the choshen was imbued with when the ruach ha’kodesh was present during Bayis Rishon.
As far as the Ran’s kashya – that if the urim v’tumim is synonymous with the choshen then how could it be that Aharon was only zocheh to it because of the way he reacted to Moshe’s appointment – we could answer that it is similar to what Chazal say elsewhere. Chazal say that in the zechus of Avraham avinu saying “anochi afar va’eifer” we were zocheh to the mitzvos of afar sotah and eifer parah adumah.
3 – The mitzvah of kohanim wearing bigdei kehuna
והלבשת אתם כח:מא
In Seifer Ha’Mitzvos (mitzvah 33), the Rambam counts Kohanim wearing their bigdei kehuna as a full-fledged, independent mitzvah in the minyan ha’mitzvos. The Ramban, though, argues and says that it is not an independent mitzvah, rather it is part of the mitzvah to carry out the avodah in the Mikdash, since they cannot do so without wearing their bigdei kehuna.
The Rambam holds that since the bigdei kehuna include shaatnez – he paskens like the opinion in the Gemara that even the avneit of the regular kohanim was made with shaatnez – the kohanim can only wear them when they are engaged in avodah. They have to don their bigdei kehuna only at the last possible moment before they begin the avodah, and the moment they finish the avodah they have to immediately take them off. That is shitas ha’Rambam.
Interestingly enough, though, the Rambam only seems to make an issue of this regarding the regular kohanim. At the end of Hilchos Kilayim (10:32) he only mentions the avneit. But what about the choshen and the eifod of the Kohein Gadol, about which the pasuk says explicitly that they were comprised of shaatnez?!
My grandfather told me an answer in the name of the Beis Ha’Levi. The Rambam holds that the mitzvah of wearing bigdei kehuna for the Kohein Gadol is different than that of the regular kohanim. For regular kohanim, it is only a mitzvah for them to wear their bigdei kehuna when they are actually involved in doing avodah. When it comes to the Kohein Gadol, though, any time he wears his eight vestments of kehuna gedola it is a kiyum mitzvah. Similar to the mitzvah of tzitzis, that for as long as you wear them, it is a mitzvah. Likewise the Kohein Gadol. For him, as long as he wears his bigdei kehuna gedola, it is a mitzvah; and that mitzvah of course overcomes the issur of shaatnez. It is possible, though, that even for the Kohein Gadol this mitzvah is limited to within the area that is defined as Mikdash, but in Medinah not.
According to this statement of the Beis Ha’Levi, the pesukim read extremely well. Numerous times – when talking about the bigdei kehuna – the pasuk employs an expression of “bigdei ha’kodesh l’Aharon ha’kohein v’es bigdei vanav l’chahein, the sacred vestements for Aharon ha’kohein and the vestments of his sons to serve as kohanim.” This expression is employed in Ki Sisah 31:10, Vayakheil 35:19, and Pekudei 39:41. Clearly, the pasuk is distinguishing between the function of the vestments of Aharon versus those of his sons. When it comes to his sons – who are of course regular kohanim – the vestments are strictly for the purpose of l’chahein, which means to make them suitable to act as kohanim, to carry out the avodah. Regarding Aharon, though, it just says that his vestments are for him, thus implying that his mitzvah of wearing his vestments is not limited only to the purpose of him performing avodah.