Printed from kabbalaonline.org
The Arizal reveals secrets of the urim v'tumim worn by the High Priest.

Fashion Statements of the High Priest

Fashion Statements of the High Priest

Intermediate Intermediate
 Email
Fashion Statements of the High Priest
The Arizal reveals secrets of the urim v'tumim worn by the High Priest.

In this week's Torah reading, G‑d commands Moses to make the eight garments of the High Priest. Two of these were the apron (ephod (see Ex. 28:6-12)) and the breastplate (choshen (see ibid. 28:15-30)). The breastplate was a doubled-over piece of fabric that rested on the chest of the High Priest, hanging by chains from the shoulder straps of the ephod and fastened by a sash to the waist section of the ephod. Inside the doubled fabric was inserted a parchment inscribed with G‑d's Name, called the "urim v'tumim" ("lights and perfections" (ibid. 28:30)) The urim v'tumim served as a divine oracle that enabled the High Priest to respond to questions of national consequence.

The urim v'tumim were [a manifestation of] the 42-Name of G‑d and the 72-Name of G‑d.

The 42-Name is formed by taking the name Havayah, spelling it out, spelling out the spelling-out, and summing the number of letters generated. The name Havayah itself comprises 4 letters. Spelling it out uses 10 letters:

Yud-vav-dalet hei-yud vav-yud-vav hei-yud.

Spelling out this spelling out uses 28 letters:

yud

yud

yud

vav

dalet

vav

vav

yud

vav

dalet

dalet

lamed

tav

hei

hei

hei

yud

yud

yud

vav

dalet

vav

vav

vav

yud

vav

yud

yud

vav

dalet

vav

vav

yud

vav

hei

hei

hei

yud

yud

yud

vav

dalet

4 + 10 + 28 = 42.

It is explained elsewhere in the writings of the Arizal (Etz Chaim 14:5) that in each partzuf, the name Havayah itself is manifest in the keter of that partzuf; the name Havayah spelled out (once) is manifest in the chochma of that partzuf; and the name Havayah spelled out as second time is manifest in the bina of that partzuf. In other words, the triad of keter-chochma-bina represent the unfolding of the initial insight (chochma) from its source (in keter) into its full intellectual manifestation (bina). Thus, the name Havayah thus manipulated to give a numerical value of 42 is associated with the "head", i.e. the intellect and pre-intellect.

The 42-Name is always associated with the head and the 72-Name with the torso….

The 72-Name is the name Havayah spelled out using the letter yud.1 The numerical value of the all these letters together is 72:

Yud-vav-dalet hei-yud vav-yud-vav hei-yud: (10 + 6 + 4) + (5 + 10) + (6 + 10 + 6) + (5 + 10) = 72.

In the same passage just referenced, it is explained that the emotions of each partzuf (the sub-partzuf of Zeir Anpin of each partzuf) manifests the 72-Name. Thus, since the emotions are anatomically associated with the heart and the torso, the 72-Name is spoken of as being associated with the torso.

The urim, which manifested the 42-Name, were positioned in the head, while the tumim, which manifested the 72-Name, were in the torso. For the 42-Name is always associated with the head and the 72-Name with the torso.

Thus, the urim are associated with the intellect and pre-intellect, while the tumim are associated with the emotions.

The ephod is mentioned elsewhere [as serving as an oracle], as in the episode of Evyatar: "An ephod went down in his hand." (Samuel I 23:6)

The full passage reads:

David was told: "The Philistines are fighting with Ke'ilah and plundering the threshing floors." David consulted G‑d [through the urim v'tumim], "Shall I go and attack these Philistines?" And G‑d said to David, "Go; attack the Philistines and you will save Ke'ilah." But David's men said to him, "Look, we are afraid here in Judah, how much more if we go against the formations of the Philistines in Ke'ilah!" So David consulted G‑d again, and G‑d answered him, "Arise, go down to Ke'ilah, for I am going to deliver the Philistines into your hands." David and his men went to Ke'ilah and fought against the Philistines; he drove off their cattle and inflicted a severe defeat on them. Thus David saved the inhabitants of Ke'ilah.

When Evyatar son of Achimelech fled to David at Ke'ilah, he brought down an ephod with him.

Saul was told that David had come to Ke'ilah, and Saul thought, "G‑d has delivered him into my hands, for he has shut himself in by entering a town with gates and bars." Saul summoned all the people for war, to go down to Ke'ilah and besiege David and his men. When David learned that Saul was planning to harm him, he said to the priest Evyatar, "Bring the ephod forward." And David said, "O G‑d, G‑d of Israel, Your servant has heard that Saul intends to come to Ke'ilah and destroy the town because of me. Will the citizens of Ke'ilah deliver me into his hands? Will Saul come down here, as Your servant has heard? O G‑d, G‑d of Israel, please tell Your servant!" And G‑d said, "He will come down here." David continued, "Will the citizens of Ke'ilah deliver me and my men into Saul's hands?" And G‑d answered, "They will deliver you." So David and his men, about six hundred in number, left Ke'ilah at once and went wherever they could. And when Saul was told that David had got away from Ke'ilah, he did not set out. (Ibid. 23:1-13)

So we see here that when it was not possible for the king to consult the urim v'tumim in the Temple, he consulted the ephod, which served as a portable oracle.

But [the ephod] was not really [an oracle on the same order] as the urim v'tumim, because the latter may be consulted only in the Temple or Tabernacle, whereas they used to take the ephod from place to place in order to consult with it.

It is therefore written, "you shall be whole [in Hebrew, 'tamim'] with G‑d, your G‑d." (Deut. 18:13)

Jacob personified G‑d's 'torso', the middle axis of tiferet, the pivot and fusion of all the emotions....

By revocalizing the Hebrew word for "whole", "tamim", it may be read "tumim". Thus, the verse can be read to mean "You shall [consult] the tumim only when you are with G‑d, your G‑d [i.e. in His sanctuary]".

This means that you should cling to the body of the King, as we have stated, for in the tumim was the 72-Name, which is associated with the torso.

Once we have the association between tumim and tamim, and that between the tumim and the body, we can translate this verse, "You shall be [with] the body of G‑d, your G‑d."

Similarly, it is written, "Jacob was a sincere [in Hebrew, 'tam'] man," (Gen. 25:27) implying that he clung to the body of the King.

Whereas Abraham personified G‑d's "right hand", the side of chesed, and Isaac personified G‑d's "left hand", the side of gevura, Jacob personified G‑d's "torso", the middle axis of tiferet, the pivot and fusion of all the emotions. Here, the mystical association of tam with tumim and tumim with G‑d's "body" alludes to this, for the verse can be read "Jacob was a man of the tumim," which in turn means "Jacob was a man associated with [G‑d's] 'body.'"

The twelve tribes are associated in Kabbalah with the twelve lines required to draw a cube….

Thus, "to cling to the body of G‑d" means to emulate His emotions. As our Sages say, "What does it mean: 'You shall walk after the L-rd, your G‑d'? (Deut. 13:5) Is it possible for a human being to walk after the Divine Presence? Is it not written, 'For G‑d, your G‑d, is a devouring fire'? (Ibid. 4:24) Rather, it means to emulate G‑d's attributes. As He clothes the naked…so should you also clothe naked. G‑d visits the sick…so should you also visit the sick. G‑d comforts mourners…so should you also comfort mourners. G‑d buries the dead…so should you also bury the dead." (Sotah 14a)

It is therefore written in that context, "Bring [in Hebrew, 'havah'] a correct ['tamim'] answer." (Samuel I 14:41)

The full passage is:

Saul said [to his soldiers], "Let us go down after the Philistines by night and plunder them until the light of morning; and let us not leave a single survivor among them." "Do whatever you think is good," they replied. But the priest said, "Let us approach God first." So Saul inquired of God [through the urim v'tumim], "Shall I go down after the Philistines? Will You deliver them into the hands of Israel?" But this time He did not respond to him.

Then Saul, [realizing the urim v'tumim did not work because someone in his army had sinned,] said, "Come forward, all chief officers of the troops, and find out how this guilt was incurred today. For as G‑d, who brings victory to Israel, lives: even if [this sin] was through my son Jonathan, [the sinner] shall be put to death!" Not one soldier answered him. And he said to all the Israelites, "You stand on one side, and my son Jonathan and I shall stand on the other." The troops said to Saul, "Do what you think is proper."

Saul then said to G‑d, "G‑d of Israel, Bring a correct tamim [answer]." Jonathan and Saul were indicated by lot, and the troops were cleared. And Saul said, "Cast the lots between my son and me"; and Jonathan was indicated. Saul said to Jonathan, "Tell me, what have you done?" (Ibid. 14:36-43)

In this passage, Saul casts lots as an oracle, since the urim v'tumim would not work for him. Before doing so, he prays to G‑d that He show him the correct answer using this method. In this prayer, he uses the unusual expression, "bring [havah] something correct [tamim]," the latter term alluding to the tumim.

Why did he use this expression? It was because the intention was to allude to the fact that the numerical value of the word "havah" is 12, referring to the twelve tribes that clung to the body of the King.

The twelve tribes are associated in Kabbalah with the twelve lines required to draw a cube, which is the basic geometric form of three dimensions of physical space and spiritual "space." They are thus associated with the 6 emotions (midot, literally "measures" of space) that anatomically make up the "body" of G‑d, the partzuf of Zeir Anpin.

The urim v'tumim…channel the divine message down into the world….

Although the patriarchs are associated with the three primary midot (chesed-gevura-tiferet), the sons of Jacob, the heads and progenitors of the tribes, are associated with the midot as a whole, particularly as they are projected onto the three lower worlds of Beriya, Yetzira, and Asiya.

For the tribes are [twelve] letter vav's, and the numerical value of vav is 6, such that the numerical value of 12 vav's is 72, for as we said, the 72-Name is associated with the torso.

In summary, the urim v'tumim together manifest the full sefirotic development, from the pre-intellect (keter) through the intellect (chochma and bina) and the emotions (midot). They thus channel the divine message down into the world, where it can be articulated through the High Priest wearing them within his breastplate.


Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim and Ta'amei HaMitzvot; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

Reprinted with permission from Chabad of California. Copyright 2004 by Chabad of California, Inc. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, without permission, in writing, from Chabad of California, Inc.

Footnotes
1.
According to Rabbi Shalom Sharabi, the 72-Name mentioned here is not the usual 72-Name formed by spelling out the name Havayah using the letter yud and then taking the numerical value, for then we would expect it to be contrasted by another one of the spellings-out of the name Havayah, i.e. the 63-Name, the 45-Name, or the 52-Name. But here, it is contrasted with the 42-Name. Therefore, he concludes that the 72-Name mentioned here is the Divine Name composed of the 72 three-letter Names formed by juxtaposing the three consecutive 72-letter verses of Ex. 14:19-21, which we have described previously.
Rabbi Yitzchak Luria […Ashkenazi ben Shlomo] (5294-5332 = 1534-1572 c.e.); Yahrtzeit (anniversary of death): 5th of Av. Buried in the Old Cemetery of Tzfat. Commonly known as the Ari, an acronym standing for Eloki Rabbi Yitzchak, the G-dly Rabbi Isaac. No other master or sage ever had this extra letter Aleph, standing for Eloki [G-dly], prefaced to his name. This was a sign of what his contemporaries thought of him. Later generations, fearful that this appellation might be misunderstood, said that this Aleph stood for Ashkenazi, indicating that his family had originated in Germany, as indeed it had. But the original meaning is the correct one, and to this day among Kabbalists, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria is only referred to as Rabbenu HaAri, HaAri HaKadosh [the holy Ari] or Arizal [the Ari of blessed memory].
Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky is a scholar, writer, editor and anthologist living in Jerusalem. He is a co-founder of Ascent Institute of Safed and one of the first contributing writers for KabbalaOnline.org. He has recently produced two monumental works: "Apples from the Orchard: Arizal on the Weekly Torah" (available for purchase from KabbalaOnline here) and a Chumash translation with commentary based on the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (Kehot).
 Email
Join the discussion
1000 characters remaining
Email me when new comments are posted.

The larger, bold text is the direct translation of the classic text source.

The smaller, plain text is the explanation of the translator/editor.
Text with broken underline will provide a popup explanation when rolled over with a mouse.