Get A Grip
With them you shall dress Aharon your brother and his sons with him. You
shall anoint them, and fill their hands..." (28:41)
The Torah relates that Moshe is instructed to anoint Aharon and
his sons and to "fill their hands". Rashi explains that the expression "fill
their hands" refers to the act of inauguration. Rashi adds that in medieval
times, a newly inaugurated official had a gauntlet placed in his hand to
symbolize his new position of authority. Similarly, explains Rashi, the
Torah uses the expression "filling the hands" to indicate the conferring of
a new authority.
The Ramban questions the fact that Rashi associates a medieval custom with
the usage of the expression in the Torah. What bearing should this medieval
practice have on the definition of a Torah expression?
A person's hands reflect his state of mind. If a person fidgets he is
revealing that he is nervous and insecure, traits which are usually present
in an unfulfilled individual. Placing something within a person's hand for
him to grasp, stabilizes his hand. By placing the gauntlet into the
official's hands we indicate our desire for him to be fulfilled. In the
vernacular we use the expression "having a grip on things" to indicate
Rashi is not mentioning a historical custom to explain the definition of the
word. Rather, Rashi is explaining that the psychological and emotional
reason behind this medieval custom offers an insight into the human
condition. This insight can be used to explain why the Torah refers to the
inauguration process as "filling the hands". We are expressing our
confidence that the newly appointed individual will perform his
responsibilities competently and will find his fulfillment through this service.
Close To The Chest
"and the fourth row: tarshish, shoham, and yashfeh..." (28:20)
Aharon wore an ornament on his chest called the "Choshen";
it had gold settings into which twelve precious gems were placed. Each gem
represented one of the twelve sons of Yaakov. The last of the Choshen's gems
was the "yashpeh". Rabbeinu Bechaya cites a Midrash which connects the
yashpeh stone with the Tribe of Binyamin. Yashpeh, explains the Midrash, is
a contraction of the words "yesh" and "peh" - "has a mouth"; it was chosen
to represent Binyamin because its name reflects a praiseworthy trait
displayed by him. Although Binyamin was aware that his brothers sold Yoseif
into slavery, he did not reveal their actions to his father. If Binyamin
was being lauded for his silence, why was the gem called "yashpeh" - "has a
mouth"? Should the more appropriate name not be "ainpeh" - "has no mouth"?
What trait did Binyamin exhibit through his silence?
The Talmud relates that Yaakov suspected that Lavan may attempt to
substitute Leah for Rachel. Therefore, as a preventative measure he gave
Rachel a secret password which would identify her to him on their wedding
night. At the thought of her sister's public humiliation Rachel revealed to
Leah the password which enabled Lavan's subterfuge to be successful. The
Talmud identifies Rachel's behavior as an example of "tznius" - "modesty"
and states that because of her exceptional display of tznius she merited to
have great descendants who too would display exemplary acts of tznius: Shaul
HaMelech, after being anointed by Shmuel as the Sovereign of Israel, did not
reveal his status to his family members. Esther, while in the pageant
which would determine the next queen of Persia, did not reveal her regal
ancestry for fear that it would place the other girls at a disadvantage.
What new definition of tznius is the Talmud revealing?
Tznius is generally defined as a code of modesty which determines our mode
of dress and behavior. We approach this obligation as "bein adam lamakom", a
responsibility that we have to our Creator. The Talmud is teaching us that
the requirement to be modest is also "bein adam lachaveiro", a social
responsibility. The laws of tznius require that we act in a manner which
does not invade the space of others. Our actions must be measured in terms
of how they will impact upon the sensitivities of our fellow man. The manner
of dress required is not dictated by how much of the body must be covered
alone, but by the awareness that dressing in a provocative manner may be an
attack upon the senses of another as well. An outfit that meets the Halachic
specifications in terms of its length may still violate the laws of tznius
if it is designed in a manner which draws public attention.
Staying within our own space and not invading the space of others is not
only relegated to attire. Speech is the area through which we have the
greatest difficulty in focusing upon the sensitivities of others. All too
often we speak up because of the benefit we derive from what we are saying,
but fail to realize the damage we do to others with the content, decibel
level and even verbosity of our speech.
All of the examples of tznius ascribed to the descendants of Rachel involve
mastery over the spoken word. In Rachel's situation, the fact that she
discerned the appropriate time to divulge sensitive information is
highlighted. In the scenarios involving her descendants their ability to
abstain from divulging information at personal cost is highlighted. Binyamin
is the son of Rachel and it is this specific trait which is being heralded.
A person who has endured a terribly traumatic experience very often is
unable to discuss it for fear that discussing it will cause him to relive
the experience. Overcoming this fear and conversing with a person who cares
about him helps ease the burden of the trauma. Binyamin's loss of his only
maternal brother at the hands of his paternal brothers must have been a
highly traumatic experience. The only one to whom he could convey his
feelings was his father, yet he refrained from doing so. By assigning the
yashpeh as the gem to represent Binyamin the Torah is attesting to the fact
that his abstinence from discussing his brother's fate was not a result of
his inability to divulge the information due to his trauma. On the contrary,
"yesh peh", his ability to converse about the issue was intact. Although it
might have been of great emotional benefit for Binyamin to discuss the
matter with his father, the knowledge that the pain his father would receive
when enlightened as to his sons' actions would not permit Binyamin to speak.
This acute sensitivity to protecting others from pain, even at great
personal sacrifice, stems from Binyamin's perfection of his inherited trait
2.Kiddushin 32b, See Rashi
3.See Rashi Rosh Hashana 30a Shemos 15:17 Tosafos Shevuos 15b