Parashat T’tzaveh (Exodus 27:30-30:10)

“I will abide among the Israelites, and I will be their God.” (Exodus 29:46)

Parashat T’tzaveh concludes the instructions for building the mishkan (Tabernacle) and describes in detail the priests’ clothes.  It closes by describing the ceremony to consecrate Aaron and his sons as priests.

It’s hard not to think of Albert Einstein when reading T’zaveh’s description of the choshen, the breastplate of decision, and the urim and tumim, the two objects carried inside the choshen.  Aaron, the High Priest, was supposed to, “…carry the instrument of decision for the Israelites over his heart before the Lord at all times.”  (Ex. 28:30).  Because the Torah refers to the urim and tumim with the definite article (“the”), commentators infer they were well known to the Israelites.  Some think they were stones with “yes” and “no” written on them, perhaps thrown like dice.  Others think it was a single piece of parchment with God’s name on it, which lit up the stones on the choshen.  Regardless, they are understood to indicate God’s will.   Interestingly, the Torah never describes an instance of their use.  Einstein, of course, is often quoted as having once said, ”God does not play dice with the universe.”

We all have an innate drive to find coherence in the world; nobody likes randomness, especially when it comes to matters of life and death.  We want to know there is a reason behind what happens.  To the Israelites, the urim and tumim represented God’s “hand on the wheel.”  To Einstein, the laws of quantum physics explained the universe as he observed it.  In that regard, science and religion serve the same purpose:  each presents a distinct, and coherent world view.

Good Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom,

David

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