Pekudei: Chapter 21

Breastplate and Efod


Rabbi Yosi says that the Efod and the breastplate are the combination of Malchut and Zeir Anpin. He talks about the twelve stones on the breastplate that have inscribed on them the names of the children of Yisrael, and the twelve combinations of Yud Hei Vav Hei along with the supernal twelve tribes above. We hear an explanation of the verse: "There went the tribes," and learn that 'tribes' refers to the supernal twelve tribes above; these are the tribes of Yah, for 'Yah' means 'testimony'.

Rabbi Chiya draws a distinction between the tribes below and the tribes above. We hear that when Jacob went to Haran, "he took some of the stones of the place, and put them under his head." These are the twelve holy stones, and all of them became one stone as in: "and this stone, that I have set for a pillar." The High Priest carries the stones always on his heart, in order to remember them forever. The twelve supernal stones are the secret of the Torah. We learn that the Shechinah is being referred to as a "stone of Yisrael," that is rolled into exile, until "They...put the stone back upon the well's mouth in its place" at the time of redemption. We read a description of many kinds of stones and their relationship to the Sfirot and the directions and the tribes, followed by the information that in all the names of the tribes the letters Chet and Tet are not used because they are the letters in 'Sin'.

Rabbi Shimon explains to Rabbi Aba about the meaning of 'Urim' and 'Tumim', comparing them to the Tfilin and the knot of Tfilin. He says the 'Urim' are the face, and 'Tumim' are the back, and this is the secret of sound and speech, for the speech completes the word, and they are inseparable as are the breastplate and the Efod. Rabbi Shimon tells how things are often hidden by mentioning the less significant part, so sometimes the Efod is mentioned without the breastplate. In the same way the hidden significant name of Yud Hei Vav Hei is not referred to, the name mentioned is Adonai. There is an internal hidden part to everything. Rabbi Shimon turns to the question of why Gabriel is depicted as "the man clothed in linen," and says that Gabriel was appointed as a messenger to this world and must therefore wear the clothing of this world. He uses the analogy of the breastplate in front and the Efod behind to clarify how God created male and female from Adam. We learn that Eve bore Cain as the offspring of the serpent, and that is why Cain was the first to bring death into the world. Rabbi Shimon says he found in ancient books that when Cain killed Abel he bit him with serpent bites, this drew out his soul until he died. When Adam saw that Cain had killed Abel he separated from his wife for a hundred and thirty years, saying that he didn't wish to be a father any longer. At that time unholy female spirits came and mated with him, and he produced spirits and demons called 'the plagues of men'. After this he learned jealousy, and returned to mate with Eve who produced Seth. Seth was the first of his children that was exactly like him.

Rabbi Shimon then turns his explanation back to the breastplate and the Efod, and says that the High Priest's face shone and the letters on the stones stood out, illuminating his face. The four rings that connect the breastplate to the Efod are the secret of the Chariots that connect the side below to the side above. The two rings in the breastplate are the secret of the beasts, while the two rings in the Efod are the secret of the wheels. As they are connected, so are Yetzirah and Asiyah, as in: "And when the living creatures moved, the wheels went by them; and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up." Rabbi Shimon concludes by reiterating how the lower world is connected to the Upper World in all things, and that this is the secret of the construction of the Tabernacle.