Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment over his heart when he goes into the holy place, for a remembrance of the Holy One at all times. (Exodus 28:29)
This week’s Torah portion, Tetzaveh, offers a detailed description of the garments worn by Aaron, his sons, and their descendants, the priestly class known as cohanim. Among those vestments, much attention is devoted to the breastplate, an elaborate ornament bearing twelve precious stones, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. While the breastplate is no longer worn by Jewish leaders, it prominently adorns our Torah scrolls.
Why does Torah specify that High Priest wear this garment over his heart?
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai connects this commandment with another passage that refers significantly to Aaron’s heart. He notes that when God first calls Moses at the Burning Bush, Moses responds by asking that his brother, Aaron, stand by his side as his spokesperson. God grants this request and tells Moses: Now he is setting out to meet you, and he will be happy in his heart to see you.
Weaving these two passages together, Shimon bar Yochai teaches: The heart that was happy for his brother’s important role, will ultimately be happy in his own role as the priest bearing the breastplate.
In other words, a significant step toward finding meaning and happiness in our own lives entails learning to rejoice in the gifts and accomplishments of others, especially those dearest to us. Because Aaron generously celebrates Moses’s leadership, he is able to thrive in his own.
Conversation Question: This week, focus on rejoicing in the gifts of those around you—and reflect on how this practice helps you to be more generous and comfortable sharing yours.