Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Parshat Tetsaveh

The Ephod

"They shall make the ephod of gold, blue, purple, and crimson wool, and twisted fine linen, the work of a master weaver" (Shemot 28:6).

Rashi himself is unsure as to what the Ephod looked like, however, understanding what its function was is even more difficult.

On the one hand it is clear from our parsha and other sources that it was a type of clothing that was worn by holy people:

"Shmuel was serving before the Lord, being a lad girded with a linen ephod" (I Shmuel 2:18).

"Doeg turned, and he fell upon the priests, and slew on that day eighty-five men, wearers of the linen ephod" (ibid 22:18).

On the other, we have a strange story with Gidon. After his success in defeating Midian, Israel asks him to be their king. He rejects their demand, but instead asks them to give him some gold from the spoils of the war. "Gidon made it into an Ephod, and he set it up in his city… all Israel went astray after it there; and it became a snare to Gidon and to his house" (Shoftim 8:27).

How is an Ephod a substitute for being the king and how can it be a snare for the people? This episode seems to make the Ephod out to be an idol.

We can answer this question by seeing how the ephod was used. In our parsha, the urim and tumim are fitted on the ephod. While we are not sure what they are, we do know that they were used to divine God's will: " He shall stand before Eleazar the kohen and seek [counsel from] him through the judgment of the Urim before the Lord" (Bemidbar 27:21).

Furthermore, we see that the Ephod alone was also used for this purpose:

David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, "Bring near to me now the ephod." And Abiathar brought the ephod near to David. David enquired of the Lord saying, "Shall I pursue this troop? Will I overtake them?" He said to him, "Pursue, for you shall overtake and you shall rescue." (ibid 30:7-8).

It appears therefore, that the Ephod was a piece of clothing that enabled the wearer to communicate with God.

Those familiar with Gidon's story will now understand why Gidon wanted an Ephod. Throughout his journey, Gidon doubted that God a actually communicating with him. He needs signs, counter-signs and even an enemy's dream, to convince that he indeed, was hearing the word of God.

Gidon therefore, wanted an object that would make communication with God clearer. What better than an ephod.

The problem however, is that Israel began to think that the Ephod itself had was an object of worship, rather than a communication tool with God. Therefore, over time, Israel began to worship it.

Last year's Sedra Short on Parshat Tetsaveh, entitled: "The Mizbeach HaKetoret – Part 2" appears at

Another Sedra Short on Parshat Tetsaveh entitled: "The Mizbeach HaKetoret " appears at

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