Category Archives: Parshat תצוה

Parshat תצוה

Parshat תצוה Shmos 28:38 – Concentration

Exodus 28:38 – It shall be upon Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall bear the iniquity of the holy things that the children of Israel sanctify, for all their holy gifts. It shall be upon his forehead constantly to make them favorable before the Lord.

Gemora Menachos 7b – “It should be on his forehead constantly” – From this phrase we see [that one who is wearing it] should not remove his concentration from it.


Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #26:

From here the rabbis learn [in a variety of places in the Gemora] that one who is wearing tefillin should not remove his concentration from them and is obligated to touch them constantly. This is learned from an “a fortiori” deduction from the ceremonial miter [that is the subject of our posuk]. The a fortiori deduction is as follows:

Just like the miter which only has God’s name written on it once, one is required to concentrate on it constantly, certainly this law applies to tefillin that has God’s name mentioned many times.

Tosafot comment in the Gemora noted above that this a fortiori deduction is not a full deduction. The [flaw] with the deduction is that the name of God written on the miter  used is the [full] revealed name while in the tefillin the name of God that is used is the [lesser] covered name.  Therefore, Tosafot conclude, that the prohibition of losing concentration while wearing tefillin is not biblical [ie, not fully based on this posuk above] but rather is from a rabbinic decree [that is loosely based on the above posuk.]

However, many others disagree with this observation of the Tosafot. These other rabbis conclude that it is, in fact, a full a fortiori deduction and that therefore the prohibition of not concentrating on one’s tefillin is biblical in nature and solidly based on our posuk. These dissenting rabbis wonder what practical halachic difference would there be in whether the full name or the covered name of God is used.

My opinion is that the words of Tosafot are correct. We do, in fact, find that many halachic stringencies apply to the miter but don’t apply to the tefellin. [Therefore, this law about concentration would logically only apply to the miter but not the tefillin.] It is logical to conclude that these stringencies that apply to the miter but not to the tefillin are there precisely because the full, revealed name of God is written on the miter.

For example, in the Gemora Kedushin 66a, King Yannai tests the Sages of Israel by wearing the miter. Rashi explains there that the test is to see whether the Sages stand up in honor the miter, since the name of God is written on it.

Notice that we do not find this stringency of needing to stand up for tefillin. One has to conclude that this stringency for the miter is due to the fact that the full, revealed name of God is written on the miter [but not on the tefillin.] Due to this full revealed name of God being there, the miter is due this additional honor.

 Another example is in the Gemora Sota 38a. There is mentions that the priests when they bless the people are supposed to raise their hands above their heads, except for the high priest who is wearing the miter. He is not supposed to raise his hands above the miter. Rashi there explains that the reason for not raising his hands above the miter is because the name of God is written on the miter. Behold, this stringency of not raising one’s hands above one’s head also does not apply to tefillin. Again, one would have to conclude that this stringency is precisely because the miter has the full revealed name of God written on it.

Therefore, it appears obvious that the explanation of the Rosh and the Tur on Or Hachaim Section 28 and also the explanation of the תר’י is correct; that the main fulfillment of the requirement to concentrate on one’s tefillin is done by avoiding idle chatter and frivolity while wearing one’s tefillin. Even though normally the term for concentration should be taken literally, but in this case since the halacha is only rabbinic in nature the rabbis only legislated laws that would lead to a desecration of God’s name if not followed.

The halachic difference between ruling that concentration is biblical versus rabbinic is precisely in this issue of whether one needs to touch them constantly. If, in fact, the requirement of concentration is biblical in nature, then one would need to touch one’s tefillin constantly so that one is constantly mindful of wearing tefillin. But if the requirement of concentration is only rabbinic, then the requirement of touching them is only general in nature. And there are other halachic distinctions that arise from this difference of opinion regarding the exact source of the requirement of concentration, but here is not the place for extending the topic.

 DBS Note: First of all, the Torah Temimah’s knowledge of the entire Talmud shines through in this note. Secondly, this note is a very good introduction to the concept of “a fortiori argument”. I am cutting and pasting a Wikipedia definition of this important concept. If you are new to the concept, read the note above again to see precisely how it applies. Thirdly, this note shows clearly the hierarchy of traditional Judaism in tiers of obligations. Biblical obligations are more important and stringent than rabbinic obligations. Much effort is put into ensuring that we delve into which obligations are of what type and what the resulting halachic ramifications are.

Lastly, it is wonderful how the Torah Temimah weighs in on the arguments of approximately 1,000 years earlier and clearly expresses his opinion of who was right.


An a fortiori argument /ˈɑː fɔːrtɪˈr/[1] is an “argument from a yet stronger reason.” For example, if it has been established that a person is dead (the stronger reason), then one can with equal or greater certainty argue that the person is not breathing. “Being dead” trumps other arguments that might be made to show that the person is not breathing, such as for instance, not seeing any sign of breathing.

An a fortiori argument draws upon existing confidence in a proposition to argue in favor of a second proposition that is held to be implicit in the first. The second proposition may be considered “weaker,” and therefore the arguer adduces a “stronger” proposition to support it.

Also, here is the link to a Wikipedia article on miter/mitre:

Parshat תצוה Shmos 28:40 – Talmudic Logic and a Lesson for the Deaf

Exodus 28:40 – And for the sons of Aaron you should make coats and you should make belts and turbans shalt thou make for them, for honor and for beauty.

Jerusalem Talmud Yoma Chapter 3 Halacha 6 – The Rabbis [Rabbi Yosi?] taught an explanation of the phrase “for the sons of Aaron you should make coats.” From this wording they learned that it is required to have two coats for each cohen.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #30:

Rabbi Yosi thinks that this statement apply to general ‘coats’. In other words, since it says ‘for the sons of Aaron’ that is the reason why it writes ‘coats’ in the plural. Certainly, the intent of the rabbis was not that each cohen should wear two coats. We know that it says in Gemora Zevachim 18a that a cohen who wears two garments of the same type while he’s doing the service in the temple, that service is invalid.

Rather, the intent is that each cohen should have an extra coat in reserve in case he needs it. Further, it is entirely possible that it need not be limited to two, but rather a cohen could have more in reserve if he wanted. The Talmud teaches “two” as the minimal obligation based on the use of the plural form.

Also, it does make sense [ניחה] that the same deduction is not made about belts and turbans that are also written in the plural. Only the coat is worn close to the body and likely to absorb bodily foulness.

Truly though it is not clear to me why the rabbis interpreted this posuk in this way. Certainly the words of Rabbi Yosi are based on logical reasoning rather than on a textural deduction. It does seem that the reason why it writes “coats” in the plural is because the subject is also in the plural (the sons of Aaron); just like belts and turbans are also in the plural. Additionally a similar phrase is using in the Gemora Megilla 7a  where it discusses the requirement to send “gifts to the poor”. [Gifts is written in plural as is the word ‘poor people’.] There, even though the Gemora says it means at least two gifts to at least two poor people, Rashi says that one gift to one poor person would be sufficient for the minimum requirement. He bases this on the fact that even though it does use the plural form for ‘gifts’; nevertheless since it says ‘poor people’ [also in the plural] we can conclude that the minimum requirement is one gift for one poor person.

Take note also that the Rambam in Chapter 8 of the section “Vessels of the Temple” does not mention at all this requirement of having two coats for each cohen.  Even though, as we mention above, it is not clear from the language of the posuk how the deduction is made that one must have two coats, nevertheless, it is clear that this is a deduction that the rabbis have made from the language of the posuk. It certainly has a valid reason and logic to it, even if we don’t understand it. If that is the case, how is it possible for the Rambam just to omit this law entirely? To compound the difficulty, look in the Gemora Chaggigah 3a where it concludes that a person who is deaf in only one ear is exempt from the obligation to go up to Jerusalem during the three pilgrimage festivals. The Gemora there concludes this from the words of the posuk (Parshat Vayelekh) where it says “Read the Torah in their ears”. From the fact that it says “ears” in the plural, the Gemora concludes that if one is deaf in one ear, he is excluded from this command. And the Rambam does include this law! Also, the Gemora Yerushalmi there actually attaches the law about being deaf in one ear to our posuk here about each cohen needing two coats.

Since this is the case, it really makes no sense for the Rambam to omit the law requiring two coats yet include the law exempting a person who is deaf in one ear. This issue requires much further study.  


DBS Note: I appreciate the intense insistence on consistency.  Also, being that I am deaf in one ear, this note has a personal relevancy to me.