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The Tzitz and Divine Truth

  • Harav Mosheh Lichtenstein
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Student Summaries of Sichot of the Roshei Yeshiva
Yeshivat Har Etzion




The Tzitz and Divine Truth

Summarized by Shaul Barth

Translated by Kaeren Fish



In our parasha God commands Moshe concerning the priestly garments: "And these are the garments that you shall make: a choshen and an efod and a robe and a quilted undercoat, a miter and a girdle" (Shemot 28:4). We immediately ask – what about the tzitz (headplate)? The omission becomes even more puzzling when we discover that the tzitz does, in fact, appear later on: "And you shall fashion the tzitz of pure gold" (28:36). In other words, if this is one of the garments that needs to be made, why is it not listed in the original command?


The omission can be understood by comparing the tzitz with a different garment – the choshen (breastplate). The choshen is fitted into the efod, between its folds, such that it is not seen from the outside. The tzitz, on the other hand, is worn on the forehead of the Kohen Gadol, and as such is clearly visible to all. The choshen bears God's Name between the folds of the efod, in a concealed manner, while the tzitz bears His Name openly, in the very center of the tzitz on the kohen's head. The tzitz is made of pure gold, while the choshen is attached by means of plaited chains of gold – i.e., a thin gold fiber that is spun together with threads of blue, purple, and scarlet.


These discrepancies tell us that there is a fundamental difference between that which is symbolized by the choshen and that which is symbolized by the tzitz. The tzitz represents absolute truth – clear, uncompromising, made of pure gold and openly bearing the Name of God. The choshen, in contrast, represents the Divine truth as expressed in our world: it is concealed, bearing the Name of God hidden within the folds of history. The Torah omits the tzitz from the original command in order to teach us that our world has no place for a command of absolute Divine truth. Although there must be a tzitz, and it must be worn on the forehead of the Kohen Gadol, the Torah cannot obligate us to give expression in this mortal, human world to a truth that characterizes the World to Come. For this reason, the choshen is included within the initial command to prepare the priestly garments, but the tzitz is absent.


(This sicha was delivered on Shabbat parashat Tetzaveh 5762 [2002].)