Weekly Thought: Two Kinds of Stones

Why did the Kohein have two sets of stones with the inscription of the 12 Shvatim? Why were they different in style and detail? What lesson does this serve for us, ordinary people? Rabbi Avrohom Brashevitzky, Shliach to Doral, FL, shares his thoughts on this week’s Parsha – Tetzaveh.

In Parshas Tetzaveh when describing the two stones affixed on the shoulder straps of the Eiphod The Torah instructs (Chapter 28 Passuk 9): “And you shall take two shoham stones and engrave upon them the names of the sons of Israel”. (Passuk 12): “And you shall put the two stones upon the shoulder straps of the ephod as stones of remembrance for the sons of Israel, and Aaron shall carry their names before the Lord upon his two shoulders as a remembrance”.

Later when describing the 12 stones affixed on the Breast-Plate The Torah says (Passuk 17): “And you shall fill into it stone fillings, four rows of stones…” (Passuk 21): “And the stones shall be for the names of the sons of Israel twelve, corresponding to their names; [similar to] the engravings of a seal, every one according to his name shall they be, for the twelve tribes”. (Passuk 29): “Thus shall Aaron carry the names of the sons of Israel in the Choshen of judgment over his heart when he enters the Holy, as a remembrance before the Lord at all times.”

Both sets of stones equally carried all the names of the 12 Shvatim on them. Bothe sets of stone served the purpose of being a “remembrance before Hashem”. However, when analyzing the differences between these two sets one immediately sees a stark difference. The set worn on the shoulders of the Kohein had all the Shvatims’ names inscribed all together. Perhaps for practical purposes they were divided to two stones, thus they were equal; both stones were of the same type and color and both had an equal amount of names. Whereas the 12 stones on the Choshen, were exclusive in type and color as prescribed by the Passuk. And, each stone carried one name, the name of the Shevet which corresponded to that color and stone type.

I once heard a very insightful explanation on this difference, which can inspire us in the most important areas of our life: Rebbe, Hiskashrus, the raising of our children, Shlichus and Chinuch. When one is in the role of “Kohein Gadol”, serving as a leader or spiritual guide to others, or just working with other people, one must remember to always “carry” two sets of stone. The stones we “carry” on our shoulders i.e. the heavy lifting, getting the job done – carrying everyone (in the general direction) to the right destination – in this everybody should be treated equally. The job must get done and everyone is in for the same ride. However, when caring for each individual’s personal needs and style, one must carry a full set of individualized stones on the heart. On must be able to relate to each individual on their own personal level with the proper measure of emotions and consideration. Each person has their very own and unique “setting, color and name”. Each individual has a distinct and exclusive personality.

Our generation is lucky to have The Rebbe who so Divinely and sympathetically related to each and every Yid on their individual level. The Rebbe wasn’t Rebbe just to those who dressed in a particular fashion or thought in certain way or followed a particular code of conduct. The Rebbe cared for and related to every single Yid, even those who opposed His own views. Of course there are many who dress and behave in a certain manner which clearly identifies them as His Chassidim or Shluchim. Yet, there are so many more who may barely be identified as very observant by their dress and demeanor, yet they are very much Chassidim of The Rebbe and had a close relationship with Him. Collectively, The Rebbe “carried” all of Klaal Yisroel on His shoulders. He took us all in the same direction. Individually, He was Rebbe to each and every one, in their own way!

A person once complained to The Rebbe that he raised all his children in the same manner, gave them all equal attention and dedication. Yet, one of his children didn’t turn out quit well as the others and was particularly challenged in the keeping of Torah and Mitzvos. The Rebbe replied “this is exactly where the problem stems from; you said that you raised them all equally. The fact is that every child is different and requires a totally different approach and attention”!