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Parsha Pekudei

03/07/2019 09:20:21 PM


One of the Kohen Gadol’s garments was the Tzitz, a golden forehead-plate that had the words “Holy to God” inscribed on its face.  In discussion of the Kohen Gadol’s outfit, the Gemara in Eruchin teaches that each one of the eight garments correlated to a specific flaw or sin that it represented and atoned for.  The Tzitz was associated with “Azus Meitzach”- literally brazen facedness- and the Kohen Gadol atoned for this flaw by wearing the Tzitz.  Whether it is the Hebrew term of “Azus Meitzach” or the English term of “brazen-facedness,” it is evident in this unique term that brazenness is accompanied by the face’s expression of this characteristic.  The Ramban explains that “Meitzach” refers specifically to the forehead area of the face, or the exterior of the brain.  While various characteristics are linked with other parts of the body, true brazenness is meant to be an expression of high conviction and sincerity of the works of the mind.  In the untainted sense, to be stubborn is to be certain that the functions of the mind are correct and accurate against disagreeing surroundings.

The given complexities of brazenness are noticeable in the almost ambivalent views that the Torah advances for this special characteristic.  On the negative side, we say during Viddui on Yom Kippur that our brazenness has been the catalyst for many of our sins, and we then highlight the contrast between God’s mercy and our brazenness.  The Gemara in Yevamos teaches that a sense of shame is one of the three marking attributes that define a Jew, as it is vital from preventing people from doing the wrong thing.  After the infamous sin of the Golden Calf, God criticizes the Jews to Moshe by calling them stubborn.  On the other hand, the Gemara in Beitza approvingly remarks that the Jews are the most stubborn of nations.  The Gemara implies that it is this immovable outlook of the Jews that preserved them through the unceasing persecutions from the world at large, on both physical and intellectual levels.  Only the Jew is bold enough to persistently survive as a minority, uninterested in public opinion and persuasive reforms, to audaciously stand up for his unique beliefs.

The Chasam Sofer explains that it is this given paradox of Jewish makeup- a strong sense of shame and yet an existential need for brazenness- that is meant to be depicted by the Tzitz.  Bearing the message of “Holy to God,” the Tzitz teaches that certitude of mind and intractable clarity are tools that must be dedicated to God in order to be used properly.  Just as fire affords great abilities to create and light but comes with destructive capacities as well, brazenness similarly is a powerful tool that can both create and destroy.  Shame and stubbornness are constantly being weighed against each other in our Jewish personality, with a right time and place for both, but the main thing is to calibrate the scale correctly- “Kodesh Lashem”- aligned with God's will.  When this is the way the scale is calibrated, stubbornness can be used as a positive tool for the Jew; when this calibration is even a bit off, “Azus Meitach” may sadly dominate our personality.  The Tzitz teaches an awareness of this internal competition going on in our temperament, and the way that we can achieve a proper balance between the two.

Wed, June 7 2023 18 Sivan 5783