Parshas Tetzaveh #1
“A gold bell and a pomegranate, a gold bell and a pomegranate, [alternately] on the hem of the robe all around it. And Aharon will wear it when he serves [in the Sanctuary]. Its sound will be heard when he comes to the [Tabernacle] before Hashem, and when he goes out, and he will not die” (Shmos 28:34-35).
The Kohanim serving in the Mishkan and later, in the Beis HaMikdash, wore special Bigdei Kehunah (Priestly Garments). Every Kohen had four garments, and the Kohen Gadol, an additional four. All of these articles were made according to precise specifications. They were imbued with great sanctity and symbolic significance, and each article served as atonement for a specific sin on the part of the Jewish people (see Yoma 59a, Zevachim 88b).
One of the eight garments of the Kohen Gadol was the Me'il, a full-length robe worn under the Ephod. At the edge of the hem there was a row of small gold bells and “pomegranates.” These bells were more than decorative – they served the special function of announcing Aharon’s arrival and departure.
The Rashbam notes that Chazal derive an important principle from this passuk: “Do not enter your house suddenly” (Pesachim 112a). He explains, “Instead, make your voice heard to them before you enter.” Those inside the house may be busy with personal matters where privacy is appropriate, and it is proper to forewarn them that you are about to walk in. He cites the Midrash: Rabbi Yochanan would make a noise before entering the home of his teacher Rabbi Chanina, in keeping with the passuk, “Its sound will be heard when he comes to the [Tabernacle]” (Vayikra Rabbah 21:8).
The Etz Yosef (Vayikra Rabbah ibid.) explains why Rabbi Yochanan was so careful: “He did not arrive suddenly – they knew that he was coming. Even so, he would make a noise, simply out of respect, as if first asking permission. So too, [the sound made] by the Kohen Gadol was only for respect.” As we see, the bells on the Me'il teach us a lesson about common courtesy.
The need for courtesy and consideration, often called derech eretz, extends to every area of life.
A talmid of Rav Moshe Feinstein recalled a lesson in derech eretz that he learned from his great rebbe. The talmid would be spending a few weeks at home during the summer break (bein hazemanim). When he said goodbye to Rav Moshe after Tisha B’Av, he asked his advice about what he should undertake as a bein hazemanim learning project. The answer was probably not what the young man expected: instead of recommending a masechta to study over the summer, Rav Moshe asked if the rav in this talmid’s small community gave a shiur between minchah and maariv. When the talmid verified that yes, there was such a shiur, Rav Moshe gave him his assignment.
In this student’s hometown, a yeshivah bachur was something of a rarity, Rav Moshe said. Coming from a New York yeshivah, he was no doubt considered a talmid chacham in his community. If he listened carefully to the local rav’s daily shiur, sitting up front and paying attention, rather than learning on his own in the back while the rav spoke, he would enhance the rav’s stature in the eyes of the community; they would see that even a visiting scholar was interested in what he had to say. This, Rav Moshe told him, was his bein hazemanim project: he should honor the rav with respectful behavior during his shiur (Mishpacha Magazine, Parshas Re’eh, 5775).
This story confirmed my own experience one summer many years ago. After my first year in yeshivah in Eretz Yisrael, I worked as a counselor in a summer camp. Every Shabbos morning before Kerias HaTorah,a speaker addressed the campers. Fresh out of yeshivah, it seemed to me that I would gain more by using the time to learn on my own than by listening to the speech. Michael Appel, a close friend and fellow counselor, quietly told me to close my sefer and listen to the speaker. He was right. I did as he said, in order to show respect for the speaker and set a good example for my campers.
Question for Discussion:
What can we do in our daily lives to be more courteous to others?Click Here To Respond
Kobi, from Miami, Florida, now learning in Ohr Somayach’s Derech program:
Until recently, I did not own a pair of tefillin. When I was ready to buy a pair of my own, Rabbi Yehudah Samet, the mashgiach of Ohr Somayach, spent many valuable hours with me over the course of a week. He taught me about how tefillin are made,and the meaning and importance of the mitzvah. He also helped me with the actual purchase, so that I could find a good quality pair at a reasonable price. Since he has done this many times, he knows what to look for and where to buy.
In all the time we spent together that week, there was one thing he did not tell me: his last name. Again and again, I called him “Rabbi Salmon,” mistakenly thinking that this was his name. He did not want me to feel bad, so he never bothered to correct me.
This went on for close to a week, until a friend heard me calling him “Rabbi Salmon.” “Dude,” he said, “his name is Rabbi Samet, not Rabbi Salmon.” I obviously felt bad about mispronouncing his name all week, especially considering everything he had done for me. But even more, my already great respect for Rabbi Samet increased still further, when I saw how sensitive and considerate he was, even about a detail like this.