23.3. The Ephod (28:6-14)

 (6) They shall make the ephod of gold, of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and of fine twisted linen, worked into designs.

(7) It shall have two shoulder-pieces attached; they shall be attached at its two ends.

(8) And the decorated band that is upon it shall be made like it, of one piece with it: of gold, of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and of fine twisted linen.

(9) Then take two lazuli stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel:

(10) six of their names on the one stone, and the names of the remaining six on the other stone, in the order of their birth.

(11) On the two stones you shall make seal engravings — the work of a lapidary — of the names of the sons of Israel. Having bordered them with frames of gold,

(12) attach the two stones to the shoulder-pieces of the ephod, as stones for remembrance of the Israelite people, whose names Aaron shall carry upon his two shoulder-pieces for remembrance before the Lord.

(13) Then make frames of gold

(14) and two chains of pure gold; braid these like corded work, and fasten the corded chains to the frames.

(6) They shall make the ephod: The purpose of the ephod was to correct for idolatrous inclinations. These are especially dangerous for prominent, high-ranking individuals.

The ephod was an apron-like accessory worn in various ancient cults as a distinguishing mark of a religious servant. The book of Samuel (2 Sam. 6:14), says of King David, when he brought the ark to Jerusalem: “David whirled with all his might before the Lord; David was girt with a linen ephod.”

The commentators explain that idolaters wore a similar apron on the front of the upper body, but the Torah prescribes that it be worn from behind and in a lower position, to disparage, as it were, that idolatrous practice. Thus, the ephod represents purifying – and to some extent integrating into the service of the Almighty – aspirations that fuel idolatry. But even so, they must occupy only a subordinate, even denigrated, position.

The worship of idolatry that was so prevalent in ancient times was not merely a consequence of ignorance; it was a feeling of having a real connection with higher worlds. But that connection was incorrectly realized. Although we must wage war against idolatry, ultimately it should not be abrogated or eradicated entirely; rather, the energy that feeds idolatry, properly redirected, must have a place in the monotheistic system.


Bible Dynamics, VOL. 2. EXODUS Copyright © by Orot Yerushalaim / P. Polonsky / English translation of the Torah by the Jewish Publication Society, New JPS Translation, 1985. With sincere gratitude for the permission to use. All Rights Reserved.

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