Up for Debate

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This module contains one key debate amongst the various classical commentaries of Chumash. 


Arguably the most recognizable of all the garments of the High Priest is the Choshen; the special breastplate with 12 stones each engraved with a different tribe. While describing the Choshen verse 28:30 states


וְנָתַתָּ֞ אֶל־חֹ֣שֶׁן הַמִּשְׁפָּ֗ט אֶת־הָאוּרִים֙ וְאֶת־הַתֻּמִּ֔ים וְהָיוּ֙ עַל־לֵ֣ב אַהֲרֹ֔ן בְּבֹא֖וֹ לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֑ה וְנָשָׂ֣א אַ֠הֲרֹן אֶת־מִשְׁפַּ֨ט בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֧ל עַל־לִבּ֛וֹ לִפְנֵ֥י יְהוָ֖ה תָּמִֽיד׃

Inside the breastpiece of decision you shall place the Urim and Tummim, so that they are over Aaron’s heart when he comes before God. Aaron shall carry the instrument of decision for the Israelites over his heart before God at all times.


The verse cryptically refers to something called the Urim and Tummim which is somehow related to decision-making. Naturally, the exact nature of the Urim and Tummim sparked a lot of discussion in the biblical commentators


The Ibn Ezra says that the Urim and Tummim are two very mystical objects that we cannot really understand, He says that the closest comparison would be the instruments that astrologers used to tell the future, The Ibn Ezra thinks that people would use these objects to find answers to their questions The Ramban is less than impressed with Ibn Ezra’s explanation. Instead, he argues that the Urim and Tummim were kabalistic names of God that were written on a piece of parchment that would cause the letters engraved on the Choshen to light up. The High Priest would then rely on divine inspiration to unscramble the letters to figure out what the message was