Garments of Atonement – Rabbi Chaim Yagoda (Tetzaveh)

Chazal teach us that each one of the articles of clothing that adorned the kohein gadol were there to atone for a specific sin committed by klal yisrael. If we take a look at these clothing, we notice that two seemingly unrelated sins are surprisingly linked together on the kohein’s body. The gemorah states that the choshen was there to atone for the sin of perversion of justice (specifically in the area of monetary law), whereas the ephod atoned for the sin of idolatry. Although no apparent connection exists between the two, the Torah commands that the choshen never be removed from the ephod, clearly implying that there is some relation between these sins .

R’ Moshe Feinstein suggests that if we look a little deeper into the act of injustice, it emerges that the root of the problem is much deeper than a lack of respect or care for another’s property. The real motivation behind rationalizing a particular act of monetary misconduct is a lack of emunah in Hashem. If a person truly believed that all of the money coming to him is already divinely determined, and there is nothing within his power that can add or subtract even one dollar, he would have no temptation at all to bend even the smallest detail of the halacha to attain any monetary gain. In a similar vein, the Sefer Hachinuch explains the commandment not to take revenge. Although on the surface it seems to be a mitzvah governing our interpersonal relationships, he explains that the real problem with revenge is that it displays a lack of understanding that no person can wrong us in any way if it had not been predetermined by Hashem.

With this understanding in mind, it is clear why the Torah would demand an inseparable relationship between the ephod and the choshen, because the underlying drive for dishonesty is really linked to Avodah Zarah itself; a lack of true belief in Hashem We need a constant reminder throughout our lives that in every situation in which we find ourselves, there is a guiding Hand from above which is the true determining factor of the outcome.