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Tetsaveh

  
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 28:15
 28:16
 28:17
28:15 Make a decision breastplate. It shall be a patterned brocade like the ephod. Make it out of gold [thread], sky-blue, dark red and crimson wool, and twined linen.
Ve'asita choshen mishpat ma'aseh choshev kema'aseh efod ta'asenu zahav techelet ve'argaman vetola'at shani veshesh moshezar ta'aseh oto.
28:16 When folded over, it shall be a span long and a span wide.
Ravua yihyeh kaful zeret orko vezeret rochbo.
28:17 Set it with four rows of mounted stones.

The first of these rows shall contain a carnelian, an emerald and a topaz.
Umileta vo milu'at even arba'ah turim aven tur odem pitedah uvareket hatur ha'echad.




Commentary:

decision...
  (Rashi). Or, 'judgement breastplate' (Targum). See Exodus 39:8-21.

patterned brocade
  Here again, the pattern is not described. However, in one place, this type of work is described as having a lion on one side of the cloth and an eagle on the other (Yerushalmi, Shekalim 8:2). See note on Exodus 28:30.

span
  This is the distance between the tips of the thumb and pinky in a spread hand, and it is equivalent to 1/2 cubit or 9' (Tosefta, Kelim, Bava Metzia 6:4; Eruvin 21a; Yad, Kley HaMikdash 9:6 Josephus, Antiquities 3:7:5). The breastplate was thus made out of a brocade one cubit by 1/2 cubit, and then folded over.

According to others, a span is the distance between the extended thumb and forefinger, and is half of a 5-handbreadth cubit, or 7 1/2' (Teshuvoth Rashbam 9:10; Sefer Chasidim, Mekitzey Nirdamim edition, 692). Others say that a span is 1/3 cubit or 6' (Kalir, quoted in Tosafoth, Eruvin 21a, s.v. Echad). Finally, some say that a span is equal to a handbreadth, 3' (Philo, Questions and Answers 111; cf. Targum Yerushalmi).

stones
  Here too there is a question as to whether the stones were square or round, see note on Exodus 28:9 (cf. Mishneh LaMelekh, Kley HaMikdash 9:6).

carnelian
  (Shiltey Gibborim 46; Midrash Talpioth, s.v. Evven). Odem in Hebrew. The carnelian is a variety of flesh-colored (carne) cryptocrystalline quartz, having a color similar to a ruby due to traces of ferrous oxide. Ancient Greek sources translate it as sardion (Septuagint; Josephus, Wars 5:5:7). The sardion, sardine or sard was a deep orange-red variety of carnelian which was found near Sardis, the capital of ancient Lydia.

Most sources agree that it was a red stone (Targum; BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7). Some sources state that the odem here was a ruby (Bachya; MeAm Lo'ez). However, in ancient nomenclature, the name given to a stone is denoted by its visual appearance rather than chemical composition, and hence, the 'ruby' could be any bright red stone.

According to most authorities, the odem was the stone of Reuben (Targum Yonathan; BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7; see note on Exodus 28:21). According to some, however, it was the stone of Judah (Tzioni, BeMidbar). See Ezekiel 28:13).

emerald
  (Saadia; Ibn Janach; Radak, Sherashim; Chizzkuni; MeAm Lo'ez). Pitdah in Hebrew. Most other sources also indicate that it was a green stone (Targum; BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7). One early source identifies it as prasma, Spanish for prase, a dark green variety of cryptocrystalline quartz (Bachya). It can also denote chrysoprase, an apple-green variety, or plasma, a leek green or emerald green type.

Ancient Greek sources translate pitdah as topaz (see note, this verse, 'topaz'), where the sequence is 'sardion, topaz, emerald' (Septuagint; Josephus, Antiquities 3:7:5, Wars 5:5:7). However, it appears that the mainstream tradition had a reading in the Septuagint, 'sardion, emerald, topaz' (cf. Chizzkuni). Hence, the pitdah would be translated as smaragdos, Greek for emerald or malachite (cf. Pliny 37:16). Nonetheless, there are a number of later sources that identify the pitdah with topaz (Shiltey Gibborim 46; cf. Sh'moth Rabbah 38:8). There are, however, some indications that the 'topaz' of the ancients was actually green (Pliny 37:32). The pitdah was the stone of Simeon (Targum Yonathan; BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7). Others say that it was the stone of Issachar (Tzioni, BeMidbar). See Ezekiel 28:13, Job 28:19.

topaz
  (Chizzkuni). Bareketh in Hebrew. Numerous sources indicate that it was a stone that was yellow (Saadia; Ibn Janach) or saffron-colored (Lekach Tov; Targum on Song of Songs 5:14). If it is assumed that the Septuagint transposes this stone with the one above (see note, this verse, 'emerald'), then it would also translate this as topazion, Greek for topaz or similar yellow gemstones (cf. Strabo 16:770; Diodurus Siculus 3:39).

There is, however, a question as to whether or not the topaz mentioned in ancient sources is the same as the present topaz. It may denote citrine, a yellow variety of quartz, or peridot, a yellow-green variety of chrysolite (see note on Exodus 28:20). Some sources appear to indicate that bareketh is actually a gold lustered pyrite (Radak, Sherashim; cf. Targum).

According to current version of the Septuagint and Josephus (Antiquities 3:7:5; Wars 5:5:7), the baraketh here is the emerald. Other sources state that it was a bluish stone (Shiltey Giborim 46; Shemoth Rabbah 38:8 [dyknithin] according to Arukh s.v. yaknatin, which translates it as blue hyacinth).

There are some sources that transpose this with the next stone, and translate it as carbuncle (Bachya; cf. King James translation). Other sources say that it contained red, white and black stripes (BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7).

The bareketh was the stone of Levi (Targum Yonathan, etc.). Others state that it was the stone of Zebulun (Tzioni, BeMidmar). See Ezekiel 28:13.





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