by HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir
The Kohen Gadol's job was to atone for the entire Jewish People and bestow of his benevolent spirit on the entire nation, lovingly. As the kohanim say each day, blessing G-d "who sanctified us with the holiness of Aaron and commanded us to bless His people Israel with love." Indeed, there were two ornaments on his outfit, and they contained the names of all the tribes of Israel. There was the breastplate [choshen], on which were embossed twelve precious jems, each different from the rest, and engraved on them were the names of the tribes. As it says: "The stones shall contain the names of the twelve sons of Israel, one for each of the twelve [stones]. Each one's name shall be engraved as on a signet ring, to represent the twelve tribes" (Exodus 28:21). The breastplate lay on the Kohen Gadol's heart, as it says, "Aaron will thus carry the names of Israel's sons on the decision breastplate over his heart when he comes into the sanctuary. It shall be a constant remembrance before God" (verse 29).
The second ornament, the sardonyx stones were on the Kohen Gadol's shoulders, over his apron [ephod]. On them as well were the twelve names of the tribes engraved, as it says, "Take two sardonyx stones, and engrave on them the names of Israel's sons. There shall be six names on one stone, and the remaining six names on the second stone [inscribed] in the order of their birth…. Place the two stones on the two shoulder pieces of the ephod as remembrance stones" (28:9-12).
The entire Jewish People, in all their tribes and variations, down to the very last Jew, are engraved on the heart and weigh on the shoulders of the Kohen Gadol as a constant remembrance before G-d. The heart hints at the Kohen Gadol's great love and the shoulders hint at the responsibility resting on the Kohen Gadol.
Already with the Exodus from Egypt, the Jewish People had two leaders: Moses, our political leader who led us through the desert, gave us the Torah and judged all Israel. Along with him was his brother, Aaron the Kohen, who bestowed of his benevolent spirit on the people. Aaron "loved peace and would pursue it. He loved his fellowman and would bring him closer to Torah" (Avot 1). During the First and Second Temple periods as well we had high priests some of whom bestowed of their benevolent spirits on the political leadership, i.e., on the kings and on the entire nation.
In our own generation, the generation of national rebirth and the ingathering of the exiles, the further we move along the ascending path towards complete redemption, the more we encounter difficulties and complications from within and from without. Precisely at this time we need responsible, strong and wise political leadership that will know how to lead the nation to the goals and destinations for which purpose it was created. And alongside that political leadership we need moral and spiritual leadership, like the air we breath, which can bestow of its spirit on the nation and its leaders, just as the Kohen Gadol did.
Our generation has been privileged in that G-d, who plants in our midst the souls that each generation needs, planted the magnificent, benevolent soul of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhcak HaKohen Kook, zt"l. He was like the Kohen Gadol of our generation and of the generations to follow. Rav Kook bore the nation upon his heart and his shoulders. He loved our nation infinitely Just as G-d loves Israel, and just as we bless G-d who "chooses His people Israel with love." Rav Kook bequeathed to us the light that illuminates our pathways and our souls, as well as the souls of the generations to come, until the advent of a righteous redeemer, speedily in our day.
The day is not far off when the light of Rav Kook will illuminate the path of the Jewish People, in all their streams and all their variety, and will be revealed for all to see. Then we will be the living fulfillment of, "A new light shall shine over Zion, May we all speedily merit that light."
Looking forward to complete salvation,