April 19, 2021

Yoma 7

Towards the end of today’s daf (Yoma 7b) we are taught the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda that when the Torah speaks of how the tzitz (the special golden band engraved with the name of God and worn by the Kohen Gadol) ‘shall be always (תמיד) upon his forehead’ (Shemot 28:38), it means שלא יסיח דעתו ממנו – that he needs to maintain a constant conscious awareness of the tzitz while wearing it. To achieve this end, we are taught (see Meiri on Yoma 7b; Rashi on Shemot 28:38) that the Kohen Gadol should intermittently touch his hand onto the tzitz and thereby remind himself that he is wearing a sacred object bearing the name of God.
The Gemara (Yoma 7b-8a) then draws a comparison between the tzitz (on which God’s name was written), and tefillin (in which God’s name is written repeatedly), and it teaches us that just as the Kohen Gadol maintained a constant conscious awareness of the tzitz by intermittently touching it, so too, those who wear tefillin must also maintain a constant conscious awareness of the fact that they are wearing a sacred object, bearing many expressions of the name of God, and that this can be achieved by intermittently touching their hand onto their tefillin (nb. this is done when touching the arm and head tefillin during the recitation of the Shema – although some people may choose to do so more often).
What we learn from here is that even a Kohen Gadol wearing the holy tzitz, and even someone wearing sacred tefillin, cannot be presumed to maintain a constant conscious awareness of the holiness of what they are wearing and bearing, and that each needs to deliberately nudge themselves to keep the right level of sacred attentiveness.
Today, we can only learn the laws of the tzitz, and most of those who wear tefillin only do so during their prayers. Still, while a Jew may not physically bear the name of God, they metaphorically do, and when they are clearly visible as a practicing Jew, this is certainly the case.
And this is why each of us need to find ways to nudge ourselves to maintain our spiritual consciousness and our sacred attentiveness – at home, in the street, while driving, and while in the mall – because even if we are not wearing an object with the name of God, by being Torah observant, we are most certainly bearing the name of God.
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