top of page

Tetzaveh: The New Jerusalem

Updated: 17 hours ago

In parashat Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20–30:10), we read about the oil for the Menorah, the Altar of Incense, and incredible detail explaining the eight garments of the Kohen Gadol. Exodus says,

“You shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.” Exodus 28:2

Ramban, R’ Moshe ben Nachman, connects this verse to Yosef HaTzaddik’s ‘Coat of Many Colors,’

“This means that he be distinguished and glorified with garments of distinction and beauty, just as Scripture says, “as a bridegroom puts on a priestly diadem.” For these garments [of the High Priest] correspond in their forms to garments of royalty, which monarchs wore at the time when the Torah was given. Thus we find with reference to the tunic, and he made him a tunic of pasim – meaning a cloth woven of variegated colors. . . by the way of Truth, majesty is to kavod (glory) and tiphereth (splendor), the verse is thus stating that they should make holy garments for Aaron to minister in them to the glory of G-d who dwells in their midst…” Ramban, Commentary on the Torah, translated by Rabbi C. Chavel, Shilo Publishing House, Volume 2, pgs. 475-476

It seems that Messiah also is a priest, not of Levi, but of Melchizedek, and like the Kohen Gadol, it is said that the Mashiach will also receive a garment in Pesikta Rabbati,

“As a bridegroom puts on a priestly diadem” (Isa. 61:10). This text teaches that the Holy One, blessed be he, will put upon Ephraim, our true Messiah, a garment whose splendor will stream forth from world’s end to world’s end; and Israel will make use of his light and say: Blessed is the hour in which He was created! Blessed is the womb whence he came! Blessed is the generation whose eyes behold him! …Blessed are the forebears of the man who merited the goodness of the world, the Messiah, hidden for eternity [-to come].” Pesikta Rabbati, Piska 37, translated by William Braude, Yale University Press, pg. 689

In the Tabernacle below, one of the functions of the garments was to atone for the sins of Israel.  The Talmud says,

“R. Inyani b. Sason also said: Why are the sections on sacrifices and the priestly vestments close together? To teach you: as sacrifices make atonement, so do the priestly vestments make atonement. The coat atones for bloodshed, for it is said, “And they killed a he-goat, and dipped the coat in the blood.” The breeches atoned for lewdness, as it is said, “And you shall make them linen breeches to cover the flesh of their nakedness.” The mitre made atonement for arrogance. How do we know it? R. Hanina said: Let an article placed high up come and atone for an offense of arrogance. The girdle atoned for [impure] meditations of the heart, i.e., where it was placed. The breastplate atoned for [neglect of] civil laws, as it is said, “And you shall make a breastplate of judgment.” The ephod atoned for idolatry, as it is said, “Without ephod there are teraphim.” The robe atoned for slander. How do we know it? Said R. Hanina: Let an article of sound come and atone for an offense of sound. The headplate atoned for brazenness: of the headplate it is written, “And it shall be upon Aaron’s forehead,” while of brazenness it is written, “Yet you had a harlot’s forehead.” Zevachim 88b, Soncino Press Edition

The priests wore the following garments,

  1. Mitznefet – Turban – Atoned for Haughtiness

  2. Avnet – Sash – Atoned for Lust

  3. Kutonet – Tunic – Atoned for Murder (Joseph’s Garment)

  4. Michnasayim – Linen Shorts – Atoned for Adultery

The Kohen Gadol wore an additional for garments, totaling eight,

  1. Tzitz – Crown – Atoned for Brazenness

  2. Me’il – Robe – Atoned for Lashon Hara

  3. Choshen Mishpat – Breastplate of Judgment – Corruption

  4. Efod – Ephod – Idolatry

The word for “Breastplate” (Choshen) has the gematria of 358, equivalent to Mashiach,

חשן = משיח = 358

Choshen = Mashiach = 358

Within the Choshen Mishpat, the Breastplate of Judgment, the mysterious Urim and Tumim were contained. The Talmud reveals the meaning of the words, “Urim” (Lights) and Tumim (Perfections),

“Why were they called “Urim and Tumim”? “Urim” because they made their words enlightening. “Tumim” because they fulfill their words.” Yoma 73b, Soncino Press Edition

The words “Urim” and “Tumim” begin with the letters, ALEF and TAV. 

Chabad elaborates,

“The Urim and Tumim (“illuminator and verifier”) was an inscription of the Name of G-d. Inserted in the folds of the Breastplate, it caused the letters inscribed on its stones to light up in response to queries posed by the community leaders. . .” citing Rashi and the Talmud [1]

Speaking of the Choshen Mishpat, the Breastplate of Judgment, of the High Priest, Midrash Rabbah says,

“Why were all these stones placed there? So that God should look at them and at the garments of the priest as he entered [the Holy of Holies] on the Day of Atonement and be mindful of the merits of the tribes. R. Joshua of Siknin said in the name of R. Levi: ‘It can be compared to a prince whose tutor wanted to go in before the king to plead on behalf of his son, but was afraid of those who stood by lest one of them should attack him. What did the king do? He clothed him in his royal purple cloak, so that all who saw him might be afraid of him. Similarly, Aaron used to enter the Holy of Holies almost hourly [on that day], and had it not been for the many merits which entered with him and helped him [in his petitions], he would have been unable to go in, on account of the angels that were there. For this reason did God give unto him [garments] after the pattern of the holy garments, as it says, ‘And for Aaron’s sons you shall’ make tunics, etc.’ (Ex 28:40), just as it is written, ‘And He put on righteousness as a coat of mail, and a helmet of salvation upon His head, and he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak (Isaiah 59:7).” Exodus Rabbah 38:8, Soncino Press Edition

Paul quotes this same passage of Isaiah in his first letter to the Thessalonians,

“But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” 1 Thessalonians 5:8

Armor of Light

When David was about to fight Goliath, King Shaul logically attempted to array the young shepherd in his own armor,

“Then Saul clothed David with his armor. He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail, and David strapped his sword over his armor. And he tried in vain to go, for he had not tested them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” So David put them off.” 1 Samuel 17:38-39

When David encountered Goliath, he knew that physical weapons are nothing compared to the power of HaShem,

“Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of HaShem of hosts, the G-d of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day HaShem will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a G-d in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that HaShem saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is HaShem’s, and he will give you into our hand.” 1 Samuel 17:45-47

More than a physical enemy, Goliath represented spiritual opposition to HaShem and Israel. Like this passage in Samuel, Paul writes of spiritual battle, which requires spiritual armor,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” Ephesians 6:10-20

In popular Christian depictions, this passage is represented as Roman armor, or maybe worse, Crusader armor. While Crusader armor post-dated Paul by a millennium, it is a valid question if Paul was referencing Roman armor as a visual metaphor for his audience. Yet, Rome was the archenemy of Israel, both physical and spiritual. Why would Paul, a Jewish rabbi, use Roman armor in describing the ‘Armor of God’? Where else could he be drawing his visual symbolism from? What would his audience have envisioned? To answer this question, let us examine the elements of the armor of God,

  1. Belt of Truth

  2. Breastplate of Righteousness

  3. Shoes of the Gospel of Peace

  4. Shield of Faith

  5. Helmet of Salvation

  6. Sword of the Spirit

Speaking of the Belt of Truth, which corresponds to the sash of the kohanim,

“HaShem reigns; he is robed in majesty; Hashem is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.” Psalms 93:1

In the famously Messianic passage, Isaiah says Mashiach is cloaked with the belt of Righteousness,

“Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.” Isaiah 11:5

Regarding the shoes of the Gospel of Peace,

מה־נאוו על־ההרים רגלי מבשׂר משׁמיע שׁלום מבשׂר טוב משׁמיע ישׁועה אמר לציון מלך אלהיך׃

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice, together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of HaShem to Zion.” Isaiah 52:7-8

The fascinating book by R’ Hillel Shklover, the disciple of the Vilna Gaon, entitled Kol HaTor (The Voice of the Turtledove), comments on this passage,

“(Isa.  52:7) “he announces salvation” — In that chapter, we find the words “the footsteps of the herald, ” which refer to both meshichim.  But the verse, “he announces salvation, ” is written in the singular form because it refers to Mashiach ben Yosef.” Kol HaTor 2:81, translated by R’ Yechiel bar Lev and K. Skaist

If you were asked to identify one person in the Tanakh based on the word “faith,” who would it be? Most would probably answer Abraham, based on this passage,

“He believed in HaShem, and he reckoned it to him for righteousness.” Genesis 15:6

Speaking of the Shield of Faith, Genesis says,

“After these things the word of Hashem came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” Genesis 15:1

Psalms says,

“Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands, to execute vengeance on the nations and punishments on the peoples, to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron, to execute on them the judgment written! This is honor for all his godly ones. Praise HaShem!” Psalms 149:6-9

Genesis Rabbah comments,

“Our Rabbis said: Sword refers to the Torah, as it is written, ‘And a two-edged sword in their hand (Ps. 149:6).” Genesis Rabbah 21:9, Soncino Press Edition

Hebrews says,

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

Revelation says,

“In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Do not fear, I am the First and the Last, and the Living One. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Sheol.” Revelation 1:16-18

In the Zohar, it says that Adam and Eve were arrayed in spiritual armor,

“…when Adam sinned, God took from him the armor of the bright and holy letters with which he had been encompassed, and then he and his wife were afraid…” Zohar I:53a, Soncino Press Edition

Paul is quoting the Tanakh, specifically the book of Isaiah. Isaiah was written 700 BCE, and the Roman Empire came to real power about 200 BC. Hence it is impossible that Paul is referencing Roman armor.

“The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Romans 13:12


The Midrash assigns Metatron with the role of high priest who offers up the tzaddikim for atonement,

“Another explanation of the text, SETTING UP ETH THE TABERNACLE. R. Simon expounded: When the Holy One, blessed be He, told Israel to set up the Tabernacle He intimated to the ministering angels that they also should make a Tabernacle, and when the one below was erected the other was erected on high. The latter was the tabernacle of the youth whose name was Metatron, and therein he offers up the souls of the righteous to atone for Israel in the days of their exile.” Numbers Rabbah, 12:12, Soncino Press Edition

A footnote to the translation of Sefer Heikhalot, called 3rd Enoch, says,

“Metatron is clad in eight garments made out of the splendor of the Shekinah. The eight garments here allude to the eight garments of the high priest (m. Yoma 7:5)” Footnote to 3 Enoch 12, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Tyndale House Publishers, pg. 265

The Zohar continues the theme,

“R. Jose said: ‘How are we to understand the words, “and they saw the G-d of Israel” (Ex. 24:10)? Who can see the Holy One? Is it not written: “No man can see Me and live”? It means that a rainbow appeared above them in radiant colors resplendent with the beauty of His grace. Therefore the saying that he who gazes at a rainbow gazes, as it were, at the Shekinah...R. Jose further said: “They saw the light of the Shekinah, namely him who is called (Naar) “the Youth” (Metatron-Henoch), and who ministers to the Shekinah in the heavenly Sanctuary.” Zohar, Volume III, Beshalah 66b, Soncino Press Edition, pg. 208

While not Mesorah, the concept is apparently ancient, as the first century Jewish philosopher Philo writes,

“The sacred scripture has appointed that the great High Priest, when he was about to perform the ministrations appointed by the law, should be besprinkled with water and ashes in the first place, that he might come to a remembrance of himself. For the wise Abraham also, when he went forth to converse with God, pronounced himself to be dust and ashes. In the second place, it enjoins him to put on a tunic reaching down to his feet, and the variously embroidered thing which was called his breastplate, an image and representation of the light giving stars which appear in heaven. (1.215) For there are, as it seems, two temples belonging to God; one being this world, in which the high priest is the Divine Word, His own Firstborn Son.” Philo, On Dreams 37

The Zohar makes a fascinating comment regarding the Tabernacle above, and the Tabernacle below,

“AND LOOK THAT YOU MAKE THEM AFTER THEIR PATTERN WHICH WAS SHOWN TO YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN. And again it is written: “And you shall rear up the Tabernacle according to the fashion thereof which was shown to you on the mountain”(Ex. 26:30). R. Jose said, "From this we see that the Holy One, blessed be He, actually gave Moses all the arrangements and all the shapes of the Tabernacle, each in its appropriate manner, and that he saw Metatron ministering to the High Priest within it. It may be said that, as the Tabernacle above was not erected until the Tabernacle below had been completed, that "youth" (Metatron) could not have served above before Divine worship had taken place in the earthly Tabernacle. It is true that the Tabernacle above was not actually erected before the one below; yet Moses saw a mirroring of the whole beforehand, and also Metatron, as he would be later when all was complete. The Holy One said to him: "Behold now, the Tabernacle and the "Youth"; all is held in suspense until the Tabernacle below shall have been built." It should not be thought, however, that Metatron himself ministers; the fact is, that the Tabernacle belongs to him, and Michael, the High Priest, it is that serves there, within the Metatron’s Tabernacle, mirroring the function of the Supernal High Priest above, serving within that other Tabernacle, that hidden one which never is revealed, which is connected with the mystery of the world to come. There are two celestial Tabernacles: the one, the supernal concealed Tabernacle, and the other, the Tabernacle of the Metatron. And there are also two priests: the one is the primeval Light, and the other Michael, the High Priest below.” Zohar, Shemot, Section 2, pg. 159a, Soncino Press Edition

New Jerusalem

Looking forward to the Olam Haba, the World to Come, the Prophet Isaiah says,

“Behold, I will lay your stones with fair colors, and lay your foundations with sapphires. And I will make your windows of agates, and your gates of garnet, and all your borders of pleasant stones.” Isaiah 54:11-12

The Talmud comments on this passage,

“And your gates of garnet.” R. Johanan sat and gave an exposition: The Holy One, blessed be He, will in time to come bring precious stones and pearls which are thirty cubits by thirty and will cut out from them openings, and will set them up in the gates of Jerusalem. A certain student sneered at him: Jewels of the size of a dove’s egg are not to be found! Are jewels of such a size to be found. After a time, (the student’s) ship sailed out to sea where he saw ministering angels engaged in cutting precious stones and pearls which were thirty cubits by thirty . . . He said unto them: “For whom are these?” They replied that the Holy One, blessed be He, would in time to come set them up in the gates of Jerusalem. When he came again before R. Johanan he said unto him: “Expound, O my master; it is becoming for you to expound; as you said, so have I seen.” He replied unto him: “Raca, had you not seen, would not you have believed?” Baba Batra 75B, Soncino Press Edition

The Gospel of John echoes this concept of faith in a directly analogous fashion, 

“Yeshua said to him, ” Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed.” John 20:29

The book of Revelation speaks about the New Jerusalem in great detail, seemingly as a type of a Cube, or at least its measurements are equal in height, width and depth. This would make it a higher dimensional version of the Choshen Mishpat, the Breastplate of Righteousness, and like the garments that contain the Alef and Tav, the Urim and the Tumim, it is adorned with twelve stones,

“The city lies foursquare, and its length is as great as its breadth. He measured the city with the reed, Twelve thousand twelve stadia. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. Its wall is one hundred forty-four cubits, by the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. The construction of its wall was jasper. The city was pure gold, like pure glass. The foundations of the citys wall were adorned with all kinds of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprasus; the eleventh, jacinth; and the twelfth, amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls. Each one of the gates was made of one pearl. The street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.” Revelation 21:16-21

Psalms speaks of Jerusalem,

“Yerushalayim, that is built as a city that is compact together” Psalm 122:3

What is the meaning of ‘compact together’? Based on this verse, the Rabbis interpreted that there was a Jerusalem above, adorned beautifully. Kol HaTor comments,

"(Ps.  122:3) “a city that is united together” – That is, the complete connection between Jerusalem above and Jerusalem below.  When will this occur? When Jerusalem will be rebuilt, as stated in the same verse.  This connection will be brought about by the two meshichim who are like the feet of God – Netzach and Hod – as written in this Psalm: “our feet stood within your gates, O Jerusalem.” And the building of Jerusalem below is the mission of Mashiach ben Yosef, and this entails establishing David’s throne, as it says in the prayer about the rebuilding of Jerusalem.” Kol HaTor 2:111, translated by R’ Yechiel bar Lev and K. Skaist

Sefer Eliyahu says,

“Elijah said: I see a beautiful and great city descend from heaven, built up, as it is written, “Jerusalem which is built as a city that is compact together” (Psalm 122:3) Built up and embellished, and her people dwell in her midst, and she rests on three thousand towers and between each [there are] twenty-five thousand cubits of smaragds and precious stones and pearls…” Sefer Eliyahu, BhM, cited in The Messiah Texts, Raphael Patai, pgs. 224-225

The Talmud comments,

“Resh Lakish said: The Holy One, blessed be He, will in time to come add to Jerusalem a thousand gardens, a thousand towers, a thousand palaces and a thousand mansions” Baba Batra 75b, Soncino Press Edition

Pesikta deRav Kahana says,

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger of good tidings’ (Isaiah 52:7) – This teaches you that in the future the Holy One, blessed be He, will cause built-up Jerusalem to descend from heaven, and will set her upon the tops of four mountains.” Pesikta deRav Kahana, ed. Mandelbaum, pg. 466, cited in The Messiah Texts, Raphael Patai, pgs. 224-225

The letter to the Galatians makes a cryptic statement,

“But the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is the mother of us all.” Galatians 4:26

What does it mean that the “Jerusalem above is free, and the mother of us all”? These terms have a precise meaning in the mystical literature of the Rabbis. While it is beyond the scope of this article to elucidate, the Partzuf of Imma is known as Freedom, Jubilee, and she draws freedom to the Sefirah of Malchut, the Heavenly Jerusalem, through the Holy Son, who is known as the Vav, the Connector of Above and Below,

“This is through the mystic influence of the Vav, who is always in readiness to pour on it blessing, and who is the “son of freedom” and “son of Jubilee”, who obtains for slaves their freedom. He is a scion of the supernal world, and the author of all life, of all illuminations, and all exalted states.” Zohar 1:124b, Soncino Press Edition

The Bride

The entire purpose of Redemption is to reunite the Bride back to the Son, thus restoring the lower Hei to the Vav in HaShem’s Name. The book of Revelation speaks of this day,

“I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. . . He carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, as if it were a jasper stone, clear as crystal, having a great and high wall; having twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel.” Revelation 21:2, 10-12

The Zohar seems to use the exact same wording,

“. . . when the Bride is destined the next day to be under the canopy with Her Husband – to be with her all night, delighting with Her in Her adornments in which she is arrayed, engaging in Torah, from Torah to Prophets, from Prophets to Writings, midrashic renderings of verses and mysteries of wisdom: these are her adornments and finery.” Rabbi Shim’on opened, saying, “Heaven declares the glory of God . . . (Psalms 19:2). . . when the Bride is aroused to enter the canopy the next day, She is arrayed and illumined with Her adornments . . . as soon as they join together, and She sees Her Husband, what is written? Heaven declares the glory of God. Heaven – the Groom entering the canopy . . . The glory of God – glory of the Bride, who is called God, but now that She has entered the canopy, She is called Glory as well as God, glory upon glory, radiance upon radiance, dominion upon dominion.” Zohar 1:8a, translated by Daniel C. Matt, Pritzker Edition, pgs. 52-53

Revelation says,

“He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new. He said, Write, for these words of God are faithful and true”. He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alef and the Tav, the Beginning and the End. I will give freely to him who is thirsty from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes, I will give him these things. I will be his God, and he will be my son.” Revelation 21:5-7



  1. Parshat Tetzaveh in a Nutshell,

  2. The Zohar, Pritzker Edition, Volume I, translated by Daniel C. Matt.

  3. The Priestly Garments, Temple Institute

24 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Subscribe to Ladder of Jacob to be notified of future posts and updates.

Thanks for subscribing!

bottom of page