Midrash Raba: Shmot Raba 38'

(Vere, Stein Atle. ©2011. “Midrash Raba: Shmot Raba 38'”. brakha.blogspot.com.)

The passage below comes amid an ongoing discussion.

At this point, the precise wording of the Tora תורה - the five books that begin the Tanakh תנך (Hebrew Bible) - seems to imply:

Moshe (Moses of the Tora) must do something ... to make the tribes of Yisrael holy to God ... for the sake of Aharon that is to found the family of Kohanim (Priests).

(Vere, Stein Atle. ©2011. “Midrasha Raba. Shmot Raba 38”. brakha.blogspot.com.
Source of derivation: Midrash Raba - Shmot Raba 38'. Version ©1960, New York.
Online: Hebrew Books.
hebrewbooks.org/14385, 2011.)

The Rabanim (Rabbis) explore in what sense Yisrael makes this Kohen (Priest) holy, and what it is that God is doing here.

One Rabi (Rabbi) proposes how Yisrael is holy and how this protects the Kohen:

Yisrael becomes holy by means their “treaty” ברית with God, specifically the treaty of circumcision that consecrates the kinship system of Yisrael to God, and God alone. This treaty is a spiritual force - a concept that is “alongside” the Kohen - that promotes “lifes and peace”. In some sense, the presence of the communal circumcision literally prevents the Kohen from dying in the overwhelming presence of God.

Note: The understanding intrigues. Society itself is a kind of entity that has the power to make people “holy”, even to safeguard them during mystical events - existential, transcendent experiences. Moreover consecrating the society as holy to God makes the power of the society holy to God.

The consensus of the Rabanim accepts this view.

Yet even in the consensus, the Rabanim explore deeper.

An other is “saying”, is debating, there is more at work spiritually. It isnt only the consecration of Yisrael that protects the Kohen. It is the very fact this society divides into twelve that protects the Kohen. Moreover, it is the fact each of these subcultures has its own unique identity. Its own name.

It is precisely the diversity of the society of Yisrael (Israel) that makes the Kohen holy.

Note: Twelve is a compelling number. From the twelve lunar cycles per solar year, to the twelve zodiacs mapping the heavens, to the twelve tribes of Yisreli (Israeli) society, even to the horoscopes sotospeak that assign unique personalities to each of the twelve - twelve is an archetype. This archetype seems to resonate the dynamic interrelationships of a society. It includes both the strengths and the weaknesses of each of the twelve. Archeologically, what reveals the unique presence of humanity is the creation of geometric shapes. Humans have a biological impulse to organize reality numerically. The experience of 'twelve' is complex. It is difficult to contemplate twelve different concepts simultaneously. Twelve seems to 'multiply' the simpler experiences of the 'place-ness' of four - within the cosmic map of the four directions of the cosmos that are ultimately forward, backward, right, and left - with the dynamic 'unfinished-ness' of three. As abstract as twelve is, it is vivid. It is vivid enough to even make the abstraction of thirteen vivid. Where twelve evokes the dynamic interaction of society, among each other, thirteen evokes the entire society itself interacting with the unknown. On the one hand, the unknown can evoke fear and danger. On the other hand, the unknown can evoke opportunity, curiosity, discovery, unlimited potential. Ultimately, when healthy, the number thirteen represents the relationship of a society with the infinite - thus becoming an infinite society who can adapt with anything the infinite reveals. Perhaps mathematically, twelve is a minimal or optimal number for the self-sustaining dynamic equilibrium of society, but in any case, twelve seems to psychologically - probably neurologically - connote such.

So each of the twelve tribes is unique. To enter the presence of God, the Kohen must clothe himself with twelve gems, where each gem conveys the uniqueness of each tribe by a unique name.

It is the diversity of Yisraeli society that makes it possible for the Kohen to enter the infinite.

The Rabanim agree: It is the unique identity of each tribe that makes the Kohen holy.

To emphasize the necessity of unique subcultures, the Rabanim mention an ancient list that correlates the unique name of each tribe with the uniqe kind of gem that exhibits its name.

This list that the Rabanim hold up as an authority is itself remarkable. I discuss it in more detail elsewhere. It appears to be a copy of an ancient document. The document itself now appears to be lost, but fortunately its content is now part of the Rabani content, and survives.

When the Rabanim cite this document, they do so to emphasize the exact sequence of tribal names.

Without more comment, their point seems to be: What makes the tribes holy is not just the uniqueness of each tribe, but these twelve unique tribes working together as a single whole. It is the unity in diversity, where an entire tribe functions as a member of a team of tribes. Tribe by tribe, they negotiate with each other to communicate their various needs, but then to prioritize - hierarchize - the goals that they are to achieve together.

A tribe is to achieve its own tribal goals, only if they are within the framework of the wider intertribal goals, that all the tribes determine collectively by negotiation.

Shmot Raba
aka Shemot Rabba, Exodus Rabbah.

שמות רבה
(Translated by Stein-Atle Vere. ©2011. brakha.blogspot.com.)

‹There is› an other talk ‹to explicate the words in the Tora in an other way›.

«And ‹the word› ‛this’ is the talk [that you ‹Moshe› will do for them ‹of Yisrael›, to make them holy, for the Kohen, to me].»
(Shmot 29'1) (Exodus).

By which merit ‹of Yisrael› was Aharon ‹the Kohen› entering into the House of the Holinesses of the Holinesses?

Rabi Khanina his child - that belongs to Rabi Yishmael - said:

The merit of the circumcision was entering with him.

‹As it› that ‹is› said ‹in the Tanakh›:

«By ‹the word› ‛this’, Aharon will come.»
(Vayikra 16'3) (Leviticus).

This ‹is› the circumcision.

As what ‹it is› that you are saying ‹when reading out loud the Tanakh›:

«‹The word› ‛this’ ‹is› my treaty ‹of circumcision› that you ones will guard.» (Breshit 17'10) (Genesis).

And thusly it is saying:

«My treaty was alongside him ‹as› the lifes and the peace.» (Malakhi 2'5) (Malachi).

ד״א .

" וְזֶה הַדָּבָר . " (שמות כט' א . )

באי זה זכות היה אהרן נכנס לבית קדשי הקדשים ?

א״ר חנינא בנו של רבי ישמעאל :

זכות המילה היתה נכנסת עמו .

שנאמר :

" בזאת יבא אהרן . " (ויקרא טז' ג . )
זו המילה .

כמה דאת אמר :

"זאת בריתי אשר תשמרו . " (בראשית יז' י . )

וכן הוא אומר :

" בריתי היתה אתו החיים והשלום . " (מלאכי ב' ה . )

Rabi Yitskhak ‹was› saying:

The merit of the tribes was entering with him.

‹As it› that ‹is› being said:
«And ‹the word› ‛this’ ‹is› the talk that you will do for them.»

‹Per Gmatrya numerology› the count of ‹the numerical value of the letters in the word› ‛this’ ‹is› twelve.

And these are the twelve stones that were given on his heart - that belongs to Aharon. On them ‹is› the names of the tribes.

ר׳ יצחק אומר :

זכות השבטים היתה נכנסת עמו .

שנאמר : " וְזֶה הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשֶׂה לָהֶם . "

מנין זה י"ב .

ואלו הן י״ב אבנים שהיו נתונות על לבו של אהרן .  ועליהם שמות השבטים .

And as this order, ‹the names on the twelve stones› are given:

וכסדר הזה היו נתונות :

Ruven (Reuben):  sdrgnyn.
Shimon (Simeon):  swmpwzyn.
Levi (Levi):  dyyknytyn.
Yhuda (Judah):  brdynyn.
Yissakhar (Issachar):  Sanpirinon.
Zvulun (Zebulon):  Ismaragdin.
Dan (Dan):  kwklyn.
Naftali (Naphtali):  'b'tys.
Gad (Gad):  hymysywn.
Asher (Asher):  krwmtysyn.
Yosef (Joseph):  pr'lwkyn.
Binyamin (Benjamin):  mrglytws.

ראובן : שדרגנין .
שמעון : שימפוזין .
לוי : דייקינתין .
יהודה : ברדינין .
יששכר : סנפרינון .
זבולון : אסמרגדין .
דן : כוחלין .
נפתלי : אבאטיס .
גד : הימיסיון .
אשר : קרומטסין .
יוסף : פראלוקין .
בנימין : מרגליטוס .

Note: In the last section above, the gem names frequently accumulate scribal variants. Example: In the image, the letters פימיסיון appear where the tradition expects the gem name הימיסיון . Thus I standardize the name forms per Jastrow per their critically attested forms. These gem names are Hebrew but obscure technical terms probably deriving from ancient lapidaries who trade in gems. Many scribes are unfamiliar with these terms, thus unable to recognize ambiguous letters or oppositely have the motive to update the tradition to introduce a clearer meaning. I transliterate most of the gem names as letters only, so they appear unclear similar to the unclarity of the Hebrew originals that the scribes copy. I will discuss the forms, origins, and meanings of these gem names elsewhere.