|This D’var Torah is in Z’chus L’Ilui Nishmas my sister Kayla Rus Bas Bunim Tuvia A”H, my maternal grandfather Dovid Tzvi Ben Yosef Yochanan A”H, my paternal grandfather Moshe Ben Yosef A”H, uncle Reuven Nachum Ben Moshe & my great aunt Rivkah Sorah Bas Zev Yehuda HaKohein.
It should also be in Zechus L’Refuah Shileimah for:
-My father Bunim Tuvia Ben Channa Freidel
-My grandmothers Channah Freidel Bas Sarah, and Shulamis Bas Etta
-MY BROTHER: MENACHEM MENDEL SHLOMO BEN CHAYA ROCHEL
-HaRav Gedalia Dov Ben Perel
-Mordechai Shlomo Ben Sarah Tili
-Yechiel Baruch HaLevi Ben Liba Gittel
-Noam Shmuel Ben Simcha
-Chaya Rochel Ettel Bas Shulamis
-Nechama Hinda Bas Tzirel Leah
-Amitai Dovid Ben Rivka Shprintze
-And all of the Cholei Yisrael
-It should also be a Z’chus for an Aliyah of the holy Neshamos of Dovid Avraham Ben Chiya Kehas—R’ Dovid Winiarz ZT”L, Miriam Liba Bas Aharon—Rebbetzin Weiss A”H, as well as the Neshamos of those whose lives were taken in terror attacks (Hashem Yikom Damam), and a Z’chus for success for Tzaha”l as well as the rest of Am Yisrael, in Eretz Yisrael and in the Galus.
תְּרוּמָה ● Terumah
● Is there a hidden “fourth crown” in the vessels of Mishkan? Where is it? ●
“The Hidden Crown”
As one looks at the Torah’s description of the holy Keilim or vessels of the Mishkan, one may notice some recurring physical features that are present in a few of them. For example, the Aron (Ark)1, the Shulchan (Table)2, and the Mizbeichos (Altars)3 all had these rings attached to them, inside which two Baddim or staves would be placed so that the people could carry them while traveling. Another such feature is the “Zeir Zahav,” the golden diadem or crown-like ornament which surrounded the edges of each—the Aron4, the Shulchan5, and the Mizbei’ach HaZahav (Golden Altar).6 Moreover, each of these Keilim also happened to be comprised of wood covered in gold.
One of These Things is Not Like the Others
Indeed, these vessels are among the most lofty the Mishkan, each positioned prominently in either the Kodesh—the Holy outer sanctuary, or the Kodesh HaKadashim, Holy of Holies of the Mishkan structure. However, there is another seemingly prominent vessel in the Kodesh which seems to share at least as equal prominence as some of the others (perhaps not the Aron in the Kodesh HaKadashim which houses the Luchos HaBris, the Tablets of the Covenant), yet it does not share all of the same physical qualities; it is not made from any wood, just gold, and it has neither a Zeir Zahav surrounding it, nor Baddim inserted at its sides. This vessel which is not like the others is the Menorah, the seven-pronged candelabra.
Some M’forshim view the Menorah is as the symbolic counterpart to the Shulchan, representing wisdom and spiritual sustenance while the Shulchan represents physical sustenance. That alone would lead us to believe that the Menorah would seem to be on at least an equal playing field with this particular vessel. The question is: Why is the Menorah different, lacking the common features that all of the other golden vessels share? Why, for example, didn’t the Menorah merit a golden diadem? Was it not special or holy enough to have one?
While we ponder this question, what exactly is the purpose of the Zeir Zahav anway? Was it just for show?
Apparently, each respective Zeir Zahav was deeply symbolic. Chazal teach that the Zeir of the Aron represents the Kesser Torah, the Crown of Torah or Torah study as it houses the Luchos.7 That of Shulchan represents the Kesser Malchus, Crown of Kingship or material sovereignty, as it services the twelve loaves of bread.8 And finally, that of the Mizbei’ach HaZahav represents the Kesser Kehunah, the Crown of Priesthood or spiritual leadership and Temple service, as only the Kohanim would offer the incense before G-d upon it.9 Indeed, the golden crowns on the vessels that had one were quite meaningful. So, why didn’t the Menorah get one?
A Fourth Crown
If one looks at the original source of these three crowns identified by Chazal, the comment of Rebbi Shimon in the fourth chapter of Pirkei Avos10, one will see that there is actually a fourth crown which is seemingly not alluded to in the Keilim of the Mishkan. This crown is the Kesser Sheim Tov, the Crown of a Good Name, symbolizing Ma’asim Tovim or good deeds.11 There is no apparent, physical Zeir Zahav representing this Kesser Sheim Tov. Now, why might that be?
Putting Two and Two Together
Well, as was mentioned, there is also no physical Zeir Zahav on the Menorah making the Menorah the “outlier” from the Aron, Shulchan and the Mizbei’ach. And yet, there is another crown in Pirkei Avos which does not appear to be accounted for. It would stand to reason that maybe, the Menorah and this Kesser Sheim Tov have something to do with one another. Maybe, the Menorah actually symbolizes the Kesser Sheim Tov! In fact, there is actually a Midrash which suggests this explicitly!12 The Midrash suggests the apparent association between the Menorah and the Kesser Sheim Tov based on a Pasuk in Mishlei, “Ki Neir Mitzvah…”-“for a Mitzvah is a lamp...”13 Perhaps a further allusion to this association can be found in a Pasuk in Koheles, “Tov Sheim M’Shemen Tov…”-“A name is greater than oil that is good…”14, 15 as Shemen [שֶּׁמֶן], oil, is the source of the light of the Menorah, and shares almost the exact same sound and spelling as the word Sheim [שֵׁם], name. Thus, the Crown of a Good Name or “Good Deeds” is represented by the Menorah!
And just like that, our two major questions are answered. The Menorah and the Kesser Sheim Tov match brilliantly. However, we are not finished. Not all of our questions are answered. As perfect as the Menorah and the Kesser Sheim Tov seem for one another, the Menorah, as we’ve pointed out, does not actually have a Zeir Zahav anywhere on it to demonstrate this connection. If the Kesser Sheim Tov is actually symbolized by the Menorah, where is the golden diadem to prove it? Why would the Menorah lack any sort of tangible crown of gold to allude to this fourth Kesser? On the surface, it seems that both the Menorah and the Kesser Sheim Tov end up getting the shorter end of the stick here.
Not On the List
To answer this question, we have to better understand the Menorah, the Kesser Sheim Tov, and the fundamental connection between them.
First of all, what was the Menorah? The Menorah was the source of light in the Mishkan, and it is known for representing the spreading and sharing of Chochmah or wisdom, and spiritual enlightenment to everyone surrounding it.
Now, what is the Kesser Sheim Tov, or the Crown of a Good Name? We mentioned that it has something to do with Ma’asim Tovim, doing good deeds. Is there anything else? Well, what is unique about this crown’s place in the Mishnah is that it is not exactly a part of the list. Rebbi Shimon states straight out, “There are three crowns,”10 proceeds to list the crowns, and then makes reference to this fourth crown, as if it is not really in the count.
R’ Ovadiah MiBartenura explains that for each individual who has one of the three listed crowns, the Torah commands that one ascribe him honor. A Talmud Chacham (wise scholar) who has the Kesser Torah, a king who has the Kesser Malchus, and a Kohein who has the Kesser Kehunah each Halachically require a degree of higher respect from us. However, this same obligation is not specified in the Torah for the one who wears the Kesser Sheim Tov. Again, this crown appears to be lacking. Why is that?
The Crown of Crowns
Although the Kesser Sheim Tov did not make the “list,” and although the Kesser Sheim Tov does not Halachically demand higher respect, Rebbi Shimon actually suggests that this fourth crown is “Oleh Al Gabeihen,” literally, “rising over” the other crowns, seeming to mean that it is, on some level, actually greater than the other crowns.
Rashi interprets this line the way it sounds, that the Kesser Sheim Tov is greater than the others. Rabbeinu Yonah and R’ Ovadiah MiBartenura both suggest further that all of the other three crowns actually need or rely on this crown, that if one has one of the three crowns without this fourth one as well, it almost means nothing. A Kohein without Ma’asim Tovim is fundamentally lacking in his leadership qualities. A king without Ma’asim Tovim will not have true honor from his subjects. A wise, Torah scholar who lacks Ma’asim Tovim is just disgusting and so self-contradictory that Chazal say that his Torah is necessarily lacking.16
Thus, it would seem that on the one hand, this Kesser Sheim Tov is a crown among the others, but it also sort of isn’t. There is no badge of honor or trophy to symbolize it. One who possesses the Kesser Sheim Tov does not have anything tangible to show for it. The Kohein has special garments expressing his glory. A king wears a crown and royal robes. Both of these individuals’ status depends on legacy. Granted, the trophy of the Torah scholar is a little bit more abstract. But, the Torah scholar does have an aura which is manifest in his talent, his mind’s capacity, and perhaps his life experience, all which demand a certain awe of those who behold him and hear his wisdom. Not just anyone can have this crown. The Sheim Tov is something else, though. Who has a Sheim Tov? What does it take to earn a Sheim Tov?
The Kesser Sheim Tov is marked by “good deeds.” It is accessible to anyone of any age, intelligence level, or tribe, and does not depend on status. It depends solely on one’s decisions and actions, how one relates to fellowman and what one’s actual soul and personality—not his title, talents, or capacities—emanates to others. In essence, the Kesser Sheim Tov is based on the truest essence of the individual. And indeed, a scholar, king or Kohein that lacks a good name, simple Ma’asim Tovim, is not looked at with inspiration and awe. There is little desire to honor such an individual. However, it is the Sheim Tov that gives basis for the honor ascribed to these individuals. It is the Sheim Tov that shines light on the “status” of the individual, much like the Menorah provided light to even see the Keilim in the Mishkan as it were.
The Stand-Alone Crown
The above may explain why there is no legal obligation to honor the wearer of the Kesser Sheim Tov or the “Ba’al Sheim Tov” (not to be mistaken with the R’ Yisrael Ben Eliezer, the “Ba’al Shem Tov,” who founded Chassidic Judaism, though he was likely called that for a good reason). The (literal) “Ba’al Sheim Tov” doesn’t need the Torah to command people to honor him. He is naturally honored. He wears his honor, not at all literally, but quite figuratively, on his sleeve, as his honor is a result of only his actions which are an expression of his essential self. It’s actually not the clothes or any actual “crown” he wears that warrants the honor. People honor, not his title, but him, the person he is, the name he has made for himself through his good deeds. People desire to show him honor.
The above would explain (1) why there is no “Zeir Zahav” on the Menorah, and (2) why there is no apparent “Zeir Zahav” representing the Kesser Sheim Tov among the Keilim. The Menorah might represent the Kesser Sheim Tov, but a “Zeir Zahav,” a physical, visual aid would not capture the essence of the Kesser Sheim Tov.17 The Crown of a Good Name, as we keep on saying, is manifest in the individual himself. The Sheim Tov itself is its own crown. Perhaps, one might even venture to argue that the shape of the Menorah itself looks like a crown, demonstrating this point.
Similarly, it could be for this reason that there are no poles to carry the Menorah, because the Kesser Sheim Tov carries itself and does not depend on the approval of others. Again, there is no Torah requirement for the honor of the Sheim Tov whose intrinsic presence naturally demands honor, an honor that stands alone.
This unique aspect of the Kesser Sheim Tov may also explain why Menorah is made of pure gold and no wood, because the Menorah represents the purest aspect of the individual. It is not earthliness clothed in gold like the others, but it is gold all its own.
The above may also explain another peculiar issue surrounding the Menorah. Later in Sefer Bamidbar, the Torah describes the command for Aharon to light the Menorah. Chazal pick up on the fact that the command is juxtaposed to the offerings of the Nessi’im (Princes) of each tribe.18 The Midrash relates that Aharon was upset that he was not given the opportunity to offer anything along with them, to which G-d ultimately appeased him with the command to light the Menorah. The question though, is why Aharon needed this. Ramban argues that Aharon already had so much that no one else had. He was the Kohein Gadol who would offer the Ketores, something no one else could. He could enter the Kodesh HaKadashim on the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur (perhaps, on any day he wanted, a separate discussion), something no one else could do. Why did he need anything more?
However, based on what we’ve been saying, it could be that all of these other honors were only an expression of his current status, the Kesser Kehunah. The offerings of the Nessi’im represented the goodness of their hearts, an expression, perhaps of the Sheim Tov. Thus, Aharon wanted part of that crown. He needed the Menorah.
These ideas may be the meaning of the verse in Tehillim, “KaShemen HaTov Al HaRosh Yoreid Al HaZakan Z’kan Aharon SheYoreid Al Pi Midosav,”19 which Chazal translate, “As the good oil on the head runs down upon the beard, the beard of Aharon, which runs down on the mouth of his garments.”19 The words, “Al Pi Midosav,” literally mean “according to his attributes,” however, they’re translated symbolically as his garments. According to this reading, the oil—the Shemen, or better, the Sheim Tov, the good name of Aharon rubs off onto his Kohanic garments, saturating them. In other words, the Sheim Tov gives meaning to Aharon’s Kehunah, creating a natural basis for the honor his Kehunah demands!
A Crown All its Own
In the end, the Kesser Sheim Tov really has no tangible representation, but it is greater than any emblem or award can illustrate. It is the beloved soul of the individual himself. It is the “crown” that is seemingly not there, but is nonetheless, noticed and revered by everyone. It, like the Menorah, spreads an undeniable shine to everything around it. It is a crown all its own.
May we all be Zocheh to truly achieve the Kesser Sheim Tov in our lives, shine the light of true honor through our actions, bringing meaning to our Avodah, our worldly responsibilities, and our Torah observance, and Hashem should shower us with the natural recognition and honor demanded by this crown and spread the shine of His Glory to us in the days of Moshiach, Bimheirah Biyomeinu! Have a Great Shabbos!
-Yehoshua Shmuel Eisenberg 🙂
- Shemos 25:12-14
- 27:4-6 and 30:4-5
- Rashi to 25:11 citing Yoma 72B and Shemos Rabbah 34:2
- Rashi to 25:24 citing Yoma 72B
- Rashi to 30:3 citing Yoma 72B
- Pirkei Avos 4:12 or 4:13, depending on one’s version of the breakdown of the Mishnayos
- See Rashi and R’ Ovadiah MiBartenura’s comments there.
- My brother R’ Daniel Eisenberg informed of this Midrash which can be found in Bamidbar Rabbah 14:10. Eitz Yosef to Shemos Rabbah 34:2 cited this suggestion that the Menorah represents the Kesser Sheim Tov in the name of the Bamidbar Rabbah 14:22, though we could not find this suggestion in that location.
- Mishlei 6:23
- Koheles 7:1
- Indeed, based on this verse, Rashi and Rabbeinu Yonah draw this parallel between a good name and oil in their respective commentaries to Pirkei Avos.
- For one, Chazal say that for one whose wisdom exceeds his good deeds, his wisdom will not endure [Pirkei Avos 3:17]. See also Yoma 86A which has disparaging words for one who learns but acts dishonestly.
- I later found that the Or Gedaliyahu [to Parshas Tetzaveh] suggests this explicitly.
- Rashi to Bamidbar 8:2 citing Tanchuma, B’Ha’alosecha 3
- Tehillim 133:2
- See Rashi’s comments there.