Sunday, June 24, 2007

Urim and Thummim: Prophecies of the Oracle

Urim and Thummim: Prophesies of the Oracle

            Was the “Urim and Tumim” extant during the period of the Second Holy Temple? Maimonides writes[1] that the Urim and Tumim existed in the Second Holy Temple, but because the Holy Spirit of HaShem did not exist within them, they did not possess the powers to answer questions prophetically. In order for one to receive a message through the Urim and Tumim, one must possess Ruach HaKodesh (divine intuition) [2], which during that time period, no one had possessed. Therefore, although present in the Second Holy Temple, the Urim and Tumim did not perform their intended function. Maimonides proves[3] that they existed in the time of the Second Holy Temple because had they not existed, then the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) would have never been considered fully clothed because the Urim and Tumim are halachikly considered part of the eight holy vestments, which the High Priest must wear while performing the services in the Holy Temple. In providing this as evidence to the Urim and Tumim’s existence during the period of the Second Temple, Maimonides assumes that the Urim and Tumim are indeed considered part of the eight holy vestments of the Kohen Gadol; however, the Ra`avad, Rabbi Avrohom ben Dovid (1125-1198), disagrees[4] with Maimonides’ view. The Raavad wrote that the Urim and Tumim were not essential components in the Kohen Gadol's holy garments. Therefore, according to the Raavad, since because their absence does not disqualify the Kohen Gadol from performing the sacrificial services in the Holy Temple, it is possible that they did not exist at all in the times of the Second Holy Temple.

The Talmud records a list[5] of five elements which existed in the First Holy Temple, but were absent from the Second. In this list, the Talmud enumerates both the “Urim and Tumim” and Ruach HaKodesh. The Raavad cites this list to question Maimonides’ assertion that the Urim and Tumim existed in the Second Holy Temple, for the list clearly indicates that the the Urim and Tumim did not exist in the Second Temple. Theoretically, one can answer that Maimonides understood that when the Talmud wrote that the Urim and Tumim did not exist in the Second Temple, the Talmud meant that they did not perform their intended functions, as Maimonides had already mentioned. However, the Raavad preempts such an answer and notes that the Talmud lists the lack of Urim and Tumim separately from Ruach HaKodesh. Had the Talmud merely meant to say that the Urim and Tumim did not function during the Second Temple, that effect would have been achieved by simplying mentioned that Ruach HaKodesh did not exist then because it was the absence of Ruach HaKodesh, which caused to Urim and Tumim to not work[6].

            Rabbi Yosef Karo (1488-1575) explains[7] the root of this dispute between Maimonides and the Raavad. He explains that the Raavad maintains that the term “Urim and Tumim” refer specifically to the parchment which contains a special name of HaShem. This parchment was slipped into the folds of the Choshen (breastplate) and worn by the Kohen Gadol. However, Maimonides maintains that “Urim and Tumim” refers to the Choshen itself when it was used for divination[8]. Therefore, Maimonides ruled that the Urim and Tumim were essential to the Kohanic garb, while the Raavad did not. The Lechem Yehuda, in clarifying Rabbi Karo’s explanation, writes[9] that according to Maimonides, the term "Urim and Tumim" does not necessarily refer to the actual Choshen, but rather to the stones which adorned it. This is evident from the fact that Rabbi Karo elsewhere[10] attempts to prove Maimonides' stance against the Raavad that the Urim and Tumim existed in the Second Holy Temple from a Talmudic tale that detailed[11] how the Sages attempted to procure the required gems for the Choshen from a gentile whose father was asleep. Had Rabbi Karo meant literally that the Choshen itself was called “Urim and Tumim”, then he would have not have needed to offer proof to Maimonides' view that the Urim and Tumim existed in the Second Holy Temple, it would have been self- evident. This is because had the term “Urim and Tumim” meant the actual Choshen, then surely they would have existed during the time of the Second Temple because the Choshen is unmistakably one of the eight garments which the Kohen Gadol was required to wear during the services. Rather, proves the Lechem Yehuda, Rabbi Karo must have meant that Maimonides considered “Urim and Tumim” a reference to the precious gems which adorned the golden Choshen[12]. Maimonides understood that these gems are to be considered part of the Choshen itself so their absence disqualifies the Choshen as a holy vestment.[13]

Rashi, in his commentary to the Pentateuch[14], defines the “Urim and Tumim” as the parchment containing the secret name of HaShem. Following the explanation cited above, Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein (1829-1907) writes[15] that according to Maimonides the Urim and Tumim were the stones on the breastplate, while the Raavad agrees with Rashi that the Urim and Tumim refer to the parchment containing the secret name of HaShem. Indeed, Rashi, in his commentary to the Talmudic tractate Yoma[16], understands like the Raavad that the Urim and Tumim were not essential components of the Kohen Gadol's attire[17]. The view of Maimonides that the Urim and Tumim are essential to the Kohen Gadol’s attire is also the view shared by the Tosafists[18] and Rashi's own grandson, the Rashbam[19]. According to Rabbi Yosef Karo, Maimonides holds that the Urim and Tumim are essential to the Kohen Gadol’s dress because they refer to the stones of the breastplate, which are part of the breastplate. However, the Raavad believes that the “Urim and Tumim” refer to the parchment therein so the Urim and Tumim are not considered essential to the clothing of the Kohen Gadol. The difficulty arises in the opinion of the Rashbam. The Rashbam, as previously mentioned, rules like Maimonides that the Urim and Tumim are indispensable to the Priestly garb. Why then does the Rashbam in his commentary to the Pentateuch[20] explain that the “Urim and Tumim” is the parchment with His name inscribed like Rashi and the Raavad? One would have expected the Rashbam to explain that the “Urim and Tumim” is the stones of the Choshen in accordance with Maimonides’ view, as explicated by Rabbi Karo. This difficulty remains yet unanswered.

            The Raavad asks why according to Maimonides the Talmud lists the lack of of the Urim and Tumim and that of Ruach HaKodesh as two separate elements lacking in the Second Holy Temple era, if the former is really an outcome of the latter[21]. The Brisker Rov (Rabbi Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik of Brisk, 1886-1959) explains[22] Maimonides’ opinion as follows: The Mishnah records[23] that when the “early prophets died, the Urim and Tumim became null”[24] and the Talmud explains[25] that the Urim and Tumim ceased to function after the destruction of the First Holy Temple. The death of the “early prophets” mentioned in the Mishnah is explained by the Talmud as meaning to exclude the “later prophets” Hagai, Zechariah, and Malachi. That is, the Urim and Tumim already cease to function before their time. As a result, one can conclude that the Urim and Tumim already stopped working before the cessation of prophecy[26][27]. Therefore, it could not have been a direct result of the stoppage of prophecy and the Talmud understandably lists the lack of Urim and Tumim as a separate entry besides the lack of Ruach HaKodesh.

According to this, the Brisker Rov reconciles a seeming difficulty in the wording of Maimonides. Maimonides writes[28] that during the time of the Second Holy Temple, "the Urim and Tumim did not answer [questions] and they did not ask of the Urim and Tumim because there was no Ruach HaKodesh." Logically, one would have thought to place the fact that they did not ask the Urim and Tumim questions before the fact that the Urim and Tumim did not answer any questions. However, the Brisker Rov explains that the Urim and Tumim stopped working with the destruction of the First Holy Temple, so even had someone asked it a question, the Urim and Tumim would not have supplied an answer. Additionally, when prophecy ceased after the deaths of Hagai, Zechariah, and Malachi, not only would the Urim and Tumim not supply an answer if asked a question, but one needs Ruach HaKodesh to communicate with the Urim and Tumim, so there was no one who was even able to pose it a question[29]. Consequently, the loss of the Urim and Tumim’s operability took place in two steps, which explains Maimonides' phraseology.
            Rabbi Meir Simcha HaKohen of Dvinsk (1843-1926) offers[30] a proof to Maimonides’ view (that the Urim and Tumim were essential to the Kohen Gadol’s Choshen) based on an inference from a scriptural verse. The Torah describes "putting the Urim and Tumim into the Choshen"[31]. Rabbi Meir Simcha says that this implies that without the Urim and Tumim, the Choshen is viewed as incomplete. Since the Urim and Tumim considered a part of the Choshen, then the Urim and Tumim is a critical component of Kohen Gadol's garments. However, this inference is not necessarily a clear-cut confirmation of Maimonides' stance because Rabbi Yaakov Emden (1697-1776) infers[32] the exact opposite from that same verse. Rabbi Emden infers that since the verse still refers to the Choshen as the “Choshen” even before it contains the Urim and Tumim, the Urim and Tumim must not be considered essential components of the Choshen (as the Raavad holds). Nonetheless, Rabbi Meir Simcha offers another proof to the position espoused by Maimonides from the Targum who referred to the wearing of the Urim and Tumim, which implies that they are a part of the Priestly apparel worn by the Kohen Gadol[33].

            Rabbi Usher Weiss[34] explains the root of the dispute between Maimonides and the Raavad. Rabbi Yosef Ben Moshe Babad (1800-1874) writes[35] that a Holy Ark was not built for the Second Holy Temple because King Josiah had already hid the Luchos (tablets upon which the Decalouge was written that Moses received at Mount Sinai). The Ark of Covenant is only meant to house the Luchos tablets. Therefore, since the Luchos were not extant, there was no need for building an Ark. Rabbi Asher Weiss explains that Maimonides holds that the relationship between the Choshen and the “Urim and Tumim” is analogous to the relationship between the Aron HaKodesh and the Luchos[36]. Just as when there are no Luchos, there is no need for an Ark, so too if there is no Urim and Tumim there should be no Choshen, for its entire purpose is simply to house the Urim and Tumim. Since the Choshen is surely one of the essential eight garments of the Kohen Gadol (without which he may not perform the services in the Temple), then Maimonides had to explain that the Urim and Tumim existed during the period of the Second Holy Temple. However, the Raavad felt that although the Ark served as a mere receptacle for the Luchos, the golden breastplate did not serve as a simply vessel to contain the Urim and Tumim. This is because the Torah calls the Ark, "The Ark of the Covenant[37]" which implies that the entire purpose of the Ark is to serve as a means of holding the covenant between HaShem and the Jews. The Luchos are the physical representation of this convent. However, the Torah never specifically said that the entire purpose of the Choshen is to house the Urim and Tumim. Therefore, the Choshen is still considered complete even without the Urim and Tumim [38].

            Rabbi Meir Simcha HaKohen explains[39] that the Torah does not use the word tamid, "continuously", in regarding to the wearing of the Choshen,  as it does regarding to wearing the other garments because the Urim and Tumim, a portion of the Choshen, were not used (Maimonides) / did not exist (Raavad) during the period of the Second Holy Temple. He also explains that the Torah says, "It [the Choshen] should be on the heart of Aaron", but does not say that Aaron should carry the Choshen on his heart. Perhaps one can explain this anomaly in accordance with Rabbi Usher Weiss' explanation that the Choshen was analogous to the Holy Ark. The carriers of the Ark did not actually carry the Ark, rather the Ark rather carried them[40]. Perhaps the same can be true of the Choshen, that is, the Kohen Gadol did not carry the Choshen, rather the Choshen carried itself upon his heart. Rabbi Simcha Meir himself explained that the Choshen is analogous to the Luchos: Until the Luchos’ letters flew up, Moses was miraculously able to hold onto the heavy slab of sapphire. Once the letters ascended towards the Heavens, the weight of the object was too massive and he dropped it[41]. The same is true concerning the Choshen, as long as the Choshen contained the Urim and Tumim, the Choshen carried itself on the Kohen Gadol's chest, while after the Urim and Tumim ceased to work or were gone, the High Priest had to actually bear the Choshen’s weight while wearing it.

            Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer (1870-1953) writes[42] that it is possible that the Urim and Tumim did exist in the Second Holy Temple even according to the Raavad. He says that perhaps the parchment was indeed inserted into the Choshen even during the time of the Second Holy Temple, but the Urim and Tumim produced no effect because Ruach HaKodesh did not exist then. The raison d'etre of the Urim and Tumim are to "enlighten" people with HaShem's messages[43], that is, to serve as a means of communication with Him. Thus, the lack of Ruach HaKodesh during the SecondHoly Temple era rendered the Urim and Tumim useless. The Raavad was merely pointing out that this loss of the Urim and Tumim's ability to fulfill its purpose did not render the High Priest unable to serve in the Holy Temple because of a lack of clothing. This is because there was nothing technically wrong with the physical Urim and Tumim. Rather the spiritual level of the nation was so degenerate that Ruach HaKodesh did not exist, which for practical purposes rendered the Urim and Tumim useless. However, since Ruach HaKodesh could have theoretically returned at any time during the Second Holy Temple period, had the nation's spiritual condition improved, the Urim and Tumim were not considered totally lost. Nonetheless, the Talmud considered the the Urim and Tumim lost during the age of the Second Holy Temple because in practice it did not perform its function.

[1] Laws of the Beis HaBechirah 4:1 (The same is true according to Tosafos to Yoma 21b)
[2] Yoma 73b
[3] See Maimonides, Laws of the Vessels of the Sanctuary 10:10
[4] Hasagos HaRaavad to Laws of Bais HaBechira 4:1
[5] Yoma 21b
[6] Perhaps one can answer that Maimonides employed a variant text of this Talmudic passage which is consistent with the Midrashic parallel of this Talmudic passage and did not list the Urim V’Tumim as part of the five things which existed in the First Temple but not in the Second Temple (see See Midrash TanchumaParshas Behaaloscha, End of §6).
[7] Kesef Mishnah to Laws of Beis HaBechira 4:1
[8] Abarbanel (Exodus 28:30) cites two reasons as to why in the times of the Second Holy Temple was the Urim V’Tumim not used to answer questions. First, he writes that the existence of Ruach HaKodesh is dependent on the unification of all of Israel, for only then does HaShem grace the nation with His presence. Therefore, since only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin returned from the Babylonian Exile while the rest of the Ten Tribes were lost, Ruach HaKodesh did not exist during the times of the Second Temple, so the Urim V’Tumim did not work. Second, he writes that the original parchment containing the secret name of HaShem—which was written by Moses for use in the Tabernacle—was lost during the mayhem of the destruction of the First Holy Temple,  so the Urim V’Tumim did not exist. These two explanations seemingly correspond to the dispute between Maimonides and the Raavad. The first explanation is consistent with Maimonides’ view, while the second reflects the view of the Raavad.
[9] Lechem Yehuda to Laws of Vessels of the Sanctuary 10:10, see also Ma’aseh Rokeach ad loc.
[10] Kesef Misnhnah to Laws of Vessels of the Sanctuary 10:10
[11] Kiddushin 41a
[12] In fact, Maimonides' son, Rabbi Avrohom ben Moshe (1185-1237), himself actually defined (see Pirush Rabbi Avrohom ben HaRambam to the Torah to Exodus 28:30) the “Urim V’Tumim” as the stones set upon the Choshen, in consonance with his father’s view.
[13] Tzror HaMor (Exodus 28:30) writes that the true definition of the Urim V’Tumim is unknown to us and writes that it was either a parchment written with HaShem’s name on it or a special manuscript from HaShem or the stones of the Choshen which contained the Hebrew Alphabet in the context of the names of the Twelve TribesInterestingly, some early sources write (Hadar Zekanim and Pirush Rabbeinu Yosef Bechor Shor to Exodus 28:30) that not only were the names of the Twelve Tribes etched into the stones of the Choshen, but also the delineation of the borders of each tribes lot in the Land of Israel was also scratched into each tribe’s gem. See also Kisvei HaSforno (Mossad HaRav Kook, 1982 Letters §12) who differentiates between Urim and Tumim. He also writes there that the Urim V’ Tumim were comparable to the Oracles used in Greek temples. Rabbeinu Hasdai Crescas (1340-1411) writes that beleif in the prophetic properties of the Urim and Tumim is an essential dogma of Judaism (see Kovetz Yeshurun Vol. 10, pg 626).
[14] Rashi to Exodus 28:30. Many other Ashkenazi commentaries also write similar explanations to that of Rashi (see Pirush HaRokeach, Rabbeinu Efrayim, Rabbeinu Yoel, Paneach Raza, and Rikanti in the name of Chochmei Magentza). Nachmanides also writes that the Urim V’Tumim refer to the name of HaShem placed inside the Choshen and proves this because the creation of the Urim V’Tumim was never mentioned amongst the creation of all the other Tabernacle’s components, which required skilled craftsmen. Interestingly, Nachmanides writes that the Urim V’Tumim was only inserted into the Choshen once the Choshen was already being worn upon the chest of the Kohen Gadol. From here, Rabbi Meir Arik (in his glosses to Nachmanides’ commentary on the Torah, printed with the Machon Yerushalayim ed. Of Nachmanides) offers a proof to the Raavad’s stance that the Urim V’Tumim was not essential to Kohen Gadol’s Choshen. He explains that many of the Priestly garments contain Shaatnez, a proscribed mixture of wool and linen. The only reason why a Kohen can legally wear these usually illicit clothes is a halachik principle whereby a positive commandment supercedes a negative commandment. Therefore, the positive commandment for a Kohen to perform the sacrificial services in the Temple supercedes the negative commandment that forbids wearing Shaatnez. However, this principle only applies when one is actually fulfilling the positive commandment. If the Choshen was not considered a viable garment without the inclusion of the Urim V’Tumim then the Kohen Gadol would never be allowed to wear the Choshen without the Urim V’Tumim because the Choshen, which is attached to the Eifod (apron) contains Shaatnez. As a result, since Nachmanides writes that the Kohen Gadol would first adorn himself with the Choshen and only afterwards would insert the Urim V’Tumim, this proves that Nachmanides agreed with the Raavad that the Urim V’Tumim is not essential to the Choshen. However, see Mahari Koorkoos (Laws of Vessels of the Sanctuary 8:10) who proves that according to Maimonides only the belt of the Kohen has a prohibition of Shaatnez, but not the other Kohanic garments.
[15] Aruch HaShulchan HeUsid to Laws of Beis HaMikdash §8:15
[16] Yoma 5b
[17] However, Rabbi Aryeh Leib Ginzburg of Metz (1700-1785) questioned (Gevuras Ari to Yoma 4b) this opinion of Rashi: The Talmud (Yoma 4b-5a) records a dispute between two Amoraic sages, Rabbi Yochanan and Reish Lakish. The Talmud maintains that all details of the Temple’s inaugural service mentioned in the Torah (in its elaboration of the Tabernacle’s inauguration) are vital requirements to the service during the inaugural period. However, regarding a detail whose fulfillment does not post facto disqualify the Temple’s service in future generations but was mentioned in the Torah concerning the inaugural services, the two sage dispute whether such a detail is considered vital to the inaugural services and would thereby disqualify the services if not heeded to. Initially, the Talmud maintains that this dispute is purely theoretically and does not have any practical outcome. However, Rabbi Ginzburg asks that according to Rashi there is indeed a practical outcome. This is because according to Rashi the Urim V’Tumim are a detail of the Temple’s services which, in normal times, does not disqualify the service in absentia, yet the Urim V’Tumim are mentioned in the Torah’s desciption of the inagural services of the Tabernacle (see Exodus 28:30). From here, Rabbi Ginzburg offered a proof to the view of Maimonides that the Urim V’Tumim is indeed essential, not like the opinion of Rashi and the Raavad. However, the Brisker Rov (Chiddushei Maran HaGriz to Yoma 5b) and Rabbi Elazar Mann Shach (Avi Ezri to Laws of Beis HaBechira 4:1) who propose an alternate understanding to that Talmudic passage other than Rashi’s. Their explanation follows Tosafos Rid to Yoma 5b and according to their explanation, the Talmud in Yoma 5b cannot refer to the Urim V’Tumim and thus one can say like the Raavad that the Urim V’Tumim are not essential to the services. However, Rashi explicitly does not follow this explanation, so it is difficult to reconcile Rashi's own opinion.
[18] Tosafos to Yoma 21b
[19] To Bava Basra 133b
[20] To Exodus 28:30
[21] Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer (cited later) answers this question by explaining that the Talmud did listed them as two because practically speaking they were indeed two losses, even though the cause of both was essentially same. Alternatively, he answers that it is not necessarily true that the ability of the Urim V’Tumim to serve as an oracle for divinely answering question is dependent on Ruach HaKodesh. Rather, he posits, perhaps HaShem could have arranged for the Urim V’Tumim to function with only the parchment containing His secret name, even without Ruach HaKodesh. If so, the lack of Ruach HaKodesh is not necessarily the cause for the ineffectiveness of the Urim V’Tumim, therefore, they could have justifably been listed as two separate concepts.
[22] Chiddushei Maran HaRiz HaLevi to Laws of the Vessels of the Sanctuary 10:10
[23] Sotah 48a
[24] Initially, the Talmud thought that “early prophets” refers to the prophet Samuel and King David who lived before the time of the First Holy Temple. However, the Talmud disproves this notion and concludes that “early prophets” just means in distinction to “later prophets” i.e. Hagai, Zachariah, and Malachi. Tosafos HaRosh (printed in Tosafos HaShalem to Exodus 28:30) ask why King Solomon had to ask Ashmodai, the King of Demons, regarding the whereabouts of the Shamir worm (which was used to cut stones for the construction of the First Holy Temple) as mentioned in the Talmud (Gittin 68a), if King Solomon could have just as easily asked the Urim V’Tumim the same question. Tosafos HaRosh answers that the Urim V’Tumim ceased to work after the death of the “early prophets”, as the Mishnah in Tractate Sotah states. This answer of Tosafos HaRosh is contrary to the Talmud’s conclusion because the Talmud had concluded that the “early prophets” simply means “not the later prophets”, but does not mean that the Urim V’Tumim already stopped working during the times of King David and Samuel.
[25] Sotah 48b
[26] The Brisker Rov assumes that Ruach HaKodesh is the same as prophecy which Maimonides himself says in his Guide to the Perplexed, Chapter 42. However, see Rabbeinu Bachaya (Leviticus 8:8) who argues. Abudraham (prayers to Rosh HaShana) and Radaq (introduction to Psalms) assert that the difference between the books of the Prophets (Neviim) and the Writings (Kesuvim) is that the former were written with prophecy, while the latter were merely divinely inspired by Ruach HaKodesh. This implies a difference between prophecy and Ruach HaKodesh.
[27] In this explanation, the Brisker Rov assumes that even during the time of the Second Holy Temple prophecy still existed until the deaths of Hagai, Zechariah, and Malachi. However, this assumption is not necessarily justified as the commentators discuss exactly when prophecy itself was terminated. Rashi (Yoma 21b) wrote that prophecy ceased from the second year of (the Persian) King Darius II—the year that the Second Holy Temple was built. Rabbi Yaakov Emden explains (Hagahos Ya’avetz to Yoma 21b) that Rashi’s source is a Talmudic passage (Megillah 15a) which states that Hagai, Zechariah, and Malachi prophesied in the second year of the reign of King Darius II. However, Rabbi Emden points out that nowhere does the Talmud mention that then was the last prophecy, it merely mentions that prophecy occurred in that year. Furthermore, he asks that there is Scriptural passage (Zechariah 7:1) that explicitly refers to a vision shown to Zechariah in the fourth year of King Darius' reign, which implies that prophecy continued to exist even beyond the construction of the Second Holy Temple. Malbim (Gayah Chazayon to Zechariah 7:1) explains that indeed prophecy had ended prior to Zechariah’s prophecy, and that his prophecy was the sole instance in which  HaShem spoke to a prophet after the cessation of prophecy. (This explanation has deep implication for the nature of prophecy in contemporary times, and implies that even after HaShem stopped prophecy, He might continue it. However, one could argue that this situation is different because Zecharia was already a prophet from before the cessation of prophecy.) The simplest explanation, which likely the Brisker Rov understood to be Maimonides’ view, is that of the Gerrer Rebbe (Rabbi Yehuda Aryeh Leib Alter, 1847-1905), who wrote (Sfas Emes to Yoma 21b) that prophecy continued in the time of the Second Holy Temple until the deaths of all previous prophets (i.e. Hagai, Zechariah, and Malachi). Thus, between the time of the destruction of the First Holy Temple and the deaths of the trio of prophets, the Urim V’Tumim stopped working, but Ruach HaKodesh had maintained its existence. Mahari Qara (to Malachi 3:22) writes that prophecy stopped during the lifetime of Malachi. Rav Nisson Gaon (in his introduction to the Babylonian Talmud) writes that cessation of propechy occured when the Greek Empire began to rise in influence. Rabbi Dovid Ganz (Tzemah Dovid, Section 1 Year 3442) writes that an error had crept into the print of Rashi and really Rashi should read “fourth year” instead of “second year”. Rabbi Elijah of Vilna explains (Biur HaGra to Seder Olam Rabbah Ch. 30, note 12) that prophecy ceased to exist from the time that the Men of the Great Assembly had nullified the inclination for idolatry (see Yoma 69b).
[28] Laws of Beis HaBechira 4:1
[29] Rabbi Nechemya Kaplan, a grandson-in-law of the Brisker Rov, asks (Erev Shabbos Titzaveh, 5771) for what purpose would questions have been posed to the Urim and Tumim when they would not have been able to answer. If they cannot answer, then why should one ask them questions? He explains that Nachmanides writes (end of Nachmanides additions to Maimonides' Sefer HaMitzvos) that there is a positive commandment for the king and/or Sanhedrin to pose a query to the Urim and Tumim before waging war. Rabbi Kaplan asserts that this commandment applies even when the Urim and Tumim are unable to answer the query. He bases this on the words of Nachmanides who writes (Numbers xxx:xxx) that only the Sotah process relies on miraculous intervention, but all other commndments do not require one to rely on a miracle. The oracle-like capabilities of the Urim and Tumim are not natural, rather they are a divine miracle. Had Nachmanides understood that the commandment to ask the Urim and Tumim before waging war was dependent of the Urim and Tumim's ability to answer, then that commandment would have also been one which is dependant on miracles.
[30] Ohr Somayach to Laws of Beis HaBechirah 4:1q
[31] Leviticus 8:8
[32] Hagahos Ya'avetz to Yoma 21b
[33] See Targum Yonason ben Uziel and Targum Onkelos to Deuteronomy 33:8. Rabbi Meir Simcha’s proof is from the fact that the Targumim refer to “wearing” of the Urim V’Tumim which seems to imply that it is to be considered part of the clothing of the Choshen as opposed to merely a supplement to the Choshen in which case one would not “wear” the Urim V’Tumim, rather, one would merely “carry” it.
[34] Minchas Usher to Bava Basra §60:8
[35] Minchas Chinuch, Commandment #95
[36] I have found that Gersonides (Ralbag to Exodus 28:30) already draws this comparison between the placement of the Urim V’Tumim into the Choshen and the placement of the Luchos into the Ark.
[37] Exodus 30:7, see Rashi there
[38] However, Rabbi Usher Weiss questions whether this explanation can be reconciled with Rashi (to Exodus 28:30) who explained that the breastplate as a whole is referred to as the Choshen Mishpat because of the divination powers of the Urim and Tumim, which can serve as a jury to rule in trial.
[39] Meshech Chochmah to Exodus 28:30
[40] See Sotah 35a
[41] Pesachim 87b
[42] Even HaEzel to Laws of Beis HaBechira 4:1
[43] See Brachos 4a which exegetically expounds that the word “Urim” comes from the word “Ohr”, meaning light.

This essay was published as part of my pamphlet Prophecies of the Oracle and other Torah Essays.


Anonymous said...


I'm no biblical scholar, but if you check the ancient Hebrew alphabet at the time "Urim & Thummim" were in use, there is no letter "u" or letter "h".

So the question arises, where did the spelling originate in the words: Urim and Thummin? Now we do know that "im" in the Hebrew means plural or like us adding the letter "s" at the end of a word.

If you drop the "im" from each word, you are left with "Ur and Thum", or "Tum" depending on which spelling you choose. These would be the ROOT words, less the "im" which merely stand for the plural form of the root words.

If the history books are true, that the Hebrews were taken captive by the Babylonians, didn't Abraham live near the city of Ur, more comnonly referred to as: "Ur of the Chaldeans"?

We know that the Chaldeans used divination, magic, and sorcerers.

Is it possible that the High Priests were introduced to divination by the Chaldeans, and began to use it in their own religion? Maybe the UR in URIM stands for something that came out of the city of Ur. Or some form of divination that originated in the city of Ur.

I think somebody who specializes in the study of the ancient city of Ur might be able to research or trace the meaning of the root words Urim and Thummim. I wonder what Thumm or Tumm or Tum means? I am guessing it is a Chaldean word.

I recall reading that divination was outlawed by God (He commanded against using it). Therefore, if divination was absolutely forbidden by God, why would the High Priests be using a form of divination unless they had TOTALLY STRAYED from God's precepts and commands! If they had strayed, and taken up pagan religious practices, that would explain why God had to deal severely with all Isreal, and the High Priests of that time especially, by allowing the sacking of the Temple.

Divination is currently recognized as an occult power given from Satan or the dark side (spirit). The question remains: Why were the high priests using Divination, when they should have been consulting their prophets? Possibly because the prophets source (the Holy Spirit) had dried up due to Isreal's sin and lack of repentence.

I don't know, just a guess---but worth investigating.

Anonymous said...

In Hebrews 10, it tells us that the old law of Moses had only a shadow of the good things to come. In Hebrews 9 it says, That verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service and a worldly santuary, in verse 7- 8 it says But into the second went the high priest alone once every year not without blood which he offered for himself and for the errors of the people. The Holy Ghost (or Urim and Thummin) this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing. Hebrews 10:15-16 Whereof the Holy Ghost (or Urim and Thummin) also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, this is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them.
And now we are told in Ephesians 3:10-20 to put on the whole armor of God. Which are the new vestments. Stand therefore having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness. (Which replaced the breastplate of judgement that was under the old testament) And having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace (replacing the old preparation of feet), above all taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God. (or the urim and the thummin which is the Holy Spirit.)
The urim and the thummin which have been debated as the light of truth and the breastplate of judgement was symbolic of that which was to come the Holy Spirit and the breastplate of Righteousness.

vi_voluntatis said...

In a reading of the article listed on Sunday, June 24, 2007, as "The Urim and Thummim", at first I just thought wow what a great witness to a certain reality of life during the time of the second temple. My second thought became, but why do they not mention the ephod, or do they mean the ephod when talking abouot the breastplate. No that does not seem right. A point here being so many instances of somebody saying bring the ephod here in order to enquire. I do not see them saying bring the breast piece here. For example, 1 Samuel 23:9And David knew that Saul secretly practised mischief against him; and he said to Abiathar the priest, "Bring hither the ephod". The reason David asks Abiathar to bring the ephod to him is so that he can enquire of the Lord. Now is he asking for the ephod because it holds the breastpiece which holds the Urim and thummim as per Exodus 39:21 "And they did bind the breastplate by his rings unto the rings of the ephod with a lace of blue, that it might be above the curious girdle of the ephod, and that the breastplate might not be loosed from the ephod; as the LORD commanded Moses." ?

Reuven Chaim Klein said...

I believe you answered your own question. The apron (ephod) and the breastplate (choshen) are reckoned as one unit.

vi_voluntatis said...

Dear "wise student", I hope you can work with me using the King James Version, I trust that you can and will, I thank you now for what ever your answer is. But before I ask let me first make mention it is written (1 Samuel 21:9), "And the priest said, The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom thou slewest in the valley of Elah, behold, it is here wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod: if thou wilt take that, take it: for there is no other save that here. And David said, There is none like that; give it me."

This is the only mention of the ephod during the conversation between David and Ahimelech at Nov, in the First Book of Samuel. In other words, during David's visit, David never asks Ahimelech to inquire for him , nor is there any mention of Ahimelech inquiring for David, and yet it is written Doeg, the Edomite says to Saul, "Then answered Doeg the Edomite, which was set over the servants of Saul, and said, I saw the son of Jesse coming to Nov, to Ahimelech, the son of Ahitub. 10And he enquired of the LORD for him, and gave him victuals, and gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine." (1 Samuel 22:9)

Why does Doeg the Edomite tell King Saul "he enquired of the Lord for him", when the text clearly only mentions Ahimelech gave him the shewbread, and the sword of Goliath, the Philistine"? In other words, Doeg accuses Ahimelech of doing three things, but the text only mentions two of the three things.

So, why does King Saul believe what Doeg says about Ahimelech, and does not believe Ahimelech, even after his own high priest says, (1 Samuel 22:15) "Did I then begin to enquire of God for him? be it far from me: let not the king impute any thing unto his servant, nor to all the house of my father: for thy servant knew nothing of all this, less or more." ?



Reuven Chaim Klein said...

Indeed Doeg had lied and according to Jewish tradition he was punished for this great lie which brought about the destruction of Nob. If I'm not mistaken, I think that King Saul was also punished for believing Doeg over the High Priest.

Thank you for taking the time to read my essays.

vi_voluntatis said...

Dear "Wise Student",

I have made a few small "typo" corrections in the following text:

"Maimonides writes that the Urim and Thumim, although present in the Second Holy Temple, did not perform their intended function because in order for one to receive a message through the Urim and Thumim, one must possess the "holy spirit", Ruach HaKodesh[3], which no one possessed during that time period."

If you compare your blog to the above you will find where I have made a few "typo" corrections. Have a nice day.

Your friend,


Reuven Chaim Klein said...

Thank you for your correction. It has already been fixed on my personal copy.

vi_voluntatis said...

Who is the first one anointed to be a Seer of the Urim and Thummim?

vi_voluntatis said...

P.S. at this point I believe that it was Moses is the first Seer. I believe that Moses received his anointing at the burning bush, and when he balked at the idea of being the Seer and spokeman, a deal was made, and Aaron was brought into the anointing. Wherefore Moses was anointed Seer and his elder brother Aaron his spokesman. This is the way that was established in the wilderness prior to going into Egypt. This is the way coming out of Egypt, at Massah, at the test of hunger. But at Mt. Sinai, Aaron is anointed Seer and Moses his spokesman. And at the test of thirst, at the waters of Meribah, Moses does not sanctify the word of HaShem. Instead he rails at the people. His anger gets in the way which is probably why he balked at the idea of being spokesman at the burning bush. He was not simply slow of speech, he had a short fuse. And therefore both Moses and Aaron were replaced by Joshua and Eleazar respectively prior to going into the promised land.

Reuven Chaim Klein said...

In regard to the Urim and Tumim, I think that Aaron was the first seer. Although it is first mentioned by Elazar. Perhaps Moses was actually the first Seer because during the seven days of miluim, he served as the Kohen Gadol

Reuven Chaim Klein said...

By the way, who are you?

vi_voluntatis said...

At this point I am simply no one of any importance. I am someone who is trying to understand the word of G-d. I am an old man who still needs to learn more.

For example, when you say: "Perhaps Moses was actually the first Seer because during the seven days of miluim, he served as the Kohen Gadol". Could you please amplify what is "the seven days of miluim"?

vi_voluntatis said...

P.S., I am pretty much limited to the King James Translation of the Bible. And, one day while reading the first book of Samuel, I noticed Chapter 9, verse 9,in the KJV, says: "(Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to enquire of God, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer.)" I thought wow that is quite a paranthetical comment. So I began to look in what you call the Torah, or the first five books in my Bible, to see if I could find whatever is there that has to do with "Seers".

One of the verses that jumped out at me, early on, is what I call Deuteronomy 33:8, "And of Levi he said, Let thy Thummim and thy Urim be with thy holy one, whom thou didst prove at Massah, and with whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah;"

The thought that came to mind is that originally this verse was a blessing prayed by Moses, one of two blessings having to do with the way of the Seer established in the wildernes. The other blessing being the one I found in Numbers 27:15-17,

"15And Moses spake unto the LORD, saying,

16Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation,

17Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd. "

Notice both blessings relate to the way of the Seer. The first has to do with the anointing of the Seer, Deut. 33:8, and the second with the anointing on the Seer's spokesman or Prophet.

And so on. Let me stop here and wait for your response.

vi_voluntatis said...

Who am I? I am a Christian.

astudentoftheword said...

Could it be that the wrong question is being asked. Perhaps the questions should be, how was it used and what were the results? When applying the stones in the decision process one should consider their value to discern G-d's will through the High Priest prior to the availability of the written word.

astudentoftheword said...

Could it be that the wrong question is being asked. Perhaps the questions should be, how was it used and what were the results? When applying the stones in the decision process one should consider their value to discern G-d's will through the High Priest prior to the availability of the written word.

vi_voluntatis said...

How come you never responded to my post, and instead asked who am I and put the spotlight on me and then never responded to my comments regarding, inter alia, two blessing prayed by Moses - ?

Reuven Chaim Klein said...

I'm sorry for not responding. I didn't realize that you had a question. It was written with a "PS" and I didn't really understand what you were trying to ask. The seven days of miluim were the seven days before the inauguration of the tabernacle in the desert when Moses served as the Kohen Gadol and performed the ritual services as a way of starting off the services.

vi_voluntatis said...

Here are some notes I took in a Bible study on Ezra. A bit wordy, but at the end there is a question for you:

Notes on The Book of Ezra Bible Study~
When reading your comment, beemanlee, i.e., "In Ezra, The Priests are starting pre-exile Temple practices before the dedication in order to authorize The Second Temple as an authentic restoration of Solomon's Temple, The First Temple.
Lee... -
Some thoughts come to mind, including the following notes to myself and lastly a question that asks when was the water ceremony made a part of Sukkot? First some thoughts: When Jesus attends the feast of Sukkot, "a harvest festival and a holiday in memory of the period of the "Wandering of The Jews" in "The Desert" with Moses" (per your note, beemanlee), he does so on the last day, as John 7 indicates, in verse 37,: "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.
38He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."

Apparantly, Jesus stood and cried, or shouted out the above saying, in response to a water ceremony in progress at the time. John Wesley tells us in his commentary upon verses 37-38:37 "On the last, the great day of the feast - On this day there was the greatest concourse of people, and they were then wont to fetch water from the fountain of Siloam, which the priests poured out on the great altar, singing one to an other, With joy shall ye draw water from the wells of salvation. On this day likewise they commemorated God's miraculously giving water out of the rock, and offered up solemn prayers for seasonable rains.
38 He that believeth - This answers to let him come to me. And whosoever doth come to him by faith, his inmost soul shall be filled with living water, with abundance of peace, joy, and love, which shall likewise flow from him to others. As the Scripture hath said - Not expressly in any one particular place. But here is a general reference to all those scriptures which speak of the effusion of the Spirit by the Messiah, under the similitude of pouring out water. Zec 14:8."

Interestingly enough, is the information that tells us that the priests would "... fetch water from the fountain of Siloam, which the priests poured out on the great altar, singing one to another, 'With joy shall ye draw water from the wells of salvation'." In other words, the priest have a water ceremony wherein they pour water from the fountain of Siloam into a golden urn which is taken to the great altar and poured out, and perhaps while pouring the water upon the great altar they sing a verse or verses from Isaiah 12:3,"Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation."(KJV).

And Isaiah 12 goes on to say, in verses 4-6, "4And in that day shall ye say, Praise the LORD, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted.
5Sing unto the LORD; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth.
6Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee." And so Jesus, caught up by the joyful singing during this water ceremony, cries out, shouts,"If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.
38He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow a fountain of living water." (Note: KJV has "rivers of living water" but in a context of the water ceremony "a fountain of living water" would be consistent with an actual water ceremony that draws water from the fountain of Siloam.)

At any rate, I am wondering when or how this water ceremony came to be instituted as a key part of the festival of Sukkot "In the last, that great day of the feast"- ?

Reuven Chaim Klein said...

Please do not post comments discussing selections from the New Testament. My readers might find this offensive. If you want to discuss this via email you can email me to

IKW said...

I think the Urim and Thummim is a device for essentially channeling the power of G-d into a beam of light in order to destroy, as in destroy the wall of Jericho, or "cut", as in cutting large stones for construction of buildings. I think the Urim is a crystal "spike" and the Thummim is a crystal "coil" of some sort that the Urim slides into before it is seated in the ephod. When the priest has consumed the "bread of the presence" (See ORMES), his body would be at a higher metabolic "spin rate" that would allow him to ground himself to the Ark and channel the high energy beam at a that a stone to be cut or a wall to be knocked down.

The Ark of the Covenant, when you get past it's origins, is a magnificent capacitor of static electricity due to its gold composition; just jiggling it in the open atmosphere would create quite the energy field. The rules for Aaron were VERY specific regarding wearing the priestly garments, the ephod and no sandals due to the need to be grounded at all times when near it; hence the poor fellow who touched it when the ox stumbled and he got "lit up"!

It would have been present in the first Temple because the Ark was at the first Temple, but to my knowledge the Ark was NOT at the second Temple so there would be no need for it. Besides, wherever the Ark is, it would be best that the Urim and Thummim either be with it for its protection or no where near it for "our" protection. ;-)

Reuven Chaim Klein said...

Everything you wrote is simply speculation, you cite no sources. The walls of Jericho were miraculously destroyed through the power of the Shofar and the seven circuits around the city. It would be interesting if you could back up your theory with more sources and proofs...

IKW said...

Oh I so know what you mean, and I really wish I could. :-) It is ALL speculation, but the physics of the described Ark are what they are; gold is one of the best conductors of electricity and the sheer weight of what was described would be several thousand pounds...the lid was solid gold and three and a half inches thick and that is before you consider the weight of the Cherubim above. I study everything I can get my hands on from ancient stories, texts, novels, conspiracies, the Koran, The Bible everyday, two Old Testament and one New Testament readings...and I also picked up quantum physics as a silly little hobby. ;-)

As you can see, I am searching for Information in order to acquire Knowledge that with the grace of G-d will one day be considered Wisdom. :-)

Reuven Chaim Klein said...

I hear.

IKW said...

For me, that is my leap of faith. I keep my eyes and ears open and G-d has always provided for my protection...even when I don't deserve it. :-)

G-d is Love :-)

IKW said...

I would like to send you something I drew a few years back that symbolizes my journey thus far. You have my email, so please send me something and I will attach it. I would like to know what you think of the image. :-)

Warm Regards,

vi_voluntatis said...

Since I am not allowed to cite new testament scripture, and I was not asked if it is o.k. to publish my name, the fair thing to do is to remove my name from your web page.

IKW said...

Vi, if you are concerned about "fair" then I don't think you really understand the new testament. Please don't let your pride stop you from seeking information from those with different perspectives and values. The only way we can truly learn from others is by listening to them tell their "truth" instead of telling them our own. :-)

There is only one place we can ever expect or demand fair treatment, and that is from ourselves.


Steven said...

IKW, if it's wisdom you seek, I believe you've found her. There is great wisdom in your last post. We need to listen more talk less and love always. Thank you for your comment.

vi_voluntatis said...

Happy New Year, may be you find health and happiness and things like that!

I have been thinking about the question, who am I? My first answer indicates I am a Christian. And then someone indicated Vi, if you are concerned about "fair" then I don't think you really understand the new testament. Please don't let your pride stop you from seeking information from those with different perspectives and values.

I find this comment interesting in the sense that this is exactly why I began to get involved with this web site. It is because I seek information regarding the perspective that is in the Torah, and the Prophets, and things like that, that is why I am here striving to engage in a conversation on scripture, the word of the Father and His Family.

I remember at one point reading in the second book of the law, that is in Deuteronomy, Chapter 8, verse2, "And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no."

And so that is what I was doing here, I was asking about one of the ways the Hashem led the children of Israel out of Egypt. That is to suggest one of the ways is by the way of the Seer of Urim/Thummim. This is why I began correcting some of your English translation on the subject, and why I began writing to you asking questions. This is who I am, and I am sorry that we never went very deeply into the subject as I had hoped. At any rate, may the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord lift up His countenance upon and give you peace. Amen.

vi_voluntatis said...

Just wanted to say HI. Be well and prosper.

Unknown said...

What were they? It does not say that Moses put them INTO בתוך the hoshen but TO it and this supports the theory that they were the twelve stones.
Why two words? One was the stones and the other the settings.
Why folded over? The settings were put into the front of the hoshen and the fold protected at the back.
This is the simplest explanation.

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