Parshas Tetzaveh - Get A Grip

"With them you shall dress Aharon your brother and his sons with him. You shall anoint them, and fill their hands..." (28:41)

The Torah relates that Moshe is instructed to anoint Aharon and his sons and to "fill their hands". Rashi explains that the expression "fill their hands" refers to the act of inauguration. Rashi adds that in medieval times, a newly inaugurated official had a gauntlet placed in his hand to symbolize his new position of authority. Similarly, explains Rashi, the Torah uses the expression "filling the hands" to indicate the conferring of a new authority.


The Ramban questions the fact that Rashi associates a medieval custom with the usage of the expression in the Torah. What bearing should this medieval practice have on the definition of a Torah expression?

A person's hands reflect his state of mind. If a person fidgets he is revealing that he is nervous and insecure, traits which are usually present in an unfulfilled individual. Placing something within a person's hand for him to grasp stabilizes his hand. By placing the gauntlet into the official's hands we indicate our desire for him to be fulfilled. In the vernacular we use the expression "having a grip on things" to indicate competency.

Rashi is not mentioning a historical custom to explain the definition of the word. Rather, Rashi is explaining that the psychological and emotional reason behind this medieval custom offers an insight into the human condition. This insight can be used to explain why the Torah refers to the inauguration process as "filling the hands". We are expressing our confidence that the newly appointed individual will perform his responsibilities competently and will find his fulfillment through this service.

The word in Hebrew for inauguration is "chinuch", which is the same word for education. By comparing education to inauguration the Torah is teaching us that when educating a child we are developing him or her not only for the present but for the future as well. Furthermore, we need to "fill their hands", i.e. give them the confidence that they can be successful in all of their endeavors.

Rabbi Mordechai Shifman

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