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Which precious stones were set in the high priest's breastplate?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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I've been unable to find the English names of the gems on the breastplate, and apparently no one knows for sure which stones they were.

However, in the Midrash Rabbah1 it states the colors of the stones:

1. Odem- red (Reuvain).

2. Pitida - green (Shimeon).

3. Barekes - one third white, one third black and one third red (Levi).

4. Nofech - sky blue (Yehudah).

5. Sapir - bluish black (Yisaschar).

6. Yahalom - white (Zevulun).

7. Leshem - same color as Sapir (Dan).

8. Shevo - a mixture of black and white (Naftali).

9. Achlama - wine red (Gad).

10. Tarshish - same color as Yahalom (Asher).

11. Shoham - black (Yosef).

12. Yashfeh - was a multicolored stone (Binyamin).

The stones were in the following order:

3 2 1

6 5 4

9 8 7

12 11 10

[There is an opinion2 that the stones were in this order:

10 7 4 1

11 8 5 2

12 9 6 3]

**The Urim V'Tumim were a a part of the breastplate and allowed the Jewish people to receive prophetic answers when questions were asked. The Urim V'Tumim were not present in the breastplate - or were not able to be used for prophecy - since the destruction the First Temple. There is a difference of opnion as to what the Urim V'Tumim were. According to Rashi they were G-d's Ineffable Name that was imbedded into the breastplate. According to Maimonides, they were the stones of the breastplate itself.

Footnotes

  • 1. Numbers 2:7.
  • 2. The Minchat Chinuch.

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COMMENTS

Name of two stones in the breastplate

Posted by: Mindy Christensen on Jan 23, 2005

The names of the stones are the Urim and the Thummim.

Editor's Comment

The Torah tells us the Hebrew names of the stones on the breastplate -- and they are not Urim and Thummim. This article is referring to the English names of these stones, which are not known with certainty.

According to most opinions, the Urim and Tumim was the name of the parchment which contained G-d's ineffable name which was placed in the fold of the breastplate.


Not accurate

Posted by: yudayajin on May 22, 2006

Actually your quote is not completely correct. Some of the colors you mention were of the Tribes's flags not of their stones, although most of them it was the same. Levi, for example, had a greenish stone but their flag was red, black, and white.

Issachar had a black flag but a saphire stone, which I don't think are usually black.

Editor's Comment

What we write is a direct quote from the aforementioned Midrash. The Midrash does say that the sapir was a bluish-black.

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Maimonides
Moses son of Maimon, born in Spain in 1135, died in Egypt in 1204. Noted philosopher and authority on Jewish law. Also was an accomplished physician and was the personal doctor for members of the Egyptian royalty. Interred in Tiberius, Israel.
Rashi
Acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105). Legendary French scholar who authored the fundemental and widely accepted "Rashi commentary" on the entire Bible and Talmud.
Midrash
(Pl. Midrashim). Non-legal material of anecdotal or allegorical nature, designed either to clarify historical material, or to teach a moral point. The Midrashim were compiled by the sages who authored the Mishna and Talmud (200 BCE-500 CE).
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
Levi
1. Name of Patriarch Jacob's third son. 2. A Levite -- a Jew who is a patrilineal descendant of Levi. Levites had special duties in the Holy Temple, and are still accorded special respect.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.