The Surgeon General Has Determined
“You shall make the robe of the Ephod… on its hem all around… a gold bell and a pomegranate…” (28:31-33)
It first started on my Coca Cola can. I didn’t notice it at first, but when I glanced instead at a Coke Zero can, something out of the corner of my brain twigged that it wasn’t there. Then I saw it again on a packet of cinnamon rogelach. Yes, it was definitely spreading. The next day I took a good look at it on the Coke can — a red circle with a graphic of a spoon and the legend underneath it saying “high sugar content.” Next time I passed the rogelach package, I saw it had two red roundels: High Sugar Content and High Trans Fat Content. The Israeli Packaging Standards people had finally managed to get companies manufacturing high-risk foods to apply the equivalent of a “Government Health Warning” that already existed for cigarettes. It was almost like, “Warning! Food can seriously damage your health!”
I thought to myself, “Do they really think this is going to help?” However, the next time my fingers were persuading me to pick up a rogele, I glanced at the two nasty roundels on the packet and, regretfully, moved on.
It’s amazing how little the fact that we know something affects us. A person isn’t frightened so much by what he knows as what he sees. Maybe that’s the reason why the word in Hebrew for fear, “yira,” is spelled similarly to, and is pronounced identically to the word to see — “yira.” Seeing scares a person in a way that intellectual concepts completely fail to do.
As I looked at the two red roundels on the rogelach package, I thought to myself how great it would be if scientists could figure out a way, that before we spoke a word of lashon hara — defamatory speech — our brains could trigger a little red roundel to flash in front of our eyes saying, “Avreirah Health Warning! This remark contains high amounts of defamatory speech!”
“On its hem all around… a gold bell and a pomegranate…”
Hanging around the hem of the Ephod Robe were golden bells, each with a ringer. There were seventy-two bells, alluding to the seventy-two possible shades of white that could make someone a Metzora — a spiritually-caused physical condition that resulted from negative speech. The Ephod atoned for the sin of evil speech — but atonement requires the constant ringing reminder of where the sin begins.