During recess, many of the fourth graders gathered around Ari’s desk, asking him questions about his trip. Ari had just returned from his brother’s wedding in Eretz Yisrael.

“I liked the old city of Yerushalayim best,” Ari told them. “It’s so special, and there is so much to see. There’s one place there that’s really amazing. It’s called Machon HaMikdash. The people who work there have so much emunah in the coming of Mashiach that they are even preparing clothes for the kohanim to wear when they serve in the Third Beis HaMikdash!”

“My uncle was there,” said Tuvia. “He told us all about it. He said that they had a beautiful painting of the tzitz — that special band the kohein gadol wore on his forehead.”

“Painting?!” retorted Ari. “They have a model of the real tzitz! It’s made of pure gold and it’s beautiful.”

“I don’t know,” replied Tuvia, shrugging his shoulders. “My uncle said he just saw a painting.”

“But I was there,” insisted Ari. “I saw it with my own eyes.”

The boys believed Ari. After all, he said that he saw it himself. Usually, we take people’s word when they tell us that they have seen things clearly with their own eyes. Still, there are some exceptions. There is a story in the Talmud about a sage who claimed that he saw something, but his words were not accepted by the other sages — and that incident is about the original tzitz used in the Beis HaMikdash.

The Talmud tells us that the sages and Rabbi Eliezer ben Yosse were discussing what the garments of the kohanim looked like. Their discussion took place after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash when the Romans stole its treasures.

“The two words — Kodesh laHaShem — were written on the tzitz one above the other, in two lines,” the sages said.

“But I saw the tzitz in Rome,” argued Rabbi Eliezer, “and both words are written on one line.”

The sages respected Rabbi Eliezer. If he said he saw it with his own eyes, they believed him. But they explained that the one he saw might have been a private person’s copy. The keilim and garments used in the Beis HaMikdash were beautiful, and people often copied them. Or maybe some copies were made purposely so that the Romans would not steal the real one.

Why did the sages insist that their opinion was right?

The reason is that they had a very reliable source for their view. It is the mesorah — the tradition which goes back from one generation to the previous one, all the way back to the time of Moshe Rabbeinu. The sages depended on the teaching of the mesorah. They considered it even more reliable than something which a sage claimed to have seen with his own eyes.

And that same mesorah teaches us how to fulfill all the mitzvos we perform today. It is the golden chain of tradition stretching all the way back to Moshe on Mount Sinai.

(Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXVI, p. 200)