The Torah then describes how the artisans fashioned the priestly garments, including the high priest’s Ephod. Two onyx stones were attached to the upper ends of the two shoulder straps of the Ephod.
The Common Denominator
וַיַּעֲשׂוּ אֶת אַבְנֵי הַשֹּׁהַם . . . מְפֻתָּחֹת פִּתּוּחֵי חוֹתָם עַל שְׁמוֹת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל: (שמות לט:ו)
[The artisans] made the onyx stones . . . engraved with the names of Israel’s [i.e., Jacob’s] sons. Exodus 39:6

Some of Jacob’s sons were singled out for leadership roles: Judah was the father of the royal line of David, Levi was the father of the priests, and Joseph was selected to lead the family after Jacob’s death. Nonetheless, the names of Jacob’s sons were inscribed on the Ephod’s two shoulder stones in the order of their birth, rather than in the order of their importance or prestige. This underscores their common, unifying factor – the fact that they are all Jacob’s sons.

Jacob was the only patriarch whose children all remained faithful to the Divine mission and ideology that Abraham began. All of Jacob’s sons learned how to channel their individual differences and strengths toward perpetuating Judaism. This unity made their inscribed names a source of merit for us as the high priest entered the Tabernacle to represent us before G‑d. Just as parents are happy to grant their children’s wishes when they all cooperate lovingly, G‑d is more ready to shower us with His beneficence when we follow in the footsteps of Jacob’s sons and unite in our devotion to the ideals of Judaism.1