The commandments for preparing the priests’ garments include in two places (see below) instructions for the placement of precious stones to serve as ways to remember the sons of Israel. The manner in which these are described in the text makes clear that their purpose is not just so that the people should remember their ancestors. When Aaron enters the holy of holies in service of the Eternal, the names of our ancestors will be “upon his heart” when he is before Adonai.
In our worship service there is something similar. The first blessing in the Amidah is Avot V’imahot. With this prayer, mentioning not the sons of Israel but our earlier ancestors – Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Rachel, and Leah – we remind G-d of the kindness shown to those who came before us, so that we will be found as worthy as they were to receive G-d’s blessings.
The Ephod (Exodus 28:9-10, 12)
Take two onyx stones, and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel; Six of their names on one stone, and the other six names on the other stone, according to their birth … Place the two stones on the two shoulder pieces of the ephod as remembrance stones for Israel’s sons.
The Breastplate (Exodus 28:17,21, 29)
Set [the breastplate] with four rows of mounted stone … These stones shall contain the names of the twelve sons of Israel … Aaron will thus bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart when he goes into the holy place, for an eternal memorial before Adonai.