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10/11 March: Tetzaveh

rabbipaulsmlShabbat comes in 5.42 pm: goes out 6.45 pm

Have you ever worn a favourite shirt or dress to give yourself confidence going in to a stressful situation — a presentation or an  interview ?   In Parshat Tezaveh, the garments of the high priest may have been worn for a similar reason.  These items include a breastpiece, an ephod (sleeveless garment), a robe, a fringed tunic, a headdress, a sash, breeches and a gold head-plate.  In rabbinic terminology, the high priest’s garments are referred to as “bigdei zahav,” golden attire, due to the prominent use of gold in the vestments.

Why does the Torah devote so much attention to the details of the priest’s clothing?   The Torah explains the purpose in two words:  “lichavod uletifaret,” for glory and splendor.

Some commentators suggest that the clothes are meant to affect the spectators.  The garments would impress upon the people the royalty of the priest.

But the 19th century commentator, Malbim, argues differently.  He says that the garments are not meant to impress anyone but the priest.  The priest must remember his mission and the clothes help him do this.  These royal garments are supposed to inspire royal character.  “God commanded Moses to make these holy garments; i.e., to instruct them in the improvement of their souls and their characters so that their inner selves should be clothed in majesty and splendour.”

It’s not exactly “clothes make the man” but more of “dress for the job you want.”   In this time of Purim when we are involved with putting on costumes, we have a lesson about the signals we send to others and ourselves with our dress.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Paul Arberman

March 9, 2017