Shabbat Commentary

15/16 Feb : Tetzaveh : Shabbat comes in 5:00 pm,  ends  6:05 pm nice Nice clothes reflect respect, professionalism and tradition.   So too, the priests’ clothing of ancient times, and especially that of the Kohen Gadol were important and even played a key role in the priests’ service to Israel and God.

A midrash tells us that “Just as the sacrifices atone for Israel, so too do the priestly vestments:  The Hoshen [breastplate] atones for perversion of justice, as it is written, ‘And they shall make a breastplate of judgment [Ex. 28:15].’  The Ephod [from which the breastplate hung] atones for idol worship, as it is written ‘And there is no ephod or household gods’ [Hosea 3:4; apparently, the idols of a household were often depicted with an ephod].  The robe atones for lashon hara [malicious gossip]; it comes making a sound [from the bells on its hem] and atones for deceitful speech, as it is written, ‘and it [the robe with its bells] will be upon Aharon to serve’ [Ex. 29:35; so that God would ‘hear’ the bells and not strike him down].  The tunic atones for the shedding of blood, as it is written, “And they [Yosef’s brothers] dipped the tunic in the blood [Gen. 37:31; so as to cause Ya’akov to believe Yosef was dead].  The breeches atone for improper sexual relations, as it is written, ‘And you shall make them breeches of linen to cover their nakedness’ [Ex. 29:42].  The headdress atones for arrogance and pride [as it rests upon the priest’s head].  The tzitz [frontlet, engraved with ‘Sacred to the Lord,’ worn on the Kohen Gadol’s forehead] atones for insolence [azei metzah], as it is written, ‘It shall be on Aharon’s forehead [metzah]…. The sash atones for secret thoughts of the heart, because they would fasten it opposite the heart.”

Each garment had a significance that reached beyond the one wearing it, and the materials of which they were made came from the contributions that all of Israel made to the construction of the Mishkan and all of its necessary items.  Thus the Israelites, the “nation of priests” (Ex. 19:6), created their priestly representatives from Aharon and his sons.  With Aharon’s sacred garments, he bore the Israelites upon his shoulders and upon his heart before God.

Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman




February 14, 2019