Tetzaveh: Holy Garments, Ancient & Modern

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Tetzaveh, the Torah commands us regarding the bigdei kehunah, the special priestly vestments worn by the kohanim as they served in the Mishkan/Mikdash.  The Kohen Gadol (Aharon ha’Kohen) wore eight special garments and the kohen hed’yot (Aharon’s sons) wore four garments.

The begadim of all of the Kohanim were: linen breeches, a linen tunic, a sash, and a hat.  Additionally, the kohen gadol wore: a blue wool tunic over his linen one, a golden head-plate engraved with the words “Holy to Hashem,” an apron and the breastplate (which carried twelve precious stones, corresponding to the twelve tribes).

The pasuk commands Moshe to oversee the making of these garments, and clearly states the role they play in the service of the Mishkan, for the kohen who would don them: וְעָשִׂיתָ בִגְדֵיקֹדֶשׁ לְאַהֲרֹן אָחִיךָ, לְכָבוֹד, וּלְתִפְאָרֶתand you shall make holy garments for Aharon, your brother, for honor and distinction (Shemos 28:2).

The Ibn Ezra comments: לכבוד ולתפארת. שיתפארו בהם. כי אין אמישראל שילבש כאלהFor honor and distinction: that they shall glorify themselves with these garments (that they will be glorified), for there is no one else in Israel who will wear garments such as these.

The Sforno teaches: לכבוד. לכבוד הקל יתברך בהיותם בגדי קדש לעבודתוFor honor: for the honor and glory of Hashem, through the wearing of these holy garments for the service in the Mishkan.

While the Ibn Ezra understands that these garments bring glory and honor to the kohen who wears them, the Sforno understands that through donning these garments, and performing the service in them, honor and glory is given to Hashem (keviyachol).

Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch writes, “בִגְדֵיקֹדֶשׁ – literally means ‘garments of the Sanctuary,’ garments that mark the wearer as one who serves in the Sanctuary.

לְכָבוֹדkavod is kaved (heavy, weighty) in a spiritual sense: it is an expression of the spiritual and moral content of a thing’s essential character.  Thus, the priestly garments give expression to the meaning of the kehunah.  כָבוֹד is the essential character of the garments.

וּלְתִפְאָרֶת – at the same time, the garments must be made in such a manner that they add לְתִפְאָרֶת to the kohen. (The basic meaning of the root פאר means to shine forth.)  לְתִפְאָרֶת adds the requirement that the garments not only should symbolize the spiritual character of the kehunah (לְכָבוֹד), but should be distinguished in their beauty and should be an adornment to the kohen.  Through תִפְאָרֶת, the concept expressed by kavod is esteemed as it should be” (RSRH, commentary to Shemos 28:2).

Furthermore, R’ Hirsch writes, “Moshe is to appoint the workers (who will construct and fashion all parts of the Mishkan,) but they are to receive the materials for making the garments directly from the people.  Let us remember that through these garments the sons of Aharon are to be consecrated and distinguished for all generations; through these garments they shall attain their exalted status in the Sanctuary as the select representatives of the nation; on the other hand, they are to perform their service in the Sanctuary strictly as servants of the nation.  Considering these two aspects, we can understand the explicit command that the makers of these garments should receive the materials directly from the people (28:5, וְהֵם יִקְחוּ).  Thereby the people express their agreement to the granting of this distinction, and it is the people who invest the kohen with his garments” (commentary to 28:5).

These garments were so special, sacred, and necessary to the avodah, that a kohen who performed his service without his begadim was chayav misah.  These garments gave the kohen his distinction, reverence in the eyes of the nation, and gave kavod to Hashem, through service performed in this special attire.

Today, as well, we have those who serve Hashem in distinct, honorable, and glorified garments.  Today we have servants of G-d, the nation and our Land who don revered clothing to perform the holy service of our nation.  As of this writing on Monday Feb. 19, since Oct. 7, the number of IDF Fallen stands at 574 (https://www.idf.il/160590) – dayeinu! HY”D.   

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, the Rav zt’l, commented, “If you ask me, how do I, a Talmudic Jew, look upon the flag of the State of Israel, and has it any halachic value?  I would answer plainly.  I do not hold at all with the magical attraction of a flag or of similar symbolic ceremonies.  Judaism negates ritual connected with physical things.  Nonetheless, we must not lose sight of the law in the Shulchan Aruch to the effect that one who had been killed by a non-Jew is buried in his clothes, so that his blood may be seen and avenged, as is it written: וְנִקֵּיתִי, דָּמָם לֹאנִקֵּיתִיI will hold (the heathen) innocent, but not in regard to the blood they have shed (Yoel 4:21).

“In other words, the clothes of the Jew acquire a certain sanctity when spattered with the blood of a martyr.  How much more is this so of the blue and white flag, which has been immersed in the blood of thousands of young Jews defending the country and the population (religious and irreligious alike; the enemy did not differentiate between them).  It has a spark of sanctity that flows from devotion and self-sacrifice” (Chumash Masores HaRav, Bamidbar, p.245).

The Rav was once visited by a student who served in the IDF, who asked the following question: He worked in the tank division and his job was cleaning and maintaining the tanks.  Often, his uniform would get covered in oil and grime.  Did he need to change clothing before reciting the afternoon prayer, since the donning of proper attire is a prerequisite for prayer?  He emphasized that it would be possible to do so, but it would be quite inconvenient and difficult.  The Rav looked at him in amazement and replied, “Why would you need to change?  You are wearing bigdei kodesh, holy clothes!” (ibid).

May we merit to witness the ultimate redemption, immediately and in our days, and the building of the Third BHM”K, when once again the Kohanim will serve in their priestly roles, donning garments of כָבוֹד וּתִפְאָרֶת.  For our nation and our Land,

ברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,


No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.