They Shall Make Holy Garments” (Shemot 28:2)
Parshat Tetzaveh deals,
to a large extent, with the production of Priestly Garments of various
kinds, as part of the process of creating the Mishkan
and readying the required conditions for the Jewish People to serve HaShem
there. Basically, two sets of
garments were made, corresponding to the two types of Priests that served in
the Mishkan; namely, the Kohen Gadol, High Priest, the first
of whom was Aharon (actually the first was Moshe, but that’s a subject for
a different essay), and the Kohen Hediot, the Ordinary Priest.
The High Priest wore,
during the year, Shemonah Begadim, Eight Garments, also called the Bigdei
Zahav, the Golden Garments, because some of them contained gold, while
the Ordinary Priest wore Arba’ah Begadim, the Four Garments, all of
white linen, except for the sash, that contained wool. On Yom Kippur, the Kohen Gadol wore a set of Bigdei
Lavan identical to those worn during the rest of the year by the Kohen
Hediot except that his sash contained no wool.
He wore the White Garments while he served in the Holy of Holies.
One of the special
relationships that HaShem has with human beings, as enumerated in the Birchot
HaShachar, the Morning Blessings, is to provide clothing for them, as we
say, “Blessed are You, our G-d and G-d of our fathers, Who clothes the
naked.” The first time that
HaShem provided this Chessed, or Kindness, was in Gan Eden, to
Adam and Chavah, after they tasted the fruit of the Tree of
Kinowledge, and became aware of their nakedness.
The Jew dons special
garments on Shabbat. And we
include this fact in the “Ribbon HaOlamim” “Master of the
Universe” Meditation, “And I have changed my clothing to honor the
in Hilchot Melachim 2:5, notes that similar requirements apply to a
King of Israel: “The King
must have a haircut every day, take care of himself physically, and wear
beautiful clothing, as it says ‘You shall gaze upon the King in his
beauty.’ And he should sit on
his throne in his palace and wear a crown upon his head...”
we see that it was universal that royalty wore special clothing.
In Bereshit 41:42 we find, “And Pharaoh removed his ring from his
hand and put it on Joseph’s hand. He
then had him dressed in garments of fine linen and he placed a golden
chain around his neck...” And
in Megillat Esther,
which we will read next week, Please G-d, it says that Achashverosh
rewarded Mordechai, in accordance with the recommendation of Haman
(Esther 6:8), “Have them bring a royal robe that the King has worn, and a
horse that the King has ridden upon, upon which he sat when he was
Because of the hidden
role of HaShem in the salvation of the Jews, masquerade or disguise,
changing one’s identity, has become part of the traditional celebration of
In the drama of Yoseph
and his brothers, a crucial element sparking the intense sibling rivalry
that the brothers felt towards Yoseph, was the kesonet passim, the
coat of many colors, that Yaakov gave the son of his beloved wife; an
obvious sign of favoritism.
And ancient, enslaved
Israel, in the “House of Bondage” of Egypt, its self-expression ground
down almost to nothing, yet received credit for holding onto defining
patterns of Jewish dress.
What is the
significance of clothing?
First and foremost, it
provides for the requirements of Tzeniut, modesty.
As HaShem commanded, in Shemot 20:23), that a ramp be installed to
the altar, for climbing steps by the priests would have resulted in the
violation of “And you shall not uncover your nakedness above it.”
And if such care is necessary for inanimate stone, how much more is
it necessary for one to dress in such manner as not to offend the
sensibilities of his or her fellow human beings.
The function of the
Priest in the Temple was to serve as conduit of G-d to Man communication, as
in Birchat Kohanim, the
Priestly Blessing, where HaShem channeled His blessing to the Jewish People
through the Kohanim, or the performance of the Avodah, the Worship
Service on Yom Kippur in order to attain Atonement for the Jewish People. And likewise, as conduit for Man to G-d Communication, as he
did in the Temple, by performing the various sacrifices. Therefore, he was required to wear clothing with special
characteristics that would enable him to perform this crucial role.
Similarly, the King,
who ruled not by “Divine Right,” but whose splendor was designed to
reflect that of the Eternal,
was also required to wear clothing to fit this exalted role.
Special times, such as
Shabbat or the Holidays, also call for the wearing of especially fine
clothing. This practice enables
us to ennoble ourselves by the simple act of wearing clothing dedicated to
being worn exclusively on the Holy Days.
Masquerading on Purim
allows us to stretch (in good directions) the limits of our personalities,
which tend to fall otherwise into neatly folded and repetitive patterns of
We ask that HaShem, Who
in His Mercy covers our nakedness, also protect us from our fierce enemies
who are rising to exploit our weaknesses and to destroy us. As He caused it to happen, from behind the scenes, on the
joyous Holiday of Purim, in which events were “turned upside down” for
our great benefit, “in those days, at this time.”
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel