Last week’s Torah portion talked about the construction of the Tabernacle, which mirrors the creation of the world. This week we talk about the garments of the Kohain, of the priests. We go back to the account of the first construction of clothing/garments and discover that G-d made clothing for man and woman after they sinned in Gan Eden.
Let’s take a closer look at what happened there in Eden. To explain it, I’m relying on the commentator Rabbeinu Bachya.
But before we begin, a little intro that I try to impress upon myself and those who learn with me. Torah is a living operating manual for our lives. It is not a history book. Any verse, any letter, any line is there to teach us something about ourselves, about me and you here in this century. “Kol Nevoo’ah She’hutzrach l’doros” only those prophecies needed for generations was written down. If it is written there, it gives us a lesson, a way to operate and understand our own lives. Understanding that, let us go back to “original sin” in the Garden of Eden with Rabbeinu Bachya leading us to an understanding of ourselves.
Man was created. Man is the Sechel/rational/brain. He was placed in Gan Eden – he was placed in midst of Torah study and thought. In other words, your soul, that powerful brain you’ve been given, that was given to be absorbed in the thoughts of the abstract and of G-d.
Man was instructed about two trees (positive and negative commandments of the Torah). At that point, man was alone, and G-d saw that was not the way it ought to be. Therefore, G-d gave him a “helpmate” a woman as a wife. This is the body we get to actualize our thoughts. You see a soul/brain cannot accomplish alone – it needs the body function to carry out its will.
You now have husband/wife which hints to us of the relationship of our own created being. We are a partnership of soul and body. Joined together, soul can now actualize actions through the body.
Enter the snake stage right. The snake is the evil inclination/evil force. In order for it to be fair in this world of our receiving reward for the right things we do, G-d ensures free choice. Which means that there was created a force of enticement. Otherwise, we’d just be robots doing the right thing, preprogrammed only to heed the word of G-d. To let us choose freely, G-d put into being a pull to bad that is equal to the clarity of good.
The evil inclination usually begins with the function aspect, with the body, trying to get us to “taste” of the physical stuff we shouldn’t be around. It is way easier for evil to prey on our body side, on the side that has the sensory endings. Think about it – when we mess up, it is usually our cravings that does us in. I want to eat that. I want to feel that. Etcetera.
Going back to the story in Gan Eden. The snake gets woman to eat, and woman feeds man. Back to understanding this in our own lives, once our evil inclination has persuaded our body to go after its desires, the body “feeds” the intellect the forbidden. The intellect tries to rationalize and want what the body wants. At this point things flip in the world.
Up until now in the story of Adam and Chava, there was true and false in the world (not right and wrong) in how they viewed the world. They understand that anything G-d ordered them to do was truth. G-d created them, knew them and knew the function of the world better than they, created beings, could ever fathom. Therefore, they were to follow without questioning. However, now that they’ve tasted of desires, of going after the wrong thing and enjoying it, their clarity becomes clouded.
It is as this point that man and woman (body and intellect) realize they are “naked”, that they are stripped of seeing truth as is. They are actually naked. Man and woman hide, but G-d seeks them out – there will be a day of death for all of us when we will have to answer to G-d, and G-d will say, “Ayecha – where are you – what is your spiritual standing?” That question of Ayecka, that wonder of “how’d you exalted beings allow yourself to be misled into sin” is not just for Adam and Chava. We, all of us, will face that question, come Judgment Day.
Adam’s response to G-d’s query of why he ate the forbidden is to blame his wife and G-d. He says, ‘the wife You gave me fed me.’ Our rationalization in our own defense after we mess up will be “our bodily desires made us mess up.” We’ll blame G-d, ‘you put my soul into an earthly body that allowed me the ability to sin.’ G-d then confronts Chava, the woman, who blames the snake. Taking this back to our own selves, the body will then say, “the evil force in the world misled me.” Once again, the finger of blame is pointed elsewhere, “that appetite of my body, You gave me, G-d, and I had bodily desires.”
The punishment in the Garden of Eden is painful sensations in the body that craved the pleasurable sensations. You think those nerve endings are there just to do the forbidden –those same nerve endings can give hell as it undergoes pangs of suffering. And that is the punishment.
Yet, G-d is merciful. G-d extends to the sinners the dignity of covering up their nakedness. G-d creates for them a set of clothing.
Coming back to this week’s Torah portion talking about the Kohain’s clothing, we see that the clothing are: (v. 2)“for respect and for beauty”; (v. 3) “to sanctify” him; and (v. 4) as a way so that “he can serve Me.” Seems that clothing makes the Kohain and gives him the ability to serve.
Our clothing ought to do the same, as did the clothing that G-d made. It gives us back “respect”, that we are not just mere body parts, but a whole person, a body that houses an exalted soul. Clothing is for beauty, the beauty of balance, of keeping things in check and balancing our lives. Clothing are to “sanctify” us, to show us that we are here on a mission. And, lastly, our clothing are what ought to keep reminding us that we are here, to serve G-d.
If we do that, remember we are here to listen to our Creator, eventually, G-d will “clothe” body/soul combination in a spiritual light and undo the harm done way back in Eden.
So, my friends, go through your wardrobes and look at it with new eyes. Does your clothing do what is supposed to do: give you Kavod, Tiferes, Kedusha and teach you to serve your Creator?