In this week’s Parsha, beginning in Chapter 28, we find the commandments related to the Priestly families’ clothing.
Aron & his sons were singled out from among the Jews “Leh’kahanoh Lee” to be a Kohen for Me. Rashi: Lekahanoh – what does this mean – -“to serve.”
As part and parcel of being a Kohain, there were special clothing (4 for the regular Kohain and 8 for the Kohain Gadol – if you remember in the past we said four is the building blocks of the world. 7 is also about this world and physicality – 7 colors, 7 days of week, 7 notes in song and 8 is world to come/spiritual – the Kohain Gadol wore 8 garments). We once discussed in this blog the building of Tabernacle and how that mirrors creation of world. This week, we talk about the Kohain’s clothing, so we go back to the original articles of clothing created by G-d.
The first time the Torah discusses clothing is after Chayt Adam (after the sin of Adam and Chava of eating the fruit that was forbidden). The narrative says that upon eating the fruit they ended up realizing they were naked. G-d, therefore, made them clothing. In fact, the Midrash says they got the same clothing as the Kohain Gadol.
RABBEINU BACHYA: Man is the Sechel/rational/brain. He was placed in Gan Eden – he was placed in midst of Torah study. He was instructed about two trees (positive and negative commandments of the Torah). He was not to be alone, G-d gave him a “helpmate:, a woman as a wife. This is the body we get to actualize our thoughts. You see a brain cannot accomplish alone – it needs the body function to carry out its will. The snake is the evil inclination/evil force. He begins with the function aspect, with the body, trying to get us to “taste” of the physical stuff we should not be around. Once that happens, 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, there was true and false in the world (not right and wrong). Now, with getting bodily desires in the picture, everything is clouded and there is right and wrong, rather than true and false. Man and woman (body and intellect) realize they are “naked”, that they are stripped of seeing truth as is. 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.” Our rationalization will be “our bodily desires made us mess up.” The body will then say, “the evil force in the world misled me”. The punishment is painful sensations in the body that craved the pleasurable sensations. But eventually, G-d will “clothe” body/soul combination in a spiritual light and undo the harm.
In this week’s Torah reading, it talks about the Kohain’s clothing and how (v. 2) his clothing will be “for respect and for beauty.” (v. 3) – the clothing were made to “sanctify” him ..so that, (v. 4) “he can serve Me” Seems clothing makes the Kohain and also gives him the ability to serve. Why did the clothing make the man?
According to the Sefer HaChinuch, the Kohain had to have the purest, loftiest intentions, and being clothed in specific clothing kept them focused. Think of the little girl wearing the party dress — how she swishes it and walks with dainty steps. Clothing can make people act differently.
The Malbim explains the commandment to make the bigdei Kehuna was given twice. Firstly, it was directed to Moshe Rabbeinu and then to the craftsmen. The craftsmen and tailors actually assembled the priestly garments, but Moshe had to first instruct Aharon in ways to perfect the character traits they represented. This character development is the ultimate bigdei Kehuna. For just as our wardrobe covers our bodies, so too, our middos cover our neshamos (souls).
The Akeidas Yitzchok explains the Hebrew word for character trait, midda, also means “measure”. There was a mitzva that the bigdei Kehuna had to be a perfect fit – made to measure (mido vad, his tunic should be made k’midoso, according to his size, Yoma 23b). It is not one size fits all. We have to figure out how to give ourselves the correct measurement of each character trait.
The Kohain Gadol would wear something on his forehead to remember to focus his thoughts to Hashem. From Rabbi Lazer Brody, quoting the Breslover Rebbe:
Rebbe Nachman of Breslev explains (Sichos HaRan, 46), “One must exercise great caution in guarding thoughts, for thoughts can yield tangible outcomes. Know, that each of a person’s respective attributes that is higher than another has more far-reaching implications. For example: A foot can kick an object so far, but a hand can throw higher than a foot can kick. Speech can be heard at level way beyond where the hand is able to throw. Hearing is higher than speech, for one can hear the thundering of a cannon from miles away. Sight extends even further, for one can see the stars in the sky. Thoughts are very, very lofty, and extend beyond everything, and therefore must be protected even more than anything else!
There is a verse elsewhere in the Torah where we Jews are told “and you shall be to Me a nation of priests”. Therefore, lessons and instructions for the priests within our nation have ramifications for us as a people. Just as the priests had special clothing of significance that differentiated them and sanctified them, so too must the Jews have a manner of dress that sets them apart and makes them more spiritual/sanctified. We should always look more dignified, remembering we are soldiers of Hashem, representing G-dliness in the world. Examples: clothing of dignity, tzniyus, etc.
Some related laws to clothing of Jews:
A Torah sage who goes about with stained clothing is liable for the death penalty.
One should not wear exceedingly cheap clothing (as it takes away his self-esteem) – nor should one wear exceedingly expensive clothing (as it leads to arrogance).
One should spend extra money to have good shoes.
People put on a special garment for prayer, just as the priest put on special clothes for the service – within Yeshiva crowds, men put on their jacket and hat before beginning prayers and Chassidim add a belt called a ‘gahrtil”