Parshat Tetzaveh - High Priest Clothing

This post is dedicated in memory of Etya Sarah bat Yitzchak ha-Levi. May it be an aliyah for her neshama.
-by Elisheva Maline

High Priest Clothing
People are always looking for meaning. However, we don't need to hike up the Himalayas or cut swaths to a hidden cave in a forest somewhere to fill the lack in our souls.Spiritual reality parallels the physical world and therefore, the potential for growth is right here in the backyard of our lives. There are 365 days in the year to reflect the 365 negative commandments in the Torah; our bodies have 248 limbs which correlate with the 248 positive commandments. We don't just follow a specific outline of commandments, such as separating one day of the week from the rest. Judaism is more than a list of rules on how to go about living. Our religion is a philosophy, a self help guide on how to live life in the best way possible.

This week's Parshat Tezaveh gives many examples on how Hashem can be reflected within the physical confines of the every day man's world. We are still deep in the throes of building the mishkan (the tabernacle) and all its accompaniments, so that G-d can have a dwelling place on earth where His Shechinah can rest among us. Imagine, with every nail driven into the woodwork of your family house, you whisper under your breathe, "I'm building this house so the presence of G-d can dwell within." This view on life allows one to indulge in the pleasures of this world as long as it elevates their physical world and brings G-d's presence into it.

After the Jews donate materials for the mishkan's erection, we begin honing in on the clothes the priests' needed in order for them to engage in serving Hashem in the mishkan. First, the Torah delves into a thorough description of the clothing themselves. While the kohen (regular priest) wore four different garments, the kohen gadol (high priest) had to layer on four more pieces. There is even an examination of the six contrasting fabrics and/or colors the chachmei lev (those wise of heart) set aside in the previous parshah for the purpose of producing them in this week's portion. The six materials donated were wool, linen, tichailet (blue dye), purple and scarlet dye as well as golden thread. The regular priests wore garments made mostly from linen (except the belt which was comprised from four of the six threads). The kohen wore a tunic, hat, belt and pants while the kohen gadol got the colorful addition of an efod (apron), the mi'eel (robe) which was made entirely from tichalet (blue thread), the golden tzitz (a band emblazoned with "holy to G-d" fastened to his forehead), and the choshen (the breastplate with twelve precious stones to represent the twelve tribes of Israel). 

The Torah doesn't go into such minuscule detailing on the priests' clothing for naught; the fabrics as well as each piece of clothing held and still holds strong symbolic meaning: a plethora of behavioral standards to which the kohen gadol was held up (standards that we strive to live up to even today).

Are you feeling exhausted yet? After all, there is quite a mountain of information here. However, in order for things to get interesting we need a blueprint. Now that we have one in the picture I've given of the priests' garments, I can ask you, "How do the details of the clothing relate to us?" For one thing, no one wears the kohen gadol's clothing today, except perhaps on Purim. For the sake of time, let's focus in on one aspect of the high priest's clothes. He wore a long robe made entirely of blue wool because the tichalet represented total spiritual immersion. Its blue color existed for the sake of reminding one of the sky, which is blue, and in turn bringing the mind, through associative thinking, to remembering Hashem's holy throne.

 On Purim when we reach the section in the Megilla reading where Mordachai has been relegated to a high position in Achashvairosh's (Xerxes) court, everyone in shul (synagogue) recites the words, "Mordachai went forth from the presence of the king dressed to the nines. He wore blue and white, a high crown of gold, and a purple robe of fine linen..." (Esther 8:15) Sound familiar? He was considered the gadol in his generation and therefore the spiritual figure everyone looked up to, just like people looked up to the kohen gadol in the days the Beit Hamikdash (holy temple) stood.  On Purim we sing a song called "Shoshanat Yaakov" in which we mention Mordachai's victory over evil Haman. However, the song only emphasizes the fact that Mordachai wore tichailet. Why? If one does a close reading of the megilla, he will notice that Hashem's name is not mentioned at all. His presence is completely hidden from view. The Jews were locked into a time of spiritual darkness. Enter Mordachai, the torch bearer of spirituality. He not only helped us repent, he helped us get back to Jerusalem and the building of a second temple. He was totally immersed in spirituality and therefore we remember him as such.
May we all merit not only seeing G-d in our lives but actively bringing Him down here too.

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