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Parshat Tetzaveh - "Let Our Eyes See a King in His Beauty"

By: הרב רונן נויברט

The simple meaning of the relevant passages implies that the purpose of the priestly garments is to glorify those who wear them. "And you shall make holy clothing for your brother Aharon and his sons, for glory and


"Let Our Eyes See a King in His Beauty"

(Yeshayahu: 33) - Rav Ronen Neuwirth

The simple meaning of the relevant passages implies that the purpose of the priestly garments is to glorify those who wear them. "And you shall make holy clothing for your brother Aharon and his sons, for glory and splendor [Shemot 28:2] - so that the priests will be honored and magnificent, in clothing that is glorious and magnificent" [Ramban]. A deeper look shows that the garments play a more central role, not only as a means to an end but as a goal in themselves. This is clearly shown by the fact that a Kohen who does not wear the garments while he performs the holy service is worthy of being put to death: "One who performs the rituals without the proper clothing will be punished by death" [Rashi, Shemot 28:43].

In their commentaries, the sages describe a parallel between the creation of the World and the construction of the Tabernacle. When he enters the Tabernacle, the High Priest is similar to Adam. Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, and was punished with the creation of the concept of death. He received clothing from the Almighty, and he was also expelled from the Garden. When the High Priest, whose task is to reverse the process of sin and punishment, enters the Tabernacle, where the Shechina dwells (as it did in the Garden of Eden), he is required to wear proper clothing in order to avoid death. Thus, the garments of the High Priest correspond to Adam's clothing.

"And G-d made cloaks of leather (עור) for Adam and his wife and dressed them" [Bereishit 3:21]. In Rabbi Meir's Torah scroll, what was written was "cloaks of light (אור)" [ Breshit Rabba 20:12) (אור spelled with an aleph instead of עור which is spelled with an ayin). After Adam sinned, the Divine light was stored away, and  his spiritual resources were diminished. Body and soul were no longer intimately linked as before, leading directly to the possibility of death. In the future, when death will cease to exist, full spiritual reality will once again be revealed: "And all flesh together will see that the mouth of G-d has spoken" [Yeshayahu 40:5]. Until then, the clothing worn by Adam provided the means to reveal the light that had been removed and stored within the rough skin made into leather; (skin and leather share the same Hebrew word: עור). This was the only way in this World to see the Divine light, where the glory of the Shechina was concealed.

And this explains why the idea of a lack of modesty is only revealed to Adam & Eve after the sin in Eden. The consequence of the sin was that man's vision became external only, and it was difficult to see the light because of the obstruction of the skin - the external appearance took on greater importance. Physical beauty, which is skin-deep, may be eye-catching, but it is deceiving, and it does not allow the light and fear of G-d to be perceived. Only an outer garment gives the possibility of a deeper and more insightful vision, filled with the light and fear of G-d: "Grace is a lie and beauty is vain, a woman who fears G-d should be praised" [Mishlei 31:30]. The objective of modesty is not to cause ugliness but to bring about moderation. Beauty is an important value and it can broaden man's understanding of the World. The purpose of modesty, however, is to provide a partial cover of external beauty so that more internal beauty will be revealed, without becoming hidden by the external glare.

Adam's clothing, a modest garment that allowed him to struggle with the contrast between the physical and the spiritual, has been passed on to the High Priest. According to the sages, the High Priest had many material advantages. He was at a higher level than his brothers in good looks, wealth, and strength. These external benefits could have clouded the ability to distinguish between what is of highest importance and what is of secondary importance. Therefore, the High Priest needs special garments to help him redirect his physical attributes towards the service of G-d, to enhance the spiritual glory and magnificence לכבוד ולתפארת - . The garments of the High Priest show how even unrefined beauty can be transformed into an implement of Divine glory. These modest clothes refine and elevate the external beauty of the High Priest and give it spiritual significance, as it been said : "מלך ביפיו תחזינה עיניך".