VIII. The Pants

"And make for them linen pants to cover their nakedness; they shall reach from the loins to the thighs." (Ex. 28:42)

The Pants Are Required For Modesty Alone

This verse indicates that the priest's pants do not serve the same purpose as the other sacred garments. For all the other items which make up their uniform are "for honor and for beauty"... they glorify the sacred office and bespeak dignity, not to mention their deeper significance, such as the power to atone, etc. But this does not apply to the pants; we are specifically informed here that their function was one of modesty alone, to cover his nakedness.

 

Made Without Openings

"We were taught: To what can the priests' pants be likened? To the knee breeches (riding pants) worn by horsemen; wide from the hips to the thighs, tied with a lace, and without an opening-neither in back nor in front" (BT Niddah 13:b).

These pants were closed; they did not have the usual openings which we are accustomed to. They extended from the waist until the knees, and were worn directly over the body. The tunic was placed over them. According to most authorities, the upper hem was hollow and had a lace running through it, which was tied at the waist. Josephus, however, maintains that these laces were around the knees, and the pants were fastened there (Antiquities, 3:7:1).

 

Donning the Priestly Garments

A Special Chamber of Wardrobes

"There were seven gates in the courtyard: three in the north, three in the south, and one in the east... the one in the east is the Nikanor Gate, and within it were two chambers, one on the right side and one on the left. One was the chamber of Phineas the Wardrober, and the other was chamber where the High Priest's meal offering was prepared." (Midot 1,4).

During the time of the Second Temple, Phineas the Wardrober was the official who supervised the uniforms and the dressing of the priests.

 

Background: The Nikanor Gates

Location of The Nikanor Gates

Ascending from the Women's Court by way of fifteen steps (which correspond to the "fifteen songs of ascent" in the book of Psalms - Psalms 120-134), we reach the great brass gates known as the "Nikanor Gates." These gates, constituting the main entrance to the Holy Temple, are named after the individual who imported the Corinthian bronze doors within them from Egypt, and donated them to the Holy Temple.

The Story of Nikanor

The Mishna (Yoma 3,10) relates that Nikanor brought the gates by ship from Alexandria, and when a storm came up and threatened to destroy the ship, the sailors were forced to throw one of the heavy brass doors overboard in an effort to try and save the vessel from capsizing. When this did not help matters and the storm's ferocity had not abated, they attempted to throw the second door into the maelstrom as well. But Nikanor stood up and grabbed the door, hugging it and crying "if you do this, throw me in as well!" His heart was broken within him because his contribution to the House of G-d had been diminished. The storm then immediately subsided, but Nikanor continued to be crestfallen over the lost door.

When the ship safely reached the Holy Land, however, a miracle occurred: The second gate, which had been thrown into the sea, came up alongside the boat!

To commemorate this miracle, these original bronze doors were kept in place even when later, all the other Temple gates were refurbished with gold.

 

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