III. The Robe

According to the opinion of most scholars, the robe was a closed garment, seamlessly woven from one piece of fabric, and slipped on over the head. It was worn over the tunic; the tunic was longer than the robe by one handbreadth, so it was visible underneath the robe at the bottom. The opening at the neck was round, with a hem that was doubled over and closed by weaving-not by a needle. The garment hung down in front and in back, and its length extended all the way down to the priest's feet. There is a difference of opinion as to whether there were sleeves.

As mentioned above, the robe was fashioned exclusively from techelet, the sky-blue dyed wool, with no other material. The Talmud (BT Yoma 71) records that its threads were 12-ply.

 

Pomegranates and Bells

Decorative pomegranates made of sky-blue, dark-red and crimson dyed wool were attached to the lower hem of the robe (each thread of each of these materials being woven from 8 individual strands). The verse tells us that these pomegranates appeared together with golden bells: "A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, on the hem of the robe all around" (Ex. 28:34). Some opinions interpret this to mean that the bells and pomegranates were interspersed alternatively, in between each other; another holds that the bells were placed inside the pomegranates.

The hem of the robe was woven over doubly in order to prevent it from ripping due to the weight of the pomegranates and bells. Again, no sewing was used for this: "And there shall be a hole for the head, in the midst of it; it shall have a binding of woven work round about the hole, like the opening of a suit of armor, that it not be torn." (ibid. v. 32)

These pomegranates were actually hollow spheres of fabric in the shape of pomegranates. We find a debate in the Talmud and other holy books as to whether there were 36, 70, or 72 pomegranates in all.

"And it shall be on Aaron when he comes to serve, and its sound shall be heard when he comes to the holy place before the L-rd, and when he goes out, so that he does not die." (ibid. v. 35)

 

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