|IV. The Crown
"And you shall make a crown of pure gold, and engrave on it in the manner of a signet ring: 'Holy to the L-rd.'" (Ex. 28: 36)
The crown was a thin plate constructed of one piece of pure, solid gold. Unlike the crown worn by royalty on top of the head, this is worn across the forehead and extends from ear to ear. It was thin enough to arch across the forehead like a bow. Its width is described by Maimonides as 2 fingerbreadths, or app. 11/2 inches.
"Holy to the L-rd"
This crown was engraved with the words "Holy to the L-rd." At times, these words were written across two lines, and at times they were fit into one line. The Talmud (BT Sukkah 5) provides the eye-witness testimony of Rabbi Eliezer the son of Rabbi Yose who saw the crown in Rome (both the Talmud and Josephus inform us that after the destruction of the Second Temple, many of the sacred vessels were plundered and taken to Rome, where they were publicly displayed for many years): "Rabbi Eliezer said: I saw the crown in Rome, and the words "Holy to the L-rd" were written in one line."
It was worn at all times while the High Priest was within the Temple, as the Bible states: "And it shall be worn on Aaron's forehead, that he shall carry the iniquity of the holy things (specifically, this is a reference to ritual impurity), which the children of Israel shall sanctify in all their holy gifts; and it shall always be upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the L-rd."
How Were the Letters Engraved?
The Talmud (BT Gittin 20) describes the process by which the letters were fashioned on the crown. They were raised, not sunken - "like a golden dinar." This was accomplished by digging out the letters from the opposite side until they were raised up. Maimonides (Laws of Temple Vessels, Ch. 9) writes that "they would pound out the letters in a form until their shapes were formed on the other side."
How Was the Crown Fastened?
The crown had three small holes: two on each end, and one in the center, along the upper edge. Through these holes, threads dyed with sky-blue color were run, and the ends of these threads were connected in the back of the priest's head. In this manner the crown, itself a thin plate, was kept tied and in place on the High Priest's forehead.
The Turban and the Crown
The turban was placed on the priest's head in such a way that a space was left between it and crown upon his forehead. This space enabled the High Priest to wear the tefillin, the phylacteries of the head (see Deut. 6:8)< In the words of the Talmud (BT Zevachim 19) "The High Priest's hair was visible between the crown and the turban, and there he placed his tefillin."
The middle sky-blue thread was extended over the turban, where it was tied to the other strands at the back of his head. So it is written, " ... and the string shall be upon the turban." (Ex. 28:36)