"Make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for splendor and for beauty."
What happened to the big picture? What ever became of Mount Sinai: the smoking mountain, the meeting of heaven and earth? The ten commandments? The two tablets of the law? Why is G-d obsessing, as it were, with the intricate details of a certain set of garments so idiosyncratic in their design and purpose that one, and only one man is allowed to don them?
Is the Torah a book of lofty ideals and principles intended to shape and guide all of humanity, and if so, why does it allow itself to become, at times, an instruction manual for so seemingly arcane an idea as the priestly garments? The answer lies in the Torah's intention not merely to propose an ethical and righteous way for man to live, but to inspire man with the desire to fulfill the word of Torah and infuse man with the means to perform G-d's will. The same G-d who created man in such wondrous detail so that man could strive to be a vehicle for good in all his actions has now instructed the children of Israel to employ their G-d-given abilities in creating the eight splendid garments of the High Priest.
We recall that G-d fashioned for Adam, the first man, garments of skin when, after Adam's sin, he and Eve were sent from Eden. These garments were to protect man as he made his way through this harsh world. The garments of the High Priest are intended to facilitate man's return to G-d. The various components of the bigdei kehuna - priestly garments - are designed to reflect and perfect the various foibles of man's nature. For example, the golden tzitz - crown - worn across the forehead of the high priest can serve to atone for arrogance; the breastplate for misjudgments; the blue robe for evil speech. Each aspect of the garments corresponds to and can fix the inherent weaknesses of man. Only one man, (the High Priest), is permitted to put on the bigdei kehuna, and in only one place on earth is he permitted to do so - the Holy Temple. One man, an Adam representing his entire generation, in the Garden of Eden, location of the Holy Temple, wearing the garments whose design and detail, "splendor and beauty," represent G-d's desire to see his children bedecked in the visible glory of our inherent goodness: seeing us in our best light.
Join Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven in this week's TEMPLE TALK as they discuss the Torah reading of Tetzaveh, G-d's wishes for mankind and our challenge to beautify ourselves through the performance of G-d's commandments in order to stand before Him. Also: an in-depth analysis of the Torah commandment to build the Holy Temple, and why that commandment remains preeminently relevant today.
Click to hear: