More on this Parsha


This Issue's Halacha Article

Parshat Tetzaveh

10 Adar Aleph 5768

February 16, 2008

Vol.17 No.22

In This Issue:

Clothes Make the Man?

by Rabbi Yosef Adler

The first half of our Parasha deals almost exclusively with the fashioning of the garments worn by the Kohanim during the ritual service in the Mikdash. The Pasuk states, "VeAsu Et Bigdei Aharon LeKadsho LeChahano Li," "And they shall make the garments of Aharon, to sanctify him, so that he shall be a Kohen unto me" (Shemot 28:3). Rashi comments, "LeKadesho - LeHachniso BeChehunah Al Yedei HaBegadim… ULshon Kehunah Sheirut Hu," "'To sanctify him' means to bring him into the Kehunah by means of the garments, and Kehunah simply means service." The wearing of the garments are not a Mitzvah but rather that which Halachically is described as a "Hechsher Mitzvah," preparation for a Mitzvah. Ramban and the Behag support this idea as both do not count making the priestly garments as one of the 613 commandments. However, Rambam in Sefer HaMitzvot (#33) does record the fashioning of the priestly garments as one of the Taryag Mitzvot.

I believe that this debate has a broader implication as well. It reflects a tension between Chitzoni'ot and Penimi'ot. Does outward appearance retain any value at all, or is it exclusively the inner character of a person which contains religious significance? Rambam writes, "Malbush Talmid Chacham Malbush Na'eh VeNaki VeAsur Lo SheYimtza BeVigdo Ketem Oh Shamnunit VeChaYotzei BaHen VeLo Yilbosh Lo Malbush Melachim Kegon Bigdei Zahav VeArgaman SheHaKol Mistaklin BaHen VeLo Malbush Aniyim SheHu Mevazeh Et Lovshav Ela Begadim Beinoniyim Na'im," "A scholar must always wear clean dignified clothing. There shall be no stain on his garments. He should not wear clothing associated with royalty for this attracts attention to him. Nor should he wear garments worn by the poverty stricken for this will shame him. He should wear clean moderately priced garments," (Hilchot Dei'ot 5:9). Rambam fully understands the impact the external garb can generate. Although he may not agree fully with Shakespeare that "clothes make the man," they do say something about him.

The Netziv adds a second dimension. The Pasuk states, "VeAsita Bigdei Kodesh LeAharon Achicha LeChavod ULTifaret," "And you shall make holy clothing for Aharon your brother, for honor and for glory" (28:2). It is impossible for clothes to generate a sense of respect and reverence for the service of the Mikdash if the Kohanim do not act and appear in an appropriate fashion. By commanding that respect, it became apparent to all that Aharon was selected as Hashem's emissary and that this form of worship was duly approved by Hashem.

In the famous Piyut "HaAderet VeHaEmunah," chanted on Yom Kippur, and in Nusach Sefard congregations every Shabbat, we conclude "HaTehilah VeHaTiferet LeChai Olamim," "Praise and splendor belong to the One who lives forever." Rashi and the Behag hold that these qualities are reserved for Hashem. Rambam, however, believes that based on the Mitzvah of "VeHalachta BeDrachav," imitating Hashem, when dressed properly we create a sense of Tiferet, therefore emulating the way of Hashem.

Aharon's Turnaround

by Nachi Farkas

After discussing the Bigdei Kehunah, the priestly garments, Parashat Tetzaveh discusses Aharon's and his sons' induction into the Kehunah. The Torah describes this as a very strange procedure. Aharon was to come to the Mishkan with a bull and two rams. They would be sacrificed and the blood of one ram would be put onto Aharon's right earlobe and the earlobes of his sons. Then the blood would be put on the big toes of their right feet and their right hands' thumbs. The blood and oil would then be taken and sprinkled on their heads and subsequently their garments would be holy. As with other bizarre ritual procedures, such as those of the Parah Adumah, the red cow, and the Mei Sotah, the water drunk by a woman suspected of adultery, there must be a reason behind this eccentric ritual.

The Otzar Midrashim, quoting the Midrash HaBiur, states that this grotesque ritual was a Tikun, a correction, for Aharon's actions at Har Sinai. The feet that walked up Har Sinai and yet, after 40 days, didn't stop the sin of the Eigel HaZahav, and the ears that heard the Aseret HaDibrot and yet listened to the nation's request to build a golden calf need a Kaparah. The sons of Aharon will have to follow suit.

The Rambam in Hilchot Teshuvah writes that doing complete repentance requires regretting the sin. This is exactly how this ritual works. By inducing shame and self-inspection, directed at the very parts of the body that sinned, this procedure perfectly prepares Aharon to be the Kohen Gadol as he now has done a complete Teshuvah. We, like Aharon, must perfect our body by regretting our sins, enabling our Teshuvah. May we be Zocheh to be as successful as he was.

Divine Dress

by Isaac Shulman

In this week's Parasha, the Torah describes at length what the Kohen Gadol should wear when doing his Avodah in the Beit HaMikdash. The Pasuk states, "VeAsita Vigdei Kodesh LeAharon Achicha LeChavod UL'Tifaret," "And you shall make holy garments for Aharon, your brother, for honor and splendor" (Shemot 28:2). Two Pesukim later, Hashem enumerates the necessary garments: a Choshen, an Eifod, a Me'il, a Ketonet Tashbeitz, a Mitznefet, and an Avneit (28:4). The Torah then goes on to explain how to make each one of the garments. The obvious question that arises is why the Kohen needs to wear special clothes when he works in the Beit HaMikdash. A similar question is why we need special clothes for Shabbat; after all, we are the same people regardless of what we wear!

Perhaps the answer lies in basic human psychology. As any coach will acknowledge, the players perform better when wearing the right clothes. Playing basketball wearing a suit won't be the same as playing in a t-shirt and shorts. Similarly, if someone on a team is not wearing the uniform of the team, the camaraderie amongst the players is reduced. It is the same concept with Shabbat clothes and the Bigdei Kehunah. When we put on special clothes, we actually feel like different people. Hashem tells the Kohen to put on special clothes to do the Avodah because the Kohen needs to feel special when performing his holy service. The Bigdei Kehunah help create this feeling do exactly that.

Where's Moshe?

by Jesse Nowlin

After the Cheit HaEigel, Moshe pleads with Hashem to forgive Bnei Yisrael. "VeAtah Im Tisa Chatatam, VeIm Ayin Mecheini Na MiSifrecha Asher Katavta," "And now, please forgive their sin, and if not, erase me from the book You have written" (Shemot 32:31). Moshe was a leader with such Mesirat Nefesh (dedication) that he jeopardized himself in order to save Bnei Yisrael. As we learn from Yaakov Avinu's inadvertent curse of Rachel in cursing whoever took Lavan's idols, the words of a Tzaddik do not go ignored; somehow, Moshe's words would come true. The Ba'al HaTurim asserts (in his introductory comment to Parashat Tetzaveh) that Moshe's name actually was taken "out" of the Torah by not being mentioned in this week's Parasha. But why was it this week's Parasha that was chosen to lack Moshe's name?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that even though Moshe's name is not explicitly mentioned in this Parasha, he is still mentioned in the first Pasuk, "VeAtah Tetzaveh," "And you [Moshe], command" (27:20). The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains further that the lack of Moshe's name and the substitution of a pronoun is not actually a punishment like many people think it is, but rather an honor. When a newborn baby boy has not yet been named, he is defined by his character traits. When Hashem refers to Moshe without his name, Moshe's positive traits are being especially stressed. "VeAtah" is an honor because it points to Moshe's essence and the great Mesirat Nefesh he showed during the events surrounding the Cheit HaEigel. Therefore, Hashem isn't really punishing Moshe by removing him from Parashat Tetzaveh, but rather honoring him by alluding to his great personal sacrifices for Bnei Yisrael.

Staff at time of publication:

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