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.

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