The Torah at the beginning of this week’s Parsha, ועשית בגדי קדש לאהרן אחיך, “You shall make holy clothing for Aharon your brother” (28:2). The clothing of the Kohanim is so important that the Torah devotes nearly forty Pesukim detailing them. Indeed, if a Kohen performed his jobs without wearing the special garments, he would be liable for death. Why is the Kohen’s clothing so significant?
Ramban cites many parallels from Tanach to show where kings and other respectable people wore clothing similar to the Kohen Gadol’s. He concludes simply that the significance of the Kohen’s clothes was to give the Kohen dignity in the eyes of Bnai Yisrael.
The early 20th century Bible commentator Benno Yaakov writes that clothing is more than something that signifies one’s dignity. He cites Parshat Bereishit in which Hashem made clothing for Adam and his wife. Adam had to learn to make everything else he needed, but Hashem Himself clothed Adam and his wife to make them holy and to reflect that they were different than animals. Only then could they be the parents of the world.
Moshe did a similar thing when he clothed Aharon, thereby inaugurating him as the Kohen Gadol. When a person wears special clothing, he feels special because his clothing reminds him that he is different from others. When a Kohen wears his special clothing he feels special because he is reminded that he is unique because he is a Kohen.
Even though we are not all Kohanim, this concept reminds us that the way we dress can affect the way we feel. We should all realize that we are the chosen people of Hashem, and we should use the Mitzvot as our clothing to separate us from the rest of the world.