This week’s Parashah discusses the clothing worn by the Kohanim and, in particular, the Kohein Gadol. The Gemara in Zevachim (88b) states that each of the eight garments discussed in this Parashah atones for a certain sin. It tells us that the Me’il, or robe, atones for the sin of Leshon Hara. The Maharal wonders what the connection is between a robe and Leshon Hara, as they seem to be utterly dissimilar.
He answers using a concept about the job of each Jew. Judaism is a role-oriented religion. The job of serving in the Beit HaMikdash is exclusive to a Kohein. Only the Kohein Gadol may enter the Kodesh HaKodashim on Yom Kippur or wear the Me’il. There are some things that only a Leivi can do. Some Mitzvot must be performed by men and others are exclusive to women. Clearly, each individual has a specific position to fulfill. This idea is unlike American society's idea of equality which believes that everyone is guaranteed the same rights, responsibilities, and opportunities. In Judaism, however, everyone has a specific role that he or she must fulfill. Instead of focusing on the opportunities for Mitzvot that others have and perhaps growing jealous, a person should focus on fulfilling his or her own role as best as he or she can. The Me’il symbolizes the concept that, just as only one person can be Kohein Gadol, we all need to focus on our individual roles.
The Maharal then relates this lesson to Leshon Hara. We must understand the rationale of a person who speaks Leshon Hara. Often it stems from intolerance of those that differ from the speaker. A person who cannot accept that others have legitimate ways of doing things will mock those others. For instance, a person who loves to study Torah and does so regularly may see someone who does not learn as much and criticize his behavior. The first person may not be able to accept that not everyone is like him and will speak badly of his peer. This is unacceptable. We must come to the realization that there are many people in the world and many legitimate paths to follow. Not everyone must be exactly like us in order to deserve respect.
The Me’il is a reminder to us that everyone has a specific and unique role. We do not have the right to speak Leshon Hara about people or to criticize them just because they are not like us. It is fitting that the Me’il, which is a reminder that some people have bigger roles than others, is an atonement for Leshon Hara. We should strive accept others – even those that may be different from ourselves.