“And you shall take two onyx stones and engrave on them
the names of the Children of Israel.” (Exodus 28:9)
When Shakespeare has Polonius advise his son Laertes, “Clothes make the man, “(Hamlet, 1:3), he contradicts Rabbi Meir’s dictum, “Don’t look at the container, rather what is inside it.” (Pirkei Avot 4:27). We know we should look beyond external appearances and yet, we know we often don’t. Parashat T’tzaveh offers an interesting perspective on the relationship between the external and internal.
Parashat T’tzaveh describes in great detail the High Priest’s. They are bigdei kodesh, sacred garments (Ex. 28:2), and include the following: “…a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a checkered tunic, a turban, and a girdle.” (Ex. 28:3) They are, “… sacred garments for Aaron your brother and his sons, l’kahano li, to make him a priest for me. “ (Ex. 28:3) Later the parasha, or portion, describes how Aaron’s son will succeed him as High Priest: the son will wear the sacred clothing for seven consecutive days (Ex. 29:30). T’tzaveh’s language makes it possible to infer the clothes are sacred and wearing them is what transforms Aaron into the High Priest.
T’tzaveh reveals an important psychological truth: inner states are affected by outer states—and vice versa. Your dress influences not only how others think of you, but how you think of yourself. And how you think of yourself influences your dress. So the sacred garments are visual reminders to Aaron and his sons of their sacred obligations. Their behavior, in turn, invests those reminders with integrity and authority. Thus, T’tzaveh offers an aspirational challenge: to be consistent internally and externally, just like the ark, layered with gold inside and out (Ex. 25:11-13), or like the High Priest and his clothes.
Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom