you shall make sacred garments for your brother Aharon, for honour and splendour
Before bringing any korban (offering) or performing any avoda (service),
the Kohanim were required to don the bigdei Kehuna (priestly garments). As
mentioned in this weeks parsha, every Kohen wore four vestments and
the Kohen Gadol wore four additional garments. The purpose of the bigdei Kehuna,
the passuk says, was so that the Kohanim should appear honoured and dignified. The Ramban
adds that these are the same garments which are worn by royalty.
There are many reasons why the Torah wants the Kohanim to have a
regal appearance. These reasons are relevant to both the nation as a whole and the Kohanim
The Kohanim teach us Torah. Their regal appearance in the bigdei
Kehuna, engenders our respect which in turn enhances their effectiveness as teachers
and our willingness to apply their lessons. Furthermore, the Kohanims exalted
manner reminds us of the great awe that we should feel when entering the Beis Hamikdash.
This encourages us to return to Hashem, thus fulfilling one of the main purposes of
the Beis Hamikdash (Sefer Hachinuch).
The Kohanim themselves must also realise that more is expected of
them. They should set themselves apart from the rest of Bnei Yisrael and aspire to
loftier goals (Ibn Ezra, see also Emek Davar). Finally, the Sefer
Hachinuch writes that at all times their avoda should be performed with the
purest of thoughts. This is a difficult task. The Kohens holy garments serve
as a constant reminder of his mission.
Unfortunately, we do not have the Beis Hamikdash today, and most of
us are not descendants of Aharon. Nevertheless, these lessons are still applicable. HaRav
Avigdor Miller Shlita, points out that Bnei Yisrael is a priestly kingdom,
and a holy nation. Therefore we must also dress in a dignified manner. Wearing tzitzis
and avoiding wearing garments made of shatnez (linen and wool) adds to this
dignity. Even if the nations of the world fail to appreciate the holiness of the Jewish
people, our dress code is a reminder to ourselves that we are Hashems nation
- we are in His presence continually and we should act accordingly. As the morals of
society erode, we must strive even harder to maintain these high standards.
There is another important sentiment conveyed by the bigdei Kehuna.
Each of the Kohen Gadols garments atones for a different aveira. The
turban atones for haughtiness, the meil (cloak) for lashon hara, the
trousers for adultery, the tunic atones for murder, the belt for improper thoughts, the
breastplate for miscarriage of justice and the ephod, apron, atones for idolatry (Zevachim
88b). These are all aveiros (sins) that stem from bad middos (character
traits). The Malbim explains that the commandment to make the bigdei Kehuna
was given twice. Firstly, it was directed to Moshe Rabbeinu and then to the
craftsmen. The craftsmen and tailors actually assembled the priestly garments, but Moshe
had to first instruct Aharon in ways to perfect the character traits that they
represented. This character development is the ultimate bigdei Kehuna. For just as
our wardrobe covers our bodies, so too, our middos cover our neshamos
The Hebrew word for character trait, midda, also means
measure. There was a mitzva that the bigdei Kehuna had to be a
perfect fit - made to measure (mido vad, his tunic should be made kmidoso,
according to his size, Yoma 23b). So too, we must aim to achieve the correct
measure of each character trait. It is certainly not easy to perfect ones character
or to know how to respond appropriately in each situation. It is therefore no surprise
that Moshe Rabbeinu was the one entrusted to impart this knowledge.