This Week’s Torah Portion: Tetzaveh

Parashat Tetzaveh may read more like a fashion magazine than a typical Torah portion as it gives a detail account of the garments to be worn by the Kohen Gadol, the high priest, and the Kohanim. The Kohen Gadol is commanded to wear eight clothing items, each of which are custom-designed for his work in the Mishkan. For example, the Choshen, the breastplate, will contain twelve gemstones, each engraved with the name of a tribe of Bnai Yisrael. Exodus Rabbah 38:8 explains that the reason the stones were placed in the Choshen was so that God would see them when Aharon entered God’s service. According to the Midrash, the stones would serve as a reminder to God of the merits of the tribes of Bnai Yisrael. The Choshen, as well as the Kohen Gadol’s other garments, served as a reminder to Aharon of his work responsibilities to God and to Bnai Yisrael. Aharon’s headpiece was even inscribed with the words “Holy to God.” Parashat Tetzaveh certainly speaks to the positive effects of uniforms in the workplace.  According to this Parasha, if Aharon did not wear his uniform to work, he risked the ultimate job termination of death. Over the course of history, uniforms have become incorporated in several occupations, from policemen, to flight attendants, to students. While there are still debates as to whether uniforms enhance productivity or stifle individuality, it is clear from the case of the Kohanim that their uniforms served as both protective gear and constant reminders of their crucial responsibilities to Bnai Yisrael and to God. Whether or not we are required to wear uniforms on a daily basis, let the garments of the Kohanim serve as a reminder to us of the possibility that clothing can enhance our service to our communities and to God.


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