Parashat Tetsaveh
Shabbat Zakhor

March 10-11, 2017 – 13 Adar 5777

Annual (Exodus 27:20-30:10): Etz Hayim p. 503-518; Hertz p. 339-349
Triennial (Exodus 27:20-28:30): Etz Hayim p. 503-508;  Hertz p. 339-342
Maftir (Deut. 25:17-19): Deut 25:17-19; Etz Hayim p. 1135-1136; Hertz p. 856-857
Haftarah (I Samuel 15:2-34): Etz Hayim p. 1280-1285; Hertz p. 995-998


Do Clothes Make the Person?
Rabbi Amanda Golby provides rabbinic pastoral support at New North London Synagogue

This year Parashat Tetsaveh is read on Shabbat Zachor, and in fact Purim will begin when Shabbat goes out (except for Jerusalem and several other historically “walled cities”). Clothing is a theme common to both the parashah and the holiday.  In Tetsaveh we read of the special clothing given to the kohanim (priests); in the evening we will dress up. When I studied in Israel many years ago, our daily minyan had a kohen, who, in accordance with the custom there, duaned each morning.  His Purim costume was to dress as the kohen gadol, the High Priest.

In the parashah we are told that all the priests are to wear four garments – linen breeches, tunics, sashes and turbans. In addition, Aaron, the High Priest, is to wear:

– A special robe [me’il] of pure blue, decorated at the hem with pomegranates and golden bells;

– Over this robe, the ephod – an apron-like layer woven of gold, blue, purple and crimson;

– The oshen, a breastplate with twelve gems with the names of the tribes engraved on them;

– A gold plate on the turban inscribed with the words: “Holiness unto YHWH.”

Parashat Tetzaveh devotes more than 40 verses to bigdei ha’kodesh, the ‘ritual garments’ for the High Priest.  Moses is told that they should be made for Aaron his brother, l’chavod u’l’tifaret, for dignity and splendour.

In our time, it is the Sifrei Torah that ‘wear’ these garments, or a modification of them. Rabbis and cantors generally now dress like the other Jews at the service. Our young people would be surprised to see their religious leaders wearing gowns or indeed full ‘canonicals’ of the style familiar to earlier generations. When I first became a rabbi, there was an expectation that I would wear a gown, and, while in some ways I disliked it intensely, I was at the same time grateful. It was difficult enough being a woman rabbi, and wearing a gown sharply reduced the focus on what I was wearing.

In last week’s portion Terumah, we were told that the Aron Ha’Kodesh, the holy ark, should be made of pure gold, inside and out, and commentators remind us that what is on the inside is as important as that which is visible.  We may learn from this also about how we dress for synagogue. There was a time when no man would go to Shul without a tie. That is very different today. Attitudes have also changed regarding women wearing pants, again reflecting the changes in the general society. However, even if styles have changed, it still seems appropriate to come to Shul dressed b’hiddur mitzvah, to honour the mitzvah, to show that as part of our efforts to make Shabbat holy, we take extra care in our dress and behaviour. Like the Ark, we need to strive to make our inner world also reflect that ‘glory and beauty,’ and that is surely a much harder task.

On Purim, of course, many will come to Shul costumed, purposely disguising what is our usual dress and identity, and this is consistent with the theme of costume and hidden identities in Megillat Esther, where, like in Parashat Tetsaveh, clothing plays a central role.  We need also to be conscious of both our inner and outer lives, and do our best so that they match up in the best possible way.  Shabbat Shalom and ag Purim sameach.

A Vort for Parashat Tetsaveh
Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb, CY Faculty

The robe of the Kohen Gadol (the High Priest) had a hem with little pomegranates and gold bells, the latter to announce his approach to the Kadosh HaKodashim, the most Holy place, and his departure from it (28:35).  Reb Haim of Brisk (Chaim (Halevi) Soloveitchik 1853 – 1918, leading Lithuanian rabbi and Talmudic scholar and grandfather of the “Rov,” the late Joseph Ber Soloveitchik,) used to tell off people who were davenning (reciting) the silent Amidah prayer in a loud voice that if the Almighty wanted us to pray loudly, there would have been no need for the bells on the High Priest’s robe.

Table Talk
Vered Hollander-Goldfarb, CY Faculty

In this Parasha we receive the instructions for the Kohanim, the priests working in the Mishkan, both their garments and the ceremony to turn them into Kohanim.

1. Aaron will have special clothing, call by the Torah “bigdei kodesh” (=Kodesh garments). Kodesh is often translated as ‘holy’, but it literally means ‘separate.’ What do you think is the point of Aaron’s garments? How many people wore bigdei kodesh (28:1-4)? (Read carefully, v.2 and v. 4 give slightly different answers.)

2. The Kohen Gadol (high priest) wears a coat that has special decoration at its fringes/bottom (28:31-35). What was sewn on the bottom of the coat? How do you think the Kohen Gadol sounded when he walked around wearing the coat?  Why do you think that the Kohen Gadol should be heard?

3. The Kohanim’s garments covered them from head to …toe? Does the Kohen wear shoes when he is wearing his service garments? (All Kohanim garments are discussed in chapter 28.) What might be the reason for that? Now imagine being allowed inside the Mishkan. What sounds do you hear?

We will be observing Purim on Sunday (or Monday, if you happen to be in Israel in a city that was had a wall in the days of Joshua.) Here are 2 questions about Megilat Esther:

4. The Megilah opens with 2 (or 3) drinking parties (1:2-8). How long does each party last?  What do you think is the purpose of each party?

5. Esther has another name (2:5-7). What is her other name?  Where do you think that she used each name? What might this tell us about the Jews living in Shushan in Persia after a few generations of exilic life?