|This D’var Torah is in Z’chus L’Ilui Nishmas my sister Kayla Rus Bas Bunim Tuvia A”H, my grandfather Dovid Tzvi Ben Yosef Yochanan A”H, my uncle Reuven Nachum Ben Moshe & my great aunt Rivkah Sorah Bas Zev Yehuda HaKohein.
It should also be in Zechus L’Refuah Shileimah for:
-My father Bunim Tuvia Ben Channa Freidel
-My grandfather Moshe Ben Breindel, and my grandmothers Channah Freidel Bas Sarah, and Shulamis Bas Etta
-Mordechai Shlomo Ben Sarah Tili
-Noam Shmuel Ben Simcha
-Chaya Rochel Ettel Bas Shulamis
-Nechama Hinda Bas Tzirel Leah-Ariela Golda Bas Amira Tova
-And all of the Cholei Yisrael
-It should also be a Z’chus for an Aliyah of the holy Neshamos of Dovid Avraham Ben Chiya Kehas—R’ Dovid Winiarz ZT”L, Miriam Liba Bas Aharon—Rebbetzin Weiss A”H, as well as the Neshamos of those whose lives were taken in terror attacks (Hashem Yikom Damam), and a Z’chus for success for Tzaha”l as well as the rest of Am Yisrael, in Eretz Yisrael and in the Galus.
**Note: This D’var Torah is a re-written, much edited, and expanded version of an old one I wrote a few years ago.
תְּצַוֶּה ● Tetzaveh
● Why did G-d create clothes? What is the connection between the clothes of Adam HaRishon and the Bigdei Kehunah? ●
“The Priest in the Garden – Shame to Splendor”
Continuing the topic of the Mishkan, the Torah proceeds to describe the details relating to the Kohanim, or the Priests who would serve Hashem there. Following that theme, Hashem commands Moshe regarding the crafting of the elegant Bigdei Kehunah, the “Priestly Vestments,” or “Garments,” which the Kohanim would be required to wear during the Temple service. These garments consisted of various, extravagant materials such as gold, turquoise and purple wool, and gems of all sorts.
What exactly was the function of these Bigdei Kehunah? There are a lot of mystical and symbolic ideas behind each of the individual garments and their intricacies, but from a simple standpoint, what would be the basis for the Kohanim to wear these fancy garments and jewelry?
So, the Torah actually spells out their purpose; “V’Asisa Vigdei Kodesh L’Aharon Achicha L’Chavod U’L’Sifares”-“And you [Moshe] shall make holy garments for Aharon your brother, for honor [glory] and for splendor.”1 Apparently, their goal was to provide some sort of “honor” or “glory,” and “splendor” to the Kohanim. But, what exactly does that mean?
Kohanic Dress Code
Many explanations are offered to interpret these words as well, but perhaps the simplest meaning, suggested by the Ramban, is that, culturally, these kinds of garments were associated with kingship, and in essence, the Kohanim were to be like kings when they served in the Temple. What is strange though, at least at first glance, is that if we think about the concept of royal clothes from a G-dly perspective, it seems that, indeed, style and fashion is really arbitrary. At the end of the day, clothes are clothes. Yes, in human society, one’s choice of clothes is a “fashion statement,” based on culctural realities. But, why would G-d Himself differentiate between gold, silver, denim, leather, linen, wool, or any other material? Why would G-d voice a preference between different articles of clothing? Isn’t it seemingly shallow for G-d to emphasize style, gaudiness, and pomp when it comes to His Avodah?
The simple answer to this question is probably that, indeed, G-d Himself does not differentiate when it comes to these material details, but as was referenced above, culturally and psychologically, we humans differentiate between the clothes we wear. We “dress for the occasion” and make statements about ourselves and our settings when we dress ourselves and face the world. Accordingly, for the purposes of the Priesthood, the Bigadim were meant to provide a sense of royalty and regality to the Kohanim while they served before Hashem, something we humans could appreciate.
The next question though is how all of this differentiating started. Why are certain clothes universally looked at as “royal” or “kingly”? When did the Bigdei Kehunah get their cultural oomph? At what point in history did clothes in general become a reflection of oneself, a symbol associated with “glory,” “splendor,” or any quality? At the end of the day, they are just clothes, aren’t they?
Creation of Clothes
But, perhaps, in order to understand the “evolution” of clothes, we have to better understand clothes altogether. To do that, we’ll have to think back to the “Beginning” of time and take a look at the origin of clothes through the Torah’s lenses.
In Parshas Bereishis, the first humans, Adam and his wife were created without clothes, and as the Torah testifies, they were not embarrassed to be unclothed.2 Between man and his wife, it was the “cultural norm,” after all. But all of a sudden, after they succumbed to desire and partook of the “forbidden fruit” from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they created their first set of clothes from fig leaves and hide among the trees.3 The question which bothers many is why Adam suddenly became uncomfortable with his nakedness. He was naked the whole time! What had changed?
What is also strange is that if one looks at the rest of the story, after G-d chastises Adam and his wife for disobeying His command, just before He expels them from Gan Eden, G-d too made them clothes of skins and dressed them.4 In other words, while Adam was already being covered by fig leaves, G-d dressed him again. Why was this second layer necessary? Was Adam just a little cold?
Ba’al HaTurim: “Primordial Priest”
At this particular point in the story, the Ba’al HaTurim makes a wild comment. He points out that the word in this verse, “Vayalbisheim”-“and He dressed them,”4 appears only one other time in the entire Tanach, later in Parshas Tzav when Moshe Rabbeinu dressed his brother Aharon and Aharon’s children in the Bigdei Kehunah to inaugurate them for their Temple service.5 In light of this textual parallel, the Ba’al HaTurim comments that Hashem actually clothed Adam in none other than the Bigdei Kehunah!
Now, what in the world does that mean? Adam was dressed like a Kohein? Did he wear a breastplate with gemstones corresponding to the twelve unborn tribes of Yisrael? Perhaps, he was dressed like a standard Kohein Hedyot as opposed to a Kohein Gadol or High Priest, in which case he would have not been given the breastplate, but it is still certainly a strange picture to imagine.
Whether or not this explanation was meant literally is an interesting discussion to have, however, perhaps this argument was not the intended direction of the Ba’al HaTurim’s comment. But the idea of Adam being some “Primordial Priest” is still strange. The question is what the Torah wanted us to take from this apparent association between the clothes of Adam HaRishon and the Bigdei Kehunah.
Clothes of Shame
Returning to the scene of the sin, there is an apparent association between the shame, or fear, of nakedness and sin which would explain why Adam was uncomfortable with his nakedness after the sin. But, where did this association come from?
Apparently, before sin, there was nothing “wrong” with nakedness so that Adam and his wife did not feel psychologically or “culturally” insecure because of it. Why would that be? Perhaps, before sin, there was a certain measure of innocence in the world. Before man developed this “Knowledge of Good and Evil,” before man gave in to desire, nakedness went unnoticed because until that point, man’s physicality was one with his spirituality. There was an objective understanding of one’s bodily facets as tools in one’s service to G-d, and there were no personal inclinations associated with one’s material being. But, when man violated his apparent “covenant” with his Creator and chose physical, material desire, over the spiritual demand, He discerned between the two, between “Good and Evil,” and thereby created a gap between his physical reality and everything spiritual. When man perceived this gap, he was ashamed and even afraid of his physical body that was intrinsically devoid of spiritual meaning. He no longer saw everything through the lenses of the Will of G-d, but he saw life in terms of desire. He became insecure and needed to clothe himself, to hide the “object” of his material life, his physical body. He could not stand there knowing that he was tainted human in the midst of complete spiritual purity. He could not face the overwhelmingly spiritual Presence of G-d while feeling inclined towards his own physical wellbeing.
This event would be the start of the practically universal shame in nakedness and the need for clothes. Indeed, there are many reasons to wear clothes, whether for protection, warmth, etc., but everything being equal, in even the perfect weather and temperature, we humans tend to cover up because we’re naturally ashamed of our nakedness.
And, indeed, as a result of this event, Hashem would drive Adam and his wife out of the Garden, because they could no longer be surrounded by pure, unadulterated spirituality. They would have to live in the natural world. However, before G-d would send them away, we mentioned, He dressed them, and apparently clothed Adam in the “Bigdei Kehunah.” Why?
Clothes of Splendor
Clothing, as we can so far tell, really reflects an unideal state of man. In the perfect world, we can stand before G-d, naked and unashamed. However, due to our “newly” perceived sense of human identity, we need clothing to cover shame. This shame is due to man’s failure to guard G-d’s charge, the decision we made to divorce our physical bodies from our soul’s spiritual demands. Accordingly, clothing is a constant reminder that we’re undeserving of guarding G-d’s charge. In fact, the Torah says explicitly that one cannot reveal his nakedness on Mizbei’ach.6 We have to carry ourselves with Kavod or honor now, which we only have, when our physicality is covered. But the style of clothing itself, as we argued earlier, is otherwise arbitrary.
Yet, even when man’s nakedness was covered by a fig leaf, Hashem still dressed him again. What was the point of that? Perhaps though, G-d overlayed Adam with another layer of clothes to show Adam that even though he was human, physical, and rightfully being ejected from Gan Eden, needing to be clothed, he did not need to live a life of perpetual shame. G-d made special, additional clothes for Adam to show him a new value in clothes, a value of higher honor and not just the removal of shame. By dressing Adam in “Bigdei Kehunah” or whatever it was He dressed him in, G-d conveyed to Adam how even from outside the Garden, he could still serve Him, even if his nakedness had to be covered. He could approach G-d, clothed, but not out of shame, but again, out of this splendor. Somehow, by embracing this difference between physicality and spirituality and covering up, we not only hide shame and maintain a sense of dignity or Kavod, but we have the means to serve G-d with splendor, Tiferes, as well. Even if we have to be clothed, by acknowledging the battle and by carrying ourselves with dignity, we can hope to reenter G-d’s abode. In this exact vein, the Kohanim, dressed properly, can enter the Mishkan, Hashem’s new abode in the material world.
And now, for as long as we can remember, clothing is not merely a sign of shame, but an accepted form of identification, even reflecting the highest ranks of nobility and royalty. What emerged from G-d’s dressing man is that in our “new” state, where we can no longer take spiritual pride in our own nakedness, we all can still, nonetheless, embrace the culturally accepted majesty of clothes and use them to not only maintain dignity, but actually appear splendorous before Hashem’s Presence.
Colloquial Clothing Corrupted
But of course, like nakedness, our perception of clothing, too, can be corrupted. In the beginning of time, nakedness and physicality was natural and a proud partner of spirituality, until man tainted it. Clothing, as well, has worth only in so far as its connection to spirituality endures. For example, if clothing is merely about brand names—the money and the “bling,” then intrinsically, the clothing is not regal in its essence. If the clothing is not actually covering the nakedness, but it is revealing and accentuating the “nakedness” of the wearer, it is also, not a reflection of anything elegant. It is a corruption. Yes, there is a culturally accepted “royal look,” but one cannot make the oldest mistake of man and dissociate the object from its intended spiritual meaning, stripping it of its splendor.
From Gan Eden, to the Mishkan, and Beyond
At the end of the day, Hashem did not merely exile Adam, but He set up Adam to return to Him, giving Him a splendorous dress code for that glorious charge. Similarly, the role of His Kohanim is to approach Him in the Mishkan, the man-made Gan Eden which too requires a lofty dress code. But of course, in our own way, as humans and as Hashem’s Mamleches Kohanim or Kingdom of Priests7, we too have the very same charge before us each day to elevate our dress in our service of Hashem. It is thus our job, to carry ourselves with dignity, embrace the spiritual essence of our own Bigdei Kehunah and return to Hashem, upgrading from shame to splendor.
May we all be Zocheh to always maintain our dignity, embrace our spiritual essence and truly serve Hashem with Kavod and Tiferes, Glory and Splendor, and Hashem should return us to His Presence in the days of Moshiach, Bimheirah Biyomeinu! Have a Great Shabbos!
-Yehoshua Shmuel Eisenberg 🙂
- Shemos 28:2
- Bereishis 2:25
- Ibid. 3:7-8
- Ibid. 3:21
- Vayikra 8:13
- Shemos 20:23
- Ibid. 19:6