Every detail of the Torah is important and laden with meaning. Take the wardrobe Hashem designed for those who served in his Mishkan. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains that these unique garments served not only to distinguish them but also to impress upon them the importance and significance of the service for which Hashem had selected them. Clothing itself, he explains, is a form of serving Hashem.
“And headgear you shall make for them, for honor and for beauty” (28:40).
Migbaos (headgear) is the same word as givah (a hill, an elevation), for the wearer appears taller because of the headgear. The kohen wears a crown of honor and beauty to demonstrate his superiority as a servant of Hashem and to show the importance of the service. But this crown, and the other vestments which he must wear during the service, are intended also to teach the kohen himself that he is elevated, for thereby he becomes impressed by his function as the designated servant of Hashem.
This is the principle that the garments affect the attitude of the wearer, and thus they become true kohanim: “In the time when their garments are upon them, their kehunah is upon them” (Zevachim 17B). (Similarly, the Jew covers his head to make him aware of his function as the chosen servant of Hashem: “Send out My people so that they shall serve me” – 7:16.)
The principle of the influence of garments was demonstrated when Adam and his wife made coverings of fig-leaves to conceal their nakedness (Bereishis 3:7), Hashem afterward “made for Adam and his wife tunics” (ibid. 3:2 1) in order to clothe man in dignity (“for honor”) to demonstrate his superior function of being created to serve his Creator.
In this matter, two elements are discernable:
1. The wearing of garments is a demonstration that the wearer acknowledges Hashem is looking, and therefore he is ashamed to expose his body, just as Adam declared to G-d (Bereishis 3:10). Thus the decency of clothing proclaims to the world the presence of the Creator. Similarly, when the kohen wears the garments of service to Hashem he thereby publicly proclaims the necessity to serve Hashem and to acknowledge Him as the Creator and Benefactor.
2. When Adam and his wife (and their progeny) put clothing upon their bodies to conceal their beastly aspects and to demonstrate awareness of G-d – to whom their lives should be dedicated in gratitude and thanksgiving for creating them and elevating them above all other creatures – a great change occurs in the minds of the wearers. They themselves are profoundly influenced by the lessons of the garments. Similarly, the kohen himself is the chief beneficiary of the lessons of his vestments, and he becomes more intensely aware of Hashem’s Presence.
Because of the effect of the garments on the wearer, we understand that the wearing of the garments in itself constitutes an important form of service to Hashem. The kohen clothes himself in the vestments which identify him as a servant devoted to the service of the King, and he thus dedicates himself mentally to this great function. This is in itself an achievement of immense value. Therefore “If not for the garments of kehunah no remnant would have survived of (the enemies of) Israel” (Yoma 72B).
The donning of the vestments is in itself an act of service and atonement.
Similarly, when an Israelite dons tallis and tefillin and thereby identifies himself as dedicated to Hashem’s service, then even before he has uttered any prayer he has already achieved an important form of service to Hashem. And anyone who declares himself a servant of Hashem thereby has performed a great and prized act of service.
Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.
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