The Torah portion, or parashah, this week is called Tetzaveh and is found in Exodus 27:20-30:10. Moses is told to instruct the Israelites to prepare olive oil for lighting the Ner Tamid, the “eternal light” in the wilderness sanctuary. God then gives instructions for making the special vestments for Aaron, the high priest, and his sons, the regular priests. Aaron’s vestments would include the ephod (a long vest or apron), breastplate, robe, sash, tunic, and a headdress with a golden plate inscribed “Holy to the Lord.” The ordinary priests were to wear tunics, sashes, and turbans. The parashah continues with instructions for the seven day ceremony for ordaining the priests. It concludes with instructions for making the altar where incense will be burned.
The Torah portion this week focuses a lot on the description of clothing for the High Priest. Why is clothing important? As human beings our clothing tends to represent something about ourselves and what we want to portray. Sometimes we dress to stand out, other times to blend in. Our clothes may be reflective of our personalities as well as our careers, hobbies, or interests. Today people’s uniforms or similar attire often tell us who they are, where they work, and what type of responsibilities they hold. Each is important in our society. We also have other things that we wear that identify who we are and what we represent. When we are Jewish and wear items such as a kippah, a Star of David necklace, or a Hanukkah pin, we are saying something to others about who we are and what we represent. What message are people getting when they meet us?