This week, we read Parshat Tetzaveh . Now that the Mishkan (Tabernacle) has been constructed, God commands that Aaron and his sons be consecrated to his service as priests,(Kohanim), and gives instructions for their installation.
The Kohanim wear special garments when they perform their holy duties. They are to wear a long linen tunic, linen breeches, a linen turban and a long sash fixed around the waste. In addition to these garments, Aaron, as Kohen Gadol (High Priest), wears several unique and beautiful items:
- the efod—an apron-like garment made of wool dyed blue, purple and red, and linen and gold thread;
- the choshen—a breastplate containing twelve precious stones each inscribed with the name of one of the twelve tribes;
- the me’il—a blue woolen cloak with hemmed with gold bells and pomegranates; and
- the tzitz—a golden plate worn on the forehead, on which was written “Holy to God.”
Aaron is the star of this parasha, receiving all the attention to his clothing, the offerings and the ceremony relating to his sanctification. In fact, in the entire Torah, this is the only portion where Moses’s name is not even mentioned. The rabbis have various interpretations for this unusual turnabout, but it makes me think of how different jobs sometimes call for different leadership styles.
Aaron’s job was to lead the people as a community in showing their respect for God through worship. He himself was a very humble person, who loved to create peace among people. But because of the holy nature of his work in directing the Children of Israel’s attention to the special ceremonies in which they asked God for His blessings, Aaron was to wear clothing that evoked feelings of respect and holiness. The outward symbols of his duties were garments made of white linen, brightly colored wool, gold and precious gems. These things were rare and beautiful.
Moses’s job was to lead the people individually in showing their respect for God through everyday living. He taught them the laws about private property, treating employees fairly, dealing justly with the poor, the widow and the orphan, punishments for crimes and much more. What was the outward symbol of his duties? (“Wooden” you like a hint? “Stick” around.) You guessed it, Moses’s symbol was his staff. It was not a ceremonial object. It was commonplace. It was a tool he used to serve the Jewish people. He used it to perform signs and wonders in Egypt, and to cause miracles to occur as ordained by God, as when he split the Sea of Reeds (Exodus 14:16) and making water flow from a rock in the Wilderness (Numbers 20:9).
The things you surround yourself with are symbols of your character and the way in which you lead relationships with others. Do you dress in a way that shows you respect yourself and which therefore lead people to respect you? Do you enjoy music at a sound level that is peaceful to those around you, or at a level loud enough so that everyone hears your music regardless of whether they want to leading them to be annoyed? Are the words you use in conversation vehicles by which you enlighten and encourage the people you speak with, or do they hurt?
© Nelson R. Block 2014