Parashat Tetzaveh

Clothes Make The Person

The emphasis on the priestly clothes teaches us the importance of bringing honor and splendor to God and the commandments.

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Provided by KOLEL--The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning, which is affiliated with Canada's Reform movement.


We continue with the theme that defines most of the rest of the Book of Exodus: the construction and institution of the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary that was the place of worship for the Israelites and the House of God among the people during the years of wandering in the wilderness.

Parashat Tetzaveh specifically focuses on the Kohanim, the Priests who perform the rituals and sacrifices on behalf of the people. Great detailed descriptions are given of the complex ritual garments of the Kohen Gadol (the High Priest--regally resplendent in gold and adornments of precious stones. Details are also given for the seven-day period of sacrifices and rituals required to consecrate the priests for service. The parashah ends with a short description of the golden altar upon which incense was offered and how it too is to be consecrated.

In Focus

Make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for dignity and splendor. (Exodus 28:2)


Following the instructions for the building of the Aron Kodesh (the Ark) in last week's parashah and the lighting of the Ner Tamid (Eternal Light) at the beginning of the week's portion, the Torah's attention turns to issues related to the Kohanim (Priests). In a way, the Priests are considered to be in the same category of Klay Kodesh ("holy tools") as the other objects built for the Mishkan. Aaron, Moses' brother, and his sons are selected to serve in this important and hereditary office of religious leadership.

But, before any discussion of the Priest's actual responsibilities, their elaborate and regal vestments are described. Like all the other implements that will be used in the Tabernacle for the worship of God, the priestly garments are to be made of the finest materials, to be both functional and splendid. The costume of the high priest especially is very symbolic of the Kohen Gadol's responsibility to serve on behalf of the people.


"Clothes make the man," the old saying goes. Well, clothes certainly do seem to impress us human beings. Nothing tells you more about a person, or makes a greater first impression, than how one is dressed. It's quite remarkable, really. A person's entire character can be summed up by someone who does not know them simply by how they are dressed.

Jobs have been won and lost, relationships continued or ended, all based on the clothes we wear. The fashion industry certainly understands this important detail of human nature. That's how they make their money. And so do schools and the military.

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Rabbi Jordan D. Cohen

Jordan D. Cohen is the rabbi of Temple Anshe Sholom in Hamilton, Ontario. Previously, he worked as Associate Director of KOLEL - The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning in Toronto, Canada. Prior to his return to Canada, Rabbi Cohen served as Rabbi of the United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong, and Associate Rabbi of the North Shore Temple Emanuel in Sydney, Australia.