Who does not know the feeling that accompanies “dressing up” for an event (e.g., job interview, first date, concert, etc.), and how this external process of dressing affects the inner feeling and builds the special energy for the event?
Parshat Tetzaveh deals with the details of the High Priest’s attire in great detail. The clothes are fancy and impressive.
Much emphasis is placed on this “external wrapping” of the role of the high priest.
But what do clothes symbolize?
Clothes represent our role. Through them we identify each other’s role. So it is, in life and so on the stage, in the theater.
We are used to calling the truth “the naked truth.” Our nakedness under the clothes we wear is the truth, as we were created in the image of G-d — clothes-less, without partitions and without covers.
And the clothes are therefore “not true”, they are false, through which we betray our natural truth; Betrayal and clothes have the same root letters in Hebrew – the letters ‘bet’ ‘gimel’ ‘daled’.
Whenn we “wear” a role, we can feel the tension, the dissonance that exists between the natural truth of who we are and the role we present (through clothing).
In our hearts we are aware of this tension, and in order not to feel dissonance we may develop an identification with the role to the point of forgetting our true nature.
We may “dress” in the role “or we may allow the role to “dress“us, and as a result believe that the role is us.
In some situations the false front we put on ourselves (in clothing, in makeup), the “mask” we have chosen to appear in, is actually a form of protection before an important meeting. Something that encourages our confidence and strengthens us.
The portion presents us with an interesting point:
In order to part from his natural self and fulfill a role — in this case the role of the high priest — he must wear a special garment.
The garment allows you to connect to the role you need to fulfill. Charges us with the right energy. Focuses the intentions.
And in our Parshah, Aaron is the one who is chosen to do so, to wear the garments of the priesthood and to carry the role of the high priest.
I can imagine the High Priest’s dressing ceremony before entering the Holy of Holies as a form of meditation in action. How with each additional layer of clothing he puts on, he goes deeper and deeper into the appropriate mood and the sacred energy builds within him. How every piece of clothing is an embodiment of the reality of the role he is chosen to fill.
When the High Priest wears detailed fancy clothing, the last item he wears is the breastplate: A square inlaid with stones, as the number of the tribes of Israel, with each name of the tribes engraved on each stone, and this “jewel” tied with gold rings to the two shoulders of the vest. On the right, “Compassion”. On the left, “Justice” — connected by a light blue thread to the tablet of his heart (Tiferet). So, through this attire the idea is actually fulfilled that the priest should carry the people on his shoulders and in his heart “as a perpetual commemoration of G-d, forever” like a mother tying the baby on her chest.
So that not even for a moment should he become self-important, so that he will not be blinded by the position, the role, the elegant garments and as a result “betray” the people. And perhaps this can be understood as a reminder that in this situation where he wears the priestly garment and is about to enter the Holy of Holies, he must “betray” himself for a moment, that is – not think at all at this very moment about himself but only about the people; his job is to serve the people and God. And when he enters the Holy of Holies — only this should be in the forefront of his mind.
Perhaps what made Aaron suitable for the role was his ability to move naturally, authentically and smoothly between being Aaron the private person and being Aaron the public servant, without the splendid garments going to his head?
And maybe that’s why Ittamar and Avihu, the sons of Aaron, were consumed by fire when they brought up “foreign fire” when they first appeared before the people in their priestly clothes, and miraculously their clothes remained intact; maybe it happened because the role went to their heads, because they identified so much with the role and forgot who they really were?
One cannot ignore the fact that this Portion of the week, Tetzaveh, always coincides with Purim and the reading of the Megillah and the resonance that exists between the high priest’s dressing up in the priestly garments before entering the Holy of Holies to ask for his people, and Esther’s dressing up in royal garb before her entry into the inner court of the king to plead for her people.
Just before she appears before the King, after fasting for three days with the feeling of “if I am doomed, then so be it”, Scripture tells us “Esther dressed in fine clothing”.
What helps her make the transformation from a state of mind of victim, fearing for her life, to the sense of power and courage required of her as she enters the King’s court?
After all, whoever was not called to the king and dared to do so on his own initiative was doomed to die, and she had not been called to the King for 30 days.
Is it just a garment of Queen she wears that helps her enter the role of queen?
What is that “kingdom” in which she dresses?
According to the Kabbalah, the Hebrew word “Malchut”, kingdom, is the name of the tenth animation, which represents the Shechinah, the Holy Presence.
According to the Zohar’s interpretation, when it is said, “Esther wore queenly garb”, the meaning is that Esther is dressed in the archetype of the feminine side of the Divine, the Shechina.
And when she “wears” queenly gab, the feminine quality of the deity, which is characterized by grace and love, she is able to come to the King, face to face, deal with the frightening situation and turn it upside down.
According to the Zohar interpretations, Esther was dressed in the garments of the high priest he wore on Yom Kippur:
Four white garments on the right and four gold garments on the left, and her entrance into the inner court of the king, akin to the entrance of the high priest into the Holy of Holies, to ask for her people, and in these garments, she pleased his eyes and succeeded in bringing atonement to her people.
May we all be blessed to get to know and recognize the roles and masks that serve us, without identifying with them and hence forgetting who we really are.
And may we all know how to marshal from within ourselves the role of the “Shechinah”, Holy Presence, and to wrap ourselves in the Holy Kingdom, in situations that cause anxiety and uncertainty.