Saturday, March 24, 2007

Parshat Tzav (Daf Hashavua)

I wrote this while in Edinburgh many years ago and it was printed in 'Daf Hashavua' which can be found at here
Leave me a message with your comments.
Shavua Tov

"Clothes Maketh the Man" Rabbi David Sedley - Edinburgh Synagogue

The second half of this week's Torah portion describes the investiture of
the Kohanim by Moses. Moses dressed Aaron and his sons, anointed them with
oil, offered the inauguration sacrifices and performed all the sacrificial
rites. This ceremony lasted for seven days, and for the entire week Moses
served as the Kohen.

The white robe
Moses' role as Kohen was alluded to at the time of the Burning Bush: 'The
wrath of G-d burned against Moses, and He said, 'Is there not Aaron your
brother, the Levite? ...' (Shemot 4:14) The Talmud (Zevarchim 102a)
explains that Moses was punished for arousing G-d's anger: 'I had intended
that kehunah (priesthood) would come forth from you. Now it will not be so,
rather he (Aaron) will be a Kohen and you will be a Levite. The Sages
stated that Moses only served as Kohen for the first seven days.'

The Talmud (Ta'anit 11b) asks, 'What did Moses wear for those seven days of
inauguration? Rabbi Elazar bar Rabbi Yosi stated, 'It is clear that Moses
wore a white robe when he was serving in the Tabernacle for those first
seven days'. How is it possible that the Torah describes the garments worn
by the Kohanim in such detail, without which we would have no way of
knowing how they should be dressed, yet it is 'clear' that Moses wore a
simple white robe?

The public face
Carl Gustav Jung held that we each have a persona which we use to show
ourselves and others who we are. However, a persona does not necessarily
give us an insight into persons themselves, rather it shows what they and
society expect of them. A persona is only a mask for the collective psyche,
a mask that feigns individuality, and tries to make others and oneself
believe that one is an individual, whereas one is simply playing a part in
which the collective psyche speaks'. (The Practice of Psychotherapy, C.W.
16 p.53)

Billy Joel describes how our public face sometimes hides our true selves.
'We all have a face that we hide away forever, and we take them out and
show ourselves when everyone is gone. Some are satin, some are steel, some
are silk and some are leather, they are the faces of the stranger but we
love to try them on' (The Stranger). Sometimes we create an image through
physical satin, silk and leather. Our clothing indicates who we are to
society which expects certain people to dress in a certain way. For example
an accountant is expected to wear a suit and tie but a plumber is not.
People 'dress for success', or 'dress to kill', to show that they belong to
a certain group, or to show that they do not belong to a particular
collective with its specific viewpoint. Hamlet stated that 'The apparel oft
proclaims the man' (Hamlet 1:3).

Clothing can give us a 'social face', but it also influences us and helps
us to define ourselves. We wear certain clothes to portray ourselves to
others, but that same clothing influences us, and sometimes also defines us
to ourselves. This is the reason behind Jewish religious garb. The Torah
tells us that the purpose of Tzitzit is 'that you may see it and remember
all the commandments of G-d, and perform them; and not explore after your
heart and after your eyes...' (Bemidbar 15:39). Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato
explains: 'There is a deeper concept included in this commandment. Man must
wear G-d's insignia, very much as a vassal wears the insignia of his
master. This is part of accepting G-d's yoke and subjugating oneself to
Him.' (Derech Hashem 4:6:6)

Dual Functions
The Talmud (Nedarim 35b) teaches that Kohanim have to serve a dual
function, as G-d's representatives to the nation, and as representatives of
the people to G-d. They had to inspire awe in the nation, as they
personified G-d's forgiveness of His people, and they had to be supplicants
before G-d on behalf of the Jewish people.'You shall make holy garments for
Aaron your brother, for honour and splendour.' (Shemot 28:2). The Rambam
explains that the clothes indicated the role of the Kohanim as showing
'honour' to G-d as servants of the people and showing the 'splendour' of
G-d to the nation. In order to enable the Kohanim to fulfil their dual
role, they needed garments which would atone for the nation, yet at the
same time show G-d's splendour to them.

Moshe Rabbeinu did not require the external trappings of exquisite clothing
in order to inspire awe in the nation or to remind him of his relationship
with G-d. His whole essence proclaimed those roles. Moses was both the
'Moses, the man of G-d' (Devarim 33:1), speaking for G-d to the nation, and
'Moses My servant' (ibid 34:5), faithfully serving as the representative of
the people. As he had no need for special clothing, he could wear the plain
white linen garb of the angel Gabriel, who appeared to Ezekiel as the man
clothed in linen' (Ezekiel 10:2).

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