Parashah Tetzaveh (thou shalt command) Exodus 28:20 – 30:10

This reading deals with the consecration of the Priesthood. It goes into great detail about the manufacture of the robes, breastplate, and how to consecrate the clothing, the person and the altar, including the altar for incense, with the blood of the sacrifice. The priests are consecrated for 7 days, as are the other items dealing with the priesthood.

Chapter 29, verse 5 talks about how to dress Aaron, who at that time was the Cohen haGadol (High Priest), in the garments designated for that office so he can officiate as the High Priest. In the Chumash (commentary on the Torah) it states that the Talmud explains this verse as meaning, “When the priests are clothed in their garments, the priesthood is upon them; when they are not clothed in their garments, their priesthood is not upon them.”  The Chumash adds that this Rabbinic dictum is to indicate that the priests are no different than anyone else, and only while they were officiating in their garments, in the Sanctuary, were they then distinct from the rest of Israel.

I have the utmost respect for the Rabbinic wisdom often found in the Talmud, although I don’t always respect everything that the Talmud says. In this case, when I read this Talmudic explanation, my spirit screamed out to me,”The clothes don’t make the man!”

There are other requirements for the priests, beside what they wear, and these have to do with the priests family life and personal character (Leviticus 21); there are similar requirements for anyone in a position of authority within the community, whether spiritual or legal. It is true the clothes are representative of the office, but the person in the clothes must be the same person, with the same character and piety, and demonstrate that separation, or holiness, whether they are clothed or naked.

Of course, the high priest shouldn’t be streaking through the neighborhood, but you know what I mean.

As Believers, we should be demonstrating our anointing as priests by acting and speaking in ways that show we have the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit of God, indwelling and leading us. Whether we are dressed “to the Nine’s” for a special service, or lounging around in our “civvies”, our actions, words and thoughts should be as holy as if we were standing before the altar in the Sanctuary, dressed in our ephod, wearing the breastplate and leading worship. And all those who have accepted Messiah, who worship God and honor the Torah are adopted children of Abraham (Galatians 3:29), and (as such) members of the nation of priests that God separated from the rest of the world to lead all the Goyim (nations) to salvation (Genesis 22:18; Exodus 19:6.)

It is true that the clothes do not make the man (or the woman), but they can be indicators of who and what they are; in the case of a military uniform, it tells us what rank that person holds, indicating thereby his or her level of authority, just as the policeman’s or fireman’s uniform indicates their authority and function. However, our real “priestly” uniform is not visible- the indicator of our spiritual rank is not able to be seen by humans, but it is highly visible to the demons of the enemy: they can see the Mark of Messiah on our foreheads. They know who we are, but since humans can’t see that insignia, we need to demonstrate who and what we are through our actions, or as the bible would say, by our fruits.

How well are you showing the fruits of your spirit? Shaul (Paul) tells us what they are in Galatians 5:22-23:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

I see today’s parashah lesson as this: there are clothes that indicate our level of authority within the community, whether it be the civil or spiritual community, but the person wearing those clothes should be the same person at all times. The official clothes should only be an outward statement of the inner being; we can wear albs and talitot (prayer shawls), collars and whatever “priestly” clothing that is expected of a person in a position of religious leadership, but what really matters is that people see our spiritual clothing, and that is shown in our deeds, our words and our lifestyles, how we treat our family and friends, and (maybe even more importantly) how we treat those who abuse and sin against us.

To use the same type of metaphor Shaul used in describing the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18), each day put on a shirt of charity (which you would give to anyone in need), pants of humility (to show your willingness to serve others), shoes of justice (to guide your steps), wrap around your shoulders the talit of holiness (to show your observance of God’s authority in the world), and top it all off with the hat of  subservience (to show your total devotion to God.)

Now there’s a wardrobe that will never go out of style.

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