Holy Temple model
Holy Temple modeliStock

We read in our Parasha, that Moshe Rabbeinu is commanded:(28:1-2):’Bring near to yourself Aaron your brother, and his sons..to minister to Me; You shall make vestments of sanctity for Aaron your brother, for glory and splendor.’

The Torah then describes in great detail the eight garments that the Kohen Gadol is to wear, in his service of Hashem.

Our Sages (Zevachim 80:) comment:’Why was the Parasha of the priestly clothes juxtaposed to the Parasha of the korbanot (the offerings brought in the Beit Hamikdash)? To teach that, just as the korbanot atone, so too, the priestly garments atone. The tunic atones for bloodshed, as it is stated: ‘And they killed a goat, and dipped the tunic in its blood’;the trousers atone for forbidden sexual relations, as it is stated:’And you shall make them linen trousers to cover their nakedness’..the robe atones for malicious speech: an item not producing sound shall come and atone for evil sound’.

In their holy wisdom, our Sages find allusions in the Torah, to each of the transgressions for which each of the priestly garments, atone.

Rav David Hofstedter asks, on this Gemara:’How can the wearing of these garments by the Kohen Gadol atone for the transgressions of Bnei Israel? The transgressors are not the ones who are wearing the ‘atoning garments’?

He brings the answer of the Maharal:’Since the Kohen Gadol performs his avodah on behalf of all the people, there is ‘power’ in the priestly garments that he then wears, to atone for the sins of others.

‘By wearing these clothes, which were made ‘for glory and splendor’, he thereby ‘casts off’ the transgressions which are likened to soiled clothing worn by the transgressors.’

Rav Hofstedter adds:’The very fact that the priestly garments are made ‘for glory and for splendor’ elevates the spiritual level of the Kohanim who wear them- and thereby also, of the people.

‘Thus, it raises transgressors from the low level to which they fell, as a result of transgressing, thereby bringing atonement.’

This insight of the Maharal - of the ‘identity’ of the Kohen Gadol with the people - enables us to understand a difficult issue, in regard to another atonement: that of Yom Kippur.

We read (Acharei Mot 16:21 ) that the Kohen Gadol makes vidui: confession, for all of the sins of the people, as an integral part of their atonement ritual.

How can this be? The basis of atonement is that the transgressor ‘confesses’HIS transgressions- the Kohen Gadol cannot know what specific transgressions each person committed; how, then, could he, on their behalf, confess, and achieve atonement for them, as if they themselves had ‘confessed’?

Answer: Because of this insight of the Maharal! Because of his ‘one-ness’ with each and every Jew, his vidui is ‘their’ vidui.

The Netivot Shalom wonders:’Surely this needs to be clarified: On a plain reading, from the teaching of our Sages, these priestly garments atone for the most severe transgressions. Yet, we read here, that the garments are ‘to sanctify the Kohen Gadol’!

‘It is to be understood, as the Tosafot (Arachin 16) expound:’The priestly garments do not atone for actual bloodshed, but for publicly humiliating another, which is likened to killing him.

‘The atonement of the priestly garments is not for actual transgressions, but for defects in midot: character attributes, which, albeit in the tiniest of respects, allude to the most severe transgressions.

‘The power of the priestly garments is to imbue the wearer with extra sanctity, and cleanse the body of the defects in attributes, rather than to atone for actual transgressions.’

Rav Zalman Sorotzkin adds:’The priestly garments had a ‘secondary’ aim: to atone for Bnei Israel, as our Sages learn from the juxtaposition with the offerings, which also atone.

‘This secondary function, however, derives from the primary function of the priestly garments: because they were made ‘for glory and splendor’, the wearer was respected in the eyes of the people, who, as a result, came to learn Torah from the Kohen’ - as our Sages attest:’Ahron led many people to turn from transgression’.

‘Had the Kohen worn soiled clothes, he would not have been respected by the people, and thry would not have come to learn from him, and would not, therefore, improve their ways.’

Rav Avigdor Nebenzahl relates ‘another’ atonement that the priesly garments achieve: for the offering of Cain.

The Torah states that the offering of Abel was ‘accepted’, whereas that of Cain was not, leading to Cain killing his brother.

We also learned that the reason for this ‘acceptance’ - and for the ‘rejection’ - was that Cain brought ‘an offering of the fruit of his produce’, while Abel’s offering was of ‘the choicest of his flock’.

The Rav comments: ‘This was a reflection of a fundamental ‘dispute’ between them, as how to serve Hashem: Abel considered that it had to be with ‘glory’’, whilst Cain felt that ‘mere’ service, sufficed.

‘This dispute was ‘resolved’ in favor of Abel, in our Parasha, by the commandment in our Parasha, that the priestly garments had to be made ‘for glory and splendor’.

‘Further, the Midrash relates that the offerings of Cain and Abel were made at Har Moriah, the very place where the Kohen Gadol was to perform his Avodah - thus, when he was now commanded to do so, wearing the priestly garments made ‘for glory and splendor’, he was thereby atoning for the rejected ‘unworthy’ offering of Cain.’

The Ra’ma, Rav Moshe Isserles rings a further intriguing ‘new face’, as to the eight priestly garments.

He expoundbs:’We learn from the Midrash, that Adam Harishon acted as, and was dressed by Hashem, in the attire of the Kohen Gadol, as the Torah relates (Breishit 3:21):’And Hashem G-d made for Adam and for his wife, garments of skin, in which he clothed them.’. Our Sages add, that these clothes were handed down by Adam Harishon to the future generations.

‘Rabbeinu Bahya brings these Midrashim, and finds an allusion to them, in there being eight words in that passuk - in Hebrew - an allusion to the eight priestly garments.

‘Hashem clothed Adam in these eight priestly garments, as against the eight Mitzvot he was given: the seven Mitzvot of Bnei Noach, AND the Mitzvah not to est from the tree of knowledge.

‘He was attired in these eight priestly garments, to show that he had done teshuva after his transgression, and now kept these eight Mitzvot.

‘Here we ask: how could it be said that he kept this eighth Mitzvah? He was expelled from Gan Eden, and prevented from re-entering it!

‘The answer: since he repented out of love, his transgression became a zechut, and he was therefore deemed as if he did not sin in that matter.

‘Our Sages add: when Hashem saw that the nations were not observing the seven mitzvot of Bnei Noach, he ‘released’ them from them. As Bnei Israel observed these Mitzvot, their Kohen Hagadol merited to wear the eight priestly garments, and thereby they find merit Above, for observing the Mitzvot that the nations did not.’

Rav Pinchas Friedman adds a further ‘sweet’ insight, to the drasha of the Ra’ma:’The tziz: the headplate that was one of the priestly garments, on which was engraved the Name of Hashem, was an atonement for the sin of Adam eating from the tree of knowledge; because this sin caused the Shechina ‘to depart’ from the earth, to atone for this, the Kohen Gadol had to always bear Hashem’s Name, in the merit of which, the Shechina resumed to reside on Bnei Israel.

‘Another query: Why did Hashem only dress Adam in this clothing after his transgression, in eating from the forbidden tree?

‘The answer is that, as these eight garments were to atone for the eight branches of transgressions, there was no need for them until Adam ate from the tree, and brought the yetser ha’ra into man.

‘Previously man was not disposed to transgress Hashem’s Will, at all.

‘Only now, when Adam first sinned, was there a need for these eight priestly garments, as now man would need atonement.’

לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.