Shabbat Message, Feb. 23, 2024, Parashat Tetzaveh

“Table for Five” is a post-denominational round-up of Torah commentaries that appears in Los Angeles’ Jewish newspaper, and every few weeks I have a new commentary that appears in the section. My entry for this week, a commentary on Tetzaveh, is below.

Tetzaveh: Wardrobe Check

Next you shall instruct all who are skillful, whom I have endowed with the gift of skill, to make Aaron’s vestments, for consecrating him to serve Me as priest.  -Exodus 28:3

Wardrobe check: The Israeli Defense Forces’ uniforms, medical professionals’ and disaster recovery and emergency specialists’ gear, and l’tza’areinu, to our sorrow, burial shrouds ready. There are no splashy or flashy adornments on army uniforms in use just now. Nobody is peacocking on the battlefield. There are no precious stones, but there are Hebrew letters like those that were written along the tzitz, the special headwear of the Kohen HaGadol. Even though the writing is the acronym tzaddik/hey/lamed, TZAHAL, Tzava Hagana L’Yisrael [Israeli Defense Forces] the Hebrew letters shine forth the same message that was on the Koheinic headgear: Kodesh L’Hashem, holy to God – and to us.

Today people of skill are making the protective vests, uniforms and helmets for our soldiers, rescue workers, medical professionals and nation-builders. As I write from New York during a fashion week that saw the triumphant return of couture clothing and garments printed by 3D machines, I cannot help but contrast the simple shrouds too many of which have had to be used since October 7th. Rabban Gamliel of the Second Temple era saw how we were burdened by runaway spending on burials. He asked to be buried in simple, linen garments. To this day we use tachrichim, simple linen shrouds that affirm everyone’s humanity and holiness. People of incredible skill tie special knots during the purification ritual of tahara, a priestly, dignifying ritual. As we dress in appropriate wear for the holy tasks we seek to accomplish in life, we also dignify our beloved with pants, shirts, and wrappings for their journeys beyond.

Click HERE for the rest of the commentary on this week’s parshah that was published in the LA Jewish Journal and on the Accidental Talmudist Website.

Click HERE for the archive of past commentaries.