Posted on March 23, 2011
by Jordan Bailey Brandt
In this week’s parasha, Pekudei, B’nei Yisrael reach a milestone, the Mishkan (Tabernacle) is completed. This is a momentous occasion for it is this structure that the Israelites will carry around with them in the desert and eventually place in the Temple. However, this event is not what stood out to me while reading through the parasha. What stood out the most was the Kohanim (priests) receiving their garments.
The text is very specific about every piece of Aaron’s – the High Priest (Kohen Gadol), also Moshe’s brother – dress. It repeats, almost exactly, what we learned in Parashat Tzav: which color of yarn should be used for every section, the order of the twelve stones on the breastplate, even an exact amount of gold rings that will be used and precisely where they should be placed in order to link the metal pieces together.
After reading all of the detailed descriptions, all I could think about was the importance and focus that the Torah places on appearance of the Kohanim. While it does stand out, though, I wasn’t really that surprised. Today, we give tremendous attention to appearance – in many cases for the wrong reasons. However, the reasons why we put such pressure on appearance are so that we represent ourselves well and, in some cases, so that we may publicly stand for what we believe. So, in reality, all of the highly specified information about garments ensures that the Priests represent themselves and our religion well: both to G-d and to the community-at-large.
Just as the priests were looked towards to represent our religion thousands of years ago, so to do is USY currently looked at to represent the Conservative movement and USY well. While it is true that not all of us are Kohanim and we may not wear the priestly garb (though many of us would consider our regalia holy), we are still expected to be role models in all of our actions.