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Parshat T'tzavveh


Since Shabbat Mom's husband and son are Kohanim, she takes this week's parsha--a sartorial handbook for the priests who will oversee the Tent of Meeting and perform sacrifices on behalf of the people--very personally. (By the way, Shabbat Mom's three daughters are Bat Kohanim, but that's a modern concept.)

" 'You shall bring forward your brother Aaron,' " G-d instructs Moses, " 'with his sons, from among the Israelites, to serve Me as priests: Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron."

The Kohanim are elaborately dressed in "vestments" that must be made especially for them by ".'..all who are skillful, whom I have endowed with the gift of skill.'" For Aaron, the high priest (the Kohen Gadol), "'(t)hese are the vestments they are to make: a breast piece, an ephod, a robe, a fringed tunic, a headdress, and a sash...'"

Each piece of his uniform is painstakingly described: the ephod, a long vest ".'..shall have two shoulder-pieces attached...Then take two lazuli stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel: six of their names on the one stone and the names of the remaining six on the other stone, in the order of their birth...'".

Then there is the "breast piece of decision: '...It shall be square and doubled, a span in length and a span in width. Set in it mounted stones, in four rows of stones. The first row shall be a row of carnelian, chrysolite, and emerald; the second row: a turquoise, a sapphire, and an amethyst; the third row: a jacinth, an agate, and a crystal; and the fourth row: a beryl, a lapis lazuli, and a jasper. They should be framed with gold in their mounting. The stones shall correspond [in number] to the names of the sons of Israel...'"

Standing in for the breastplate above is a glamour shot of a cufflink based on this text that Shabbat Mom had made for her husband in Israel. (By the way, Shabbat Mom was having none of this priestly class stuff until her husband took a swab test to prove his Kohanic genetics.)

The hem of Aaron's robe is embroidered with "pomegranates of blue, purple, and crimson yarns" and includes a "'golden bell...so that the sound of it is heard when he comes into the sanctuary before the Lord and when he goes out--that he may not die'" because he has accidentally seen the face of G-d.

The parsha continues with specifics of how the priests should be consecrated with the sacrifice of a bull as a "purification offering". Next there is a ram upon whose head "Aaron and his sons lay their hands". After the ram's slaughter its blood is "'put..on the ridge of Aaron's right ear and on the ridges of his sons' right ears, and on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the big toes of their right feet; and dash the rest of the blood against every side of the altar round about...'"

The ordination process lasts for seven days "'and each day you shall prepare a bull as a purification offering for expiation; you shall purify the altar by performing purification upon it, and you shall anoint it to consecrate it...'"

If all the attention to material detail seems a bit obsessive, remember that the Tabernacle was G-d's earthly stage, the Biblical Madison Square Garden, the center of it all.

"' For there I will meet with you, and there I will speak with you, and there I will meet with the Israelites, and it shall be sanctified by My Presence...I will abide among the Israelites and I will be their G-d. And they shall know that I the Lord am their G-d, who brought them out from the land of Egypt that I might abide among them, I the Lord their G-d.'"

Shabbat Shalom!