In this week’s parashah, Tzav, we witness a beautiful ritual undertaken by Moses and the entire tribe in preparation for the sacrificial duties of Aaron, the head priest (Kohein), and other priests serving the tribe. As revealed within the Torah, Moses gathers kol ha’edah ha’kahal (everyone in the tribe) and dresses each priest in a special outfit consisting of, "a tunic, sash, robe, ephod (loincloth), choshen (breastplate), cap, and showplate" (Lev. 8: 9-10). Afterwards, Moses sanctifies the sanctuary where all of the priests will complete their sacred rites in addition to the objects inside of it.
Within the somewhat grim and graphic contents of Vayikra (Leviticus), Moses’ dressing of Aaron and his priests stands out as a strikingly warm moment. Moses, the leader mainly responsible for the tribe’s religious and spiritual education, steps aside to allow Aaron and his priestly cohorts a chance in the spotlight. Adding further depth to this point, the commentators of our Midrash note that the Tent of Meeting (the place where Moses performed the ritual) miraculously expanded for this special occasion. As our sages describe, it enlarged to accommodate the large body of Israelites during the priests’ clothing ceremony. This way, all individuals from the tribe could participate actively in the ritual by showing support for their fellow priestly tribe members.
In reflecting upon the special "clothes" ceremony within the induction of the priests, we learn an important lesson connected to our own professional lives: preparing oneself on the outside for a job/duty is just as important as being ready on an intellectual basis. For example, have you ever gone shopping right before a big interview to purchase an item (i.e. business suit, new shoes, tie) because you felt that this piece of clothing would give you an advantage in your interview? Think back to your first day at a new job. Did you ever select a special outfit ahead of time for a boost on your first day? Adding further insight to this point, our Torah instills that having properly fitting clothing is an essential part of any job. Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzhak), the medieval rabbi par-excellance renowned for his Torah and Talmud commentaries, points out that each priest’s linen garment was specifically made according to his exact measurements and dimensions. This is also important within our professional settings. As any clothing designer/maven would concur, having well-made clothing and appropriate attire disseminates a sense of respect and honor from fellow co-workers, friends, and family. When we wear the right clothing, we signify that we are ready, willing, and able to get the job done.
Within our own lives, we can connect ourselves back to the times of our ancient ancestors by helping to clothe those who might not be able to afford the proper attire. In the spirit of Passover and spring cleaning, we should take the time to look through our closets and donate clothes to a reputable organization such as Dress for Success, or another like-minded organization which provides professional clothing for those in need. Additionally, we should patronize dry-cleaners and Laundromats which provide cleaning services free of charge to those who cannot normally afford those services for job interviews.
As parashah Tzav teaches, spaces, such as an office, home, or special location known only to us, can only be sanctified when individuals enter into those environments with a positive self-image and healthy respect for their appearance. When we have the means to help someone achieve confidence in this capacity, we should model ourselves after Moses and the Israelites and gather the necessary materials and energy to do so. Shavua Tov!