This week God continues to share with Moses the details and secrets of the priesthood and of sacred service. Last week God revealed the plan for the Holy Tent of Meeting and the secret design of the ancient Tabernacle and altar. This week God reveals the sacred garments of the Priesthood and the dedication ceremony of the sacred servants of God and the altar itself. Our Torah portion articulates that Aaron, Moses’ brother and Aaron’s sons would become the Cohanim, the sacred priests that would offer the sacrifices to God. Our Torah portion, Tetzaveh, describes their unique uniform that they are to wear when engaging in this holy work.
Each piece from head to foot is symbolic. From the crown, inscribe with the words, Kodesh L’Adonai, Holy to God, to the fringes and bells woven into the design of the High Priests tunic to the sacred breast plate with the 12 sacred precious stones representing the 12 Tribes of Israel, each has sacred meaning in the drama of the ancient service.Is there something that we can learn today from this level of ancient detail? Given that we have no priesthood, given the fact that we have evolved from ritual sacrifices upon an ancient altar; can this Torah portion have a deeper meaning in our lives today?
Beyond a side note of Hebrew ancient culture, the details of this Torah portion teach us several things. First it teaches us to pay closer attention. God is found in the details.
In our day and time when we rush from task to task and place to place we sometimes forget to look closely at the very details, indeed the very threads of fabric that hold our lives together. This week take a moment to evaluate where you stand? Who is part of your family? Your friendship circle? Take some time to give thanks for them. Tell them of your gratitude for being part of the quilt of your life!
Secondly, the garments of the High Priests were woven not only with the linens and adornments and precious gems donated by the Israelites but great detail had to be paid in their fashioning. Additionally, there was specific detail in the way the priest had to dress in these garments. The ritual involved reminded the weaver of the garments and the wearers of the garments that they had sacred duties and obligations. They carried with them the potential of a nation.
Rituals serve to remind us of holy potential in the world around us and in us! Sometimes we skip over the rituals. We are so busy getting our task list done in the allotted time that we don’t make time for holy rituals. We think they don’t matter. But rituals prepare us spiritually and emotionally to receive and to give. They prepare us to receive the mantle of responsibilities as a Jew and they prepare us to give love and honor and blessings to others.
These are not things that are necessarily valued in the world today. You can’t always measure these in your checkbook! But the details of our lives and the details of sacred ritual help us to shift our minds and shift our souls to appreciate another realm: The realm of God and the holy. That is in part what Parshat Tetzaveh reminds us. Just as the High Priest will wear the crown that says: Holy To God, we must remind ourselves through our rituals: lighting Shabbat candles, giving tzedakah, saying the motzi, reciting the shema, donning a tallit, studying our tradition, that we too are holy to God. I hope you will take a moment this week to stop and pay attention to the details and perhaps there find a moment with God.