Parshat Tezave

February 14th, 2019



Parshat Tezave presents the Priestly clothing and our sages find much symbolism in the detail of each item and garment design. The Parsha open “and you (Moshe) should make holy garments for Aaron your brother – for honour and distinction.”  Ibn Ezra emphasizes that this indicates that the design of the clothes was to allow the Cohanim to stand out, and to give them a feeling of being special. The designs are presented in great detail and there is a wealth of commentary on both their appearance and significance, which need hours of study, and one can find some interesting graphics with a simple internet search.

Each Cohen would wear four garments when performing his duties and the Cohen Hagadol (High Priest) had a magnificent eight-piece set. Their headgear is intriguing, firstly as they are given different names and secondly from that time on, we Jews seem to have a great obsession with headgear from our kipot, hats, streimelech, and ladies headgear, which we often use to distinguish ourselves and connect to a particular group within our nation.

The ordinary priest’s hat (migba’at) is described as a pointed material hat wound around the head whereas the high priest had a more magnificent (miznefet) material turban and golden headband (tzitz) inscribed with “Holy to Hashem” and a turquoise cord (ptil techalet).  The Ibn Ezra describes the priest’s headgear as similar to the headscarves and turbans worn by the men and women in his time and the high priest’s addition of the headband similar to headbands worn by noblemen as a sign of status.

The description of the headband is quite challenging as we are told “and you shall make a headband of pure gold and engrave on it – holy to Hashem – and place a cord of turquoise wool on the turban.” Rashi describes this as six cords which held the headplate in place around and over the top of the turban and uses the Hebrew word “kova” used nowdays for a cap.  Ramban and others suggest it was just a single cord tied to the headplate to hold it round the back of the head. All agree on the importance of the inscription “holy to Hashem” and R. Hirsch emphasizes the importance of the headgear in deference to Hashem who we see as above us.

In this cold winter weather with our medical services being stretched beyond capacity, quite coincidently, I came across a Mishna quoted by Rabeenu Bechaye which tells that the priests were often ill and it is wonder that none of them died particularly in the cold rainy season as they worked all the year round barefoot with very thin clothing. The Talmud in Shekalim, when presenting those who administered the priestly work, notes Ben Achaya who was responsible for the medical treatment of the priests. They often suffered from stomach ailments from working barefoot and eating meat while drinking cold water and then dipping in the cold mikve. It seems that Ben Achaya was either a doctor or ran a team of doctors and was an expert on what wines to give the priests outside the temple to clear up their stomach pains. So for those suffering from winter ailments we wish you well with a good glass of wine