Sedra – Tetzaveh

Sedra – Tetzaveh

With Rabbi Garry Wayland.

THE PRIME MINISTER recently revealed that he enjoys being, “just another slightly-overweight middle aged man” when jogging around London’s parks.

Although not completely anonymous (he is accompanied by slightly less overweight bodyguards), he feels that during these times he regains a sense of the privacy that he misses being in public office.

Could Mr Cameron jog wearing his ministerial suits? Could the Queen exercise with her royal handbags? No – because our clothes influence the way we relate to our environment, to others, and to ourselves.

The Kohen Gadol, the High Priest, led the Jews in their ritual worship. As opposed to the king’s political command, the prophet’s spiritual inspiration, or the counsel of the sage, his job was one of consistency and regularity, of being a stable core among a world in flux.

To quote the Talmudic sage Ben Nanas, the verse encapsulating Judaism, more than the Shema Yisrael, or loving one’s neighbour as oneself, is “you shall offer one sheep in the morning, and one in the afternoon”.

For sure, just as we have these different models of leadership, we have these different types of religious inspiration – whether it is finding God in fixing our societies, taking inspiration from the king; spontaneous and individual introspection, following the prophet, or contemplating the wisdom of God’s Torah and Universe, the dominion of the sage.

However, the paradigm of religiosity that the priest represents is the routine, the consistent. They were responsible for a myriad of services, revolving around days, weeks, months,  years and festival – epitomised by the twice-daily offering quoted.

Sanctifying the routine forms a pulse that becomes the core of our religious experience so we are constantly aware of God. Clothes make the man – and the priestly clothes we learn about in Tetzeveh make the priest – and they are required to wear these special garments when in service. At certain times, clothes literally made the priest, when the Kohen Gadol was invested into service through donning the appropriate clothing.

The Torah describes these clothes as being for “glory and beauty” – whether one interprets this as being for the glory of God, of the Glory of the priesthood, they were transformative, changing the way the Kohen related to himself, to the Temple in which he served and to God.

Attaining a true religious consciousness is probably the work of a lifetime. The Kohen Gadol, through both his internal beat to the tune of religious life and wearing the garments of God, can begin to teach us how to achieve this.

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