The Bible Says What? ‘Aaron was given special garments to wear, but not Moses’

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The Bible Says What? ‘Aaron was given special garments to wear, but not Moses’

Rabbi Anna Posner takes a controversial topic from the Torah and looks at a Reform Jewish response

Sephardi Torah scrolls
Sephardi Torah scrolls

“Tell all the skilled workers to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron, for his consecration, so he may serve me as priest.” (Exodus 28:3)

In Exodus, we read 40 verses of intricate detail about the clothes that Aaron and his sons must wear to serve as priests.

And these clothes are not just for show. We find out that Aaron’s headdress will allow him to take away any sin from the Israelite people and that the breastplate over his heart holds the ‘mishpat bnei yisrael’ – the instrument Rashi says decides for the Israelites what to do or what not to do.

The priests’ dress purposefully set them apart from the community. It was their job to give sacrifices and be the connection between the people and God.

But what of Moses – the community builder and teacher of Torah, who is there for all the Israelites’ celebrations and anxieties? What did he wear? Just like the rest of the Israelite people, we do not know and, therefore it can be assumed that what he wore was no different to anyone else.

If Moses were to have worn the garish clothing of the priests, he may not have been able to have had the on-the-ground impact with the Israelites he needed to.

In an age without the Temple, it is not priests but rabbis, cantors and lay leaders who become the leaders of the community.

Yet, like Moses, they do not wear the clothes of the priest detailed in these chapters of Exodus.

Instead, with the absence of the Temple and sacrifice, our Torah becomes the central connection to God and ritual practice.

Therefore, it is the Torah that wears the clothes of the priest.

Rabbi Anna Posner is Progressive Judaism Student Chaplain

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