Rabbi Yeheskel Lebovic 

Three of the Garments Generate an Immediate Effect Upon Entry 

This week’s Sidra of Tetzaveh describes the special garments of the Kohanim serving in the Holy Temple: a) the four garments of all the kohanim: linen Pants, Tunic, Belt and Turban and (b) the additional four garments worn only by the Kohen Gadol/High Priest: The Efod-Apron, the Breastplate/Choshen , the Robe/Me-il and the Forehead Plate/Tzitz.  We notice something special about three of these garments, the Efod, Breastplate and Robe vs. the other 5 garments. The mere fact that the Kohen Gadol entering the Holy site wearing these three garments generated an effect, as stated in the verses: the Efod and Breastplate generated “a constant remembrance of the children of Israel before G-d” (Ex. 28:12).  The Breastplate generated “the constant tool of judgement (mishpat) of the children of Israel on his heart (through the names of the 12 tribes inscribed on the 12 stones of the Breastplate (Ex. 28:30) . While through the Robe, its sound (coming from the bells attached to it) was heard as soon as he (merely) came into the Holy site (Ex.28:35). 

The Other Five Garments Prepare for the Service 

In contrast, what is stated about the other 5 garments is merely the fact that they have to be worn in order that the one wearing them can be designated as the Kohen Gadol and permitted to enter into the Holy site and perform the service. We thus see that the wearer of these 8 garments, the Kohen Gadol, generates 2 different types of effects: (a) he generates an immediate effect through his entry  (wearing those special three garments) (b) he generates a different type of effect through his service after having entered. 

This will be understood by bearing in mind what is the general function of the Kohen Gadol: as a representative of G-d,  it is for him to connect the Jewish people to G-d. This takes place on two levels: (a)  through actual service of G-d through engaging in Torah study and observance of Mitzvot (b) by stressing the fact that the Jewish people are referred to as G-d’s children and servants---in and of itself before any accompanying service is activated.  This is reflected in the two elements generated by the Kohen Gadol, as mentioned above: the fact of his mere entry, before doing any service, and then his actual service within the Holy site, serving as the connective action increasing the connection to G-d. 

The Deeper Dimension of Being Chosen 

A deeper dimension lies within this Divine choosing process. Looking into Midrashic sources we find intriguing statements: a) (the thought of the future) Israel ascended (way back) within the Divine Thought (which preceded actual Creation) (Tikunei Zohar 6:1, 79:2, Breishis Rabbah 1:5). b) The oft-quoted “With whom did G-d take counsel (as to whether create or not)? (He took counsel) from the souls of (future) tzadikim”. As we all believe in G-d being the Creator, with creation starting with His Will to create, we can’t help but attempt to find reasons that might have activated such a will. One reason offered is that since G-d is “good”, he decided to generate recipients of his goodness. Another reason is that He wanted His Kingship to be acknowledged, and since “there can be no king without subjects”, He foresaw the righteous ones who would become the acceptors of His Rulership.  To that effect, he would give them commands, the obedience of which would demonstrate such acceptance of rulership. Accordingly, since time immemorial, it has been the Divine plan that a segment of human society would become the symbolic emblem of “acceptance”—i.e. the Jewish people, starting with Avraham Avinu and culminating at Sinai. As it is philosophically impossible to extrapolate backward in time, trying to reach conclusions about the beginning of time and the ensuing millennia till our days, we just have to rely on the G-d-given tradition received at Sinai spelling out this divine plan.  This plan is to eventually culminate with the Messianic era, during which G-d’s sovereignty will be accepted fully by all mankind.  Since man was created in the image of G-d, we apply the terms “speech” and “thought” on the G-dly plane from which we all originate. The process of creation is spoken of as the Ten Utterances of G-dly Speech (Avoth 5:1).  As thought always precedes speech, so, too, the G-d Speech of Creation was “preceded” by the Divine Thought process, mapping out the overall plan and direction that the creative process should and will culminate with. Hence “Israel ascended within the Divine Thought”. Jewish souls-- so born or converted-- have thus been part of the Divine equation from way back, designated and chosen for this.  Jews should just accept this and be proud of it! 

 Current Application 

Since the destruction of the holy Temple/Beit Hamikdash, the kohanim have not functioned. But who has replaced them over the centuries?  These are the various rabbinical leaders of Jewish communities doing their connective function by encouraging and teaching Jews to increase their Torah study and observance of Mitzvot, establishing new sites of prayer and Yeshivot. As important as this aspect is, there is also the need to have Jews –merely on the basis of “entry” that they are Jews—realize and feel that they are the chosen people, G-d’s children having a deep intrinsic connection  to G-d even prior to actual service. In effect, coming to the realization of this special connection and status facilitates their engaging in increase of service through Torah study and observance of Mitzvot, vs. being possibly despondent reminiscing the massacres during the days of the Crusaders and the Holocaust. This is what the Lubavitcher Rebbe instructed all his Shluchim/representatives throughout the world: to deal with their fellow Jews on these two levels and thereby accelerate the coming of Moshiach and reinstituting the Service of the kohanim  in the rebuilt Third Holy Temple, speedily in our days, Amen. 

Based on Likutey Sichos Vol.21   pp.181-189