Dress For the Job You Want: Tetzaveh 2021

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Have your fashion choices changed since the beginning of the pandemic? Are you relieved to wear comfortable clothes more often? Or do you try to wear the same clothes as usual in the interest of maintaining a sense of normalcy?

As the Torah describes the Israelite priests’ wardrobe, the vibe is anything but casual:

The Pitch: “You shall also make for them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; they shall extend from the hips to the thighs. They shall be worn by Aaron and his sons when they enter the Tent of Meeting or when they approach the altar to officiate in the sanctuary, so that they do not incur punishment and die. It shall be a law for all time for him and for his offspring to come.” – Exodus 28:42-43

Swing #1: “The sacred cults of Canaan had considerable display of sexual organs and of nudity. The worship of Yahweh was to be absolutely pure of such contamination.” – William Graham Cole, Sex and Love in the Bible

Swing #2: “The social order that [part of the Torah] conceives is one in which priestly power and ritual is exerted on a permanent basis. … The priestly rules are, likewise, a perpetual ordinance to be sustained by the Israelites.” – J. David Pleins, The Social Visions of the Hebrew Bible: A Theological Introduction

Swing #3: “And whence is it derived that he is liable only at the time of officiating (i.e., if he drank and then officiated)? From (‘you and your sons) with you.’ Rebbi says: It is written here ‘when you come (to the tent of meeting’) and elsewhere (Exodus 28:43): ‘when they come to the tent of meeting.’ Just as there, leaving is equated with entering, and the altar with the tent of meeting, and there is liability only at the time of officiating, the same is true here.” – Sifra

Late-Inning Questions: How do our commentators relate the priests’ dress with their work and their character? Is it significant that these rules are supposed to be permanent, immune to fashions that change with the times? Do clothes make the man and woman?

On-Deck at TBT: My friend Benny Zelkowicz is a man of many talents, and I’m excited that he’ll be presenting his new book, The Golem’s Gift, in an exclusive Zoom event for our congregation on Sunday, March 7th, at 4:00 pm! Send an email to rsvp@btzbuffalo.org to make your reservation.

The Big Inning at the End: There is a fascinating sub-culture that meticulously examines every aspect imaginable of baseball uniforms (and those of other sports as well). I find sites like uni-watch.com, as well as others, to be highly entertaining, albeit periodically obsessive. It’s just another way to celebrate the game.

Shabbat Shalom!