It feels like Purim!
It’s not just the Neve girl’s costumes, or the need to plan a menu for a feast that begins at a set time but doesn’t end at any set time and features an uncertain number of guests.
When I was looking at the Parshah, it hit me. It’s the time of year when you can change your identity, and adapt a much happier and more positive one. What set me off in that direction was the narrative about the eight garments that were made for the Kohein Gadol. There is a little bit of kohein in all of us, even those of us who are in no way related to Aharon’s descendants. Before the Torah was given, Hashem told us how it would transform us into being “A Holy nation and a kingdom of kohanim”, people who can uplift the beast within us, and who can bring down blessings.
When you confront your real life; work, relationships, school, and living with yourself (which can be daunting), you can make choices. You can be a kohein. That means letting your life take you to a higher plane. The Kohein in you can see the beauty and design of nature and of your body, and at the same time experience the intricacy, challenge, and little victories that you have when you try to make your encounters with other people. They come more easily when you accept their “beastly self” and your own “beastly self” as being part of life, but not life itself.
One of the more challenging parts of being a kohein (part time…) is that other people are hard to really know. Their souls (and your soul...) are an aspect of Hashem, Who has no limits, no description, and is invisible by its nature. You “see” the soul through the garments that it wears. The soul’s garments are thought, speech and action. Think about the people in your life who occupy significant amounts of space! You may find that communication is really your key in “seeing “their thoughts, and interpreting their actions. You are right (doesn’t that feel good?).
When Hashem created the first person, the Torah says that “He blew into him the soul of life”, which Targum Onkelos translates as “the spirit of speech”. The Midrash tells us that Hashem planned Adam before he brought anything else into being. A “whisper” of everything that was created is part of Adam. Adam had the potential to take himself upward, and elevate the entire world along with him. Adam was originally “clothed” in garments of spiritual light (Kutones ohr in the text), which were “bigdei kehunah”, a kohein’s garments. This means that his thoughts, speech, and actions (until the sin) were all done in ways that could have made him more and connected to his source.
Then things changed. The effect of the sin was that the “garments of light” were no longer his. He had betrayed his mission. Human thought speech and action sometimes looks really ugly. Periodic mass murders, now somewhat normal, tells you something about the face of action. The almost unprecedented verbal abuse and negativity in the public sphere all have a message. They tell you that somehow many people no longer think in terms of the inherent beauty and meaning of life, they are out of touch. Speech and thought have been compromised.
The situation isn’t hopeless.
The Parshah tells you that Hashem provided garments that can replace the old ones. There are new ways of thinking, speaking and feeling, and of doing. You can learn how to change “clothing” and change direction.
Each one of the kohein gadol’s garments atoned for a specific area of failure, and opened the gate to replacing failure with change.
1-The trousers were made of pure white linin. They atoned for carnal sins; Through the Torah, base desire can be a source of profound spiritual connection by living a life of purity.
2-The shirt atoned for sins of bloodshed. It covered the heart, the seat of passion. Hatred can be rejected, and the same passions redirected into love, caring, and connection
3-The turban atoned for the kind of arrogance in which you can come to hearing only your own thoughts, and living to coronate yourself in endless acts of ego fulfillment. If you are aware of there being a Mind beyond and above your mind, you can make another choice. You can live to coronate Hashem, by replacing your will with His.
4-The Efod, a garment made of many colors and designed like an apron, covered the Kohein’s back. It atoned for idol worship. When you see the world as a self-contained system, with nature (which really is just a series of rules that repeat themselves) somehow exists independently, you can fall into all sorts of nature worship. Today, not that many of us are drawn to actually serving idols, but many of us worships nature in other ways. When you see the world through the eyes of a person who lives for pleasure, or for controlling, or for making money, who do they think is really running the show? When you look at the world for what it is, you can do one thing and change everything. Put Hashem back into the forces of nature that He authored. Look at the sun, and see it as raw energy, the source of all growth - you have all the components you need for idol worship. Look at the sun and see it as Hashem’s creation, His medium for generated growth, you have devotion.
5-The Choshen. Straps that extended over the Kohen’s shoulders had two onyx stones on them which were attached to the next garment. It was a rectangular piece of cloth, folded over so it had an inner “pocket”. Each side had a different design. The twelve tribes of Israel were represented by precious stones upon which their names were carved. When a parchment with a Divine Name was placed in the pocket, the stones had power similar to that of an oracle. Letters would light up to form words and at times messages. This garment atoned for sins in judging. You may feel that you never sit in judgment because you aren’t an actual judge. Mistake! You most probably act as judge and jury several times a day. You can develop a negative and distrustful relationship with others (if that’s what you want...). All you have to do is to judge them unfavorably at every possible occasion. You can change all of this! You can begin to question your interpretation of events. You can bring down brachah, like an actual kohein.
6-The next garment is the sash which atoned for thoughts that are so private that they are known only to your heart. Everyone has dark places. You can end up being consumed by guilt. Alternatively you can recognize that Hashem m is there wherever you are, and you can ask Him for His help.
7- The next garment is the coat. It was made of sky blue wool. It atoned for purposeless and negative speech. If you want to know who you are, listen to the words that come out of your mouth. When what you communicate reflects your awareness of Hashem in the soul of every person you encounter, you will not speak lashon hara. The “trick” is not to be blinded by superficial differences that make you brand people as “other”.
8-The tzitz: The Kohein wore a diadem (like a necklace, but worn on the head, so the chain goes over the head, and the words are on the Kohein’s forehead). The words were, “Kodesh La ’Hashem”, sanctified to G-d. This made not only the kohein, but everyone who saw the tzitz see them as they actually are. This leads to feeling the awe of Hashem’s knowledge of what you are, and awake a deep desire for Tshuvah.
Purim will be here soon!
Whether or not you dress up on the outside, dress up on the inside. You can and will discover the self you like the best.