BS"D || Rabbi Geier
This week we read a parashah that surprises us. For the most part, the text refers to banal things. It seems to make a point of something real superficial.
Our parshah takes a tour on the clothing that Aaron and his sons should wear as Cohanim, the Priests, but especially that of the Cohen Hagadol, the High Priest. In the latter case, the story is so meticulous that it makes us wonder if the biblical story has not lost its way, becoming a kind of fashion magazine describing dresses.
According to the Rambam, these garments were intended to arouse the respect of people on the Mishkan, the tabernacle, and its rituals. Even those who are only moved by the banality and the mundane of the external appearance of things, should be attracted by the new rituals of the priests. In fact, last Shabbat we read in parashat Truma about the highlights of the Mishkan, the tabernacle, and how it should be built. It also had to do with arousing admiration and respect in the People of Israel. They had to feel themselves identified with that glow. This space of encountering with divinity was a place that everyone appreciated and wanted to be close to.
What seems to be clear is that the banal, the mundane, is a means to lead us to holiness. THAT, to my mind, is one of the most powerful messages we have.
It is NOT a question of keeping something sacred, holy and unattainable in our liturgy or in our ritual, but in that every banal moment of our lives, getting up, dressing, eating, we transform it into something special and consecrated. In the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel z”l, it is not about just taking care of the sacred to preserve it from the mundane, but about bringing some holiness to the mundane, to elevate each of our days.
Our everyday life must be sacred. As long as we can recognize this, our lives will be more meaningful and our dedication to our tasks, to our fellow men and to the Lord will be too.
In his book Man is not alone, Heschel wrote: “Judaism teaches us how even the gratification of animal needs can be an act of sanctification. The giver of life did not ask us to despise our short and poor life, but to ennoble and sanctify it.
Even choosing what clothes we wear and assign to each moment of our lives is no longer banal, as long as that choice helps us elevate the moment.
That is why we do not dress the same if we want to practice a sport or just go for a walk to exercise, as when we dress to celebrate Shabbat. What we wear for an occasional meeting is not the same as what we wear for a special event.
In the special case of the Cohen Hagadol, his clothing, beyond all pomp, had a particularity: on his forehead he had to wear a gold diadem (Tzitz Hazahav) with the Shem Hameforash, the tetragram, the name of the Lord, engraved on it. In the pectoral that they had to hang on the chest, they had to carry different precious stones with the names of the tribes of Israel engraved. None of this is banal.
Both the elevated thought, directed to the Kadosh Baruch Hu, and the sensitivity for the people had to be present every time the Priest was in office. Both things must be operating together. Both sensibilities had to be present depending on the people and The Creator. The thoughts in the Lord and the heart in the people. Or should it be the other way around? The heart in the Lord and the thoughts in the people? In your peers?
The banal ceases to be banal if we seek it not to be banal. Even what sounds superficial may have a content to be discovered.
Try it on this Shabbat Tetzaveh.