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"You shall make garments that are holy for your brother Aaron, for honor and for splendor" (28:2).
The Sforno distinguishes between kavod - honor, and tiferet - splendor.
Kavod - glory - is for the honor of G-d. The Torah specifies the garments that are in harmony with the exalted work of the kohen gadol. Indeed, his purpose is to be a chief intermediary between the people and Hashem, though the service in the mishkan and later on the beth hamikdash.
Tiferet - splendor - is for the respect of the people. The respect is two way; the respect the people have for the kohen gadol's position, and the respect the kohen gadol shows to the people he represents. Indeed, his situation also puts him in the role of a teacher: "for the lips of the kohen should safeguard knowledge, and people should seek teaching from his mouth. For he is G-d's agent." (Malachi 2:7, c.f. Chronicles II 15:3). And that respect is symbolized by the names of the extended families - the tribes - engraved on the gemstones on each shoulder, and on the breastplate. They are there so that G-d should remember the merits of each tribe and give them a peaceful existence: "for a continuous memorial before G-d" (28:29).
Implied in the Sforno's interpretation is that the successful teaching relationship is based on mutual regard and mutual respect. The respect the students have for their teacher needs the corresponding concern that the teacher shows for the students.
The word tiferet is also used at the end of Moses' long address to the Israelites before his death, which climaxes in: "Today G-d has given you the responsibility to be a treasured people… to observe all His commandments… making you supreme over all the nations, for praise, renown, and for tiferet - splendor." (Deut. 26:18-19).
Here again, the Sforno's idea of mutual respect may be applied to the ideal relationship between the Israelites that "observe all His commandments" and the nations of the world. The world will respect the Israelites as they frame their lives according to Torah guidelines, with "surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people" (Deut. 4:6). And the Israelites reciprocate by respecting other nations in the way exemplified by King Solomon in his Temple dedication:
"When the stranger who is not of your people Israel comes from a distant land for Your Name's sake… to pray at this Temple… you shall do for the stranger all that he requests" (Kings 1 8:41-3). Indeed, the ideal of the beth hamikdash was to be a route to G-d for not just the prayers of the Israelites, but for the prayers of all nations.
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Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: email@example.com for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
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