The Biblical Taylors

In Parshat Tetzave, there are almost 40 verses that deal with the clothing of the Kohen. As we read through the articles of clothing that are mentioned (Shmot 28:4), a few words jump out at us: “These are the garments that they shall make: a breastplate, an ephod, a robe (meil), a checkered tunic (ktonet) a turban and a sash belt. Have them make sacred garments for your brother Aharon, and for his sons to serve me as kohanim.”

The words “meil”, robe or coat and “ktonet”, tunic or undercoat are familiar to us.

The word “kutnot” (plural for the word ktonet) is first seen in Breisheet 3:21: “And Hashem, God made ‘kutnot ohr’, garments of skin for Adam and his wife and He clothed them.” Even though Adam and Chava sinned, God took care of them by lovingly making them clothing and dressing them.

What was the original clothing made out of?

Rashi quoting Breisheet Raba 20:12 states that they were garments as smooth as fingernails, cleaving to the skin. Others say that they were made of material that comes from the skin like the hair of hares (soft and warm).

In the Talmud, Sotah 14a, Rav and Shmuel disagree as to the meaning of garments of skin. Rav says that they were made of something that comes from the skin (according to Targum Yontan, snakeskin which sheds off) and Shmuel says that they were something from which the skin benefits (comfortable material like linen).

Notice that none of the opinions brought here say that they wore leather as at that time animals were not yet being killed for food or any other purposes.

The next time that we see someone lovingly make a “ktonet” is Yaakov (Breisheet 37:3) “Now Yisrael loved Yosef best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he made him a ‘ktonet passim’, an ornamented tunic.”

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Just as God lovingly made the “kutnot” for Adam and Chava, so too did Yaakov lovingly make the “ktonet” for Yosef.

In the story of Shmuel (Shmuel Alef 2:19), we see his mother, Chana who prayed for a child and then selflessly dedicated him to work in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) affectionately preparing a “meil”, robe for him: “His mother would make him a small robe “meil” and bring it up to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to slaughter the annual offering.”

According to Metzudat David, she brought him a new “meil” each year since he was growing boy.

Radak points out that usually only the adults who worked in the Mishkan would wear this type of robe. However, since she loved him so much and since he was serving God she would bring the robe up to Shilo for each holiday and then take it back home with her since it was a robe that was not in use the rest of the year.

We see from here the love that Chana put in to preparing and delivering the “meil”.

Today as well, people knit, sew, crochet or buy clothing for their loved ones or for those in need. When we lovingly give clothing as a gift, we are emulating God, the first taylor.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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