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Kenneth Brander
President and Rosh HaYeshiva, Ohr Torah Stone

Will we accept God’s “friend request”? (Parshat Tetzaveh)

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The Temple, the Tabernacle: these are structures that were created in order for us to visit and feel the presence of God. But, as Shlomo HaMelech clearly points out in his dedication speech for the Temple [I Kings 8:27], it is not because only in the Tabernacle or the Temple is God’s presence revealed – God’s presence is felt all over the world – it’s just the intensity of the experiences in the Temple and the Tabernacle that allows us to feel the presence of God in a greater sense of engagement.

It is for the same reason that we see in this week’s Torah portion the introduction of priestly vestments. [Exodus, Chapter 28]

A Kohen is a Kohen even without the vestments, but essentially, the vestments of the Kohen highlight for the Kohen and for all that visit, the unique experience that is being created within the Tabernacle/Temple.

This idea that sometimes clothing makes the experience is why the Torah in very precise ways highlights what vestments the High Priest and the Priest must wear in order to serve within the Tabernacle/Temple.

What is interesting about clothing, although really clothing is really a device of human beings, is that often in God’s search to have a relationship with us, God is spoken about as also being adorned in clothing:

“ה’ מלך גאות לבש” – “Hashem malach ge’ut lavesh” – The Lord is our King, but the Lord is robed in grandeur; “לבש ה” – “Lavesh Hashem” – The Lord is robed in clothing. [Psalms 93:1]

In a song that many of us recite, on Shabbat and Yom Tov, we speak about our relationship with God, Anim Zemirot, The Shir HaKavod, The Song of Magnificence, of respect, of engagement between God and the Jewish people and humanity.

And we recite in that prayer: “יתפאר בי כי חפץ בי” – “Yitpa’er bi ki chafetz bi” – God beautifies himself, through us, through the Jewish people, because he desires us, and therefore, “והוא יהיה לי לעטרת צבי” – “Vehu yihiye li le’ateret tzvi” – and therefore, God shall become a crown of beauty for me.

Immediately afterwards, the sentence continues: “כתם טהור פז דמות ראשו” – “Ketem tehor paz demut rosho” – God’s “head” is like pure gold; “וחק על מצח כבוד שם קדשו” – “Vechak al metzach kevod shem kodsho” – and on God’s “forehead” is the priestly golden head plate.

In other words, God “wears” the same clothing as the Kohen Gadol, because God is searching for a relationship with us. God wants and needs a relationship with us.

We have this unbelievable opportunity. It’s what the Beit HaMikdash and the Mishkan represent; it’s what we need to search for even without a Beit HaMikdash and Mishkan.

Immediately afterwards, we’re told: “פארו עלי ופארי עליו” – “Pe’ero elai u’fe’eri alav”, that God’s splendor is on me when I wear tefillin, and my splendor is on God when He “wears tefillin”.

The prayer continues: “וקרוב אלי בקראי אליו” – “Vekarov elai bekor’i elav” – And He is close to me when I wish to call Him.

Mishkan, the Mikdash, the priestly vestments: they’re there to teach us a message, and that message is that God is searching for a relationship with us. And even though we’re going through difficult times during COVID, and we may have family and professional challenges, the bottom line is that God needs us and we need God.

And there’s an opportunity as God “wears our clothing”, and we wish to wear His; there’s opportunity to create a relationship.

These chapters, these parshiot, are reminding us of that opportunity. Will we create a relationship with God?

The answer to that question is not found in the Torah portions. The answer to that question is found in our hearts and minds.

Shabbat Shalom.

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander is President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone, an Israel-based network of 30 educational and social action programs transforming Jewish life, living and leadership in Israel and across the world. He is the rabbi emeritus of the Boca Raton Synagogue and founder of the Katz Yeshiva High School. He served as the Vice President for University and Community Life at Yeshiva University and has authored many articles in scholarly journals.
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