“Th­ese are the vest­ments they are to make: a breast­piece, an ephod, a robe, a fringed tu­nic, a head­dress, and a sash” Ex­o­dus 28:4

OUR MAIN To­rah read­ing this week gives a huge amount of de­tail about the pri­estly gar­ments; their in­tri­cate de­sign and their man­u­fac­ture. As my mum is a tal­ented Ju­daic tex­tile artist, I was in­stantly drawn to th­ese de­scrip­tions of the fine linen, brightly coloured yarns, the en­graved stones and gold work.

While the text does of­fer de­tails, it is not al­ways enough to vi­su­alise ex­actly how the item looked. For ex­am­ple, the head­dress is, ac­cord­ing to Rashi, a kind of domed cap, while Nach­manides re­jects Rashi’s sug­ges­tion out­right and ar­gues it is a 16-cu­bit long cloth wound around the head (much like a tur­ban I sus­pect).

In ei­ther case (and heaven for­bid rab­bis should agree), the com­bined ef­fect of th­ese gar­ments was clearly an im­pres­sive sight. Hav­ing left the riches of the Egyp­tian cult be­hind, the Is­raelites pre­sum­ably had a strong sense of how to do wor­ship and ritual with style and wanted to of­fer the best that they could to God.

The priests would robe up and down in a spe­cial cham­ber be­fore ap­proach­ing the al­tar. As we adorn our­selves with cos­tumes and hide our true selves this com­ing Purim, I won­der how com­fort­ing it was to the priests to have th­ese mag­nif­i­cent cos­tumes to hide be­hind in per­form­ing the most im­por­tant rites of the Tem­ple cult.

We all have cos­tumes and hats to hide be­hind and cre­ate per­sonas with in our day-to-day lives and per­haps even in our re­li­gious lives. Some­times that pre­tence cre­ates a help­ful tool, through which we can per­form our du­ties, or be the per­son we might like to be. But, of course, in Ju­daism ev­ery­thing is bal­ance, and even­tu­ally the cos­tumes or robes will be stripped away, leav­ing us as the sim­plest, most vul­ner­a­ble ver­sion of our­selves: be­fore our Maker, and be­fore each other.

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