D’var Torah: Finding your inner Priest

Here is a D’var Torah I gave Friday night at services. Enjoy and not that actual delivery varied from the written word!

Do you ever have a day where you just can’t decide what to wear? You try on a plethora of outfits, but nothing seems to look right? Feel right?

I know I’ve had those days. In fact, when I was younger, I used to spend hours engaging in what my parents referred to as the “fashion show.” This involved me trying on a variety of outfits, trying to find the best one to wear the next day. It didn’t matter whether it was for school, for shul, for dance class or to play outside and be covered by my jacket. I had to have the perfect outfit, the perfect way to present myself to the world. My parents lovingly and valiantly put up with this routine for many years. My dad would always respond with, “You look Marvelous!”

But, it always had to do with what I was putting on my body, how I was presented physically to the world. Sometimes, I think it might have been easier if I had been given a uniform, something set to wear. If I were a Kohen, I actually wouldn’t have had to do a fashion show, but I’m not a Kohen, I’m not even a levite, I’m an Israelite, I get to choose what I wear.

In our parsha this week, Parshat Tetzaveh, the priests, and their children are spared from the nightly fashion show because the priestly uniform is described. An all in one uniform, the most popular pieces are the breast plate of decision, complete with the urim and tumim, to help you make any decision. You might know these today as the Magic 8 ball. Another favorite piece is the Ephod, this beautiful coat comes with a variety of colors, crimson, blue, green, yellow, and is adorned with the finest Lapis stone set in solid gold. But, the best selling piece yet is the pure blue robe, complete with bells.

The priestly garments distinguish them from the Israelites, from the commoners. Their clothing speaks volumes about their status, about who their family is, about their legacy. At the same time, it tells us nothing about them. The entire parshah is filled with different instructions for how to make the garments, how to act as a priest, what to do with the garments. But, it never tells us about Aaron and his sons. Instead of learning about who the priests are, what they are like on the inside, columns of the Torah are spent detailing their elaborate wardrobe.

My question is why? Why did we hear so much about the specifics of the tabernacle last week? Why is it so important that the priests have this elaborate dress? The simple answer is so that they are easily recognized, they are seen as separate, and the people know the hierarchy. But, when I thought about it more, I think these details are there as a reminder of whom we are.

Each of us is created Betzelem elohim, in the image of God. We have the Godly spark housed within our bodies. And, while the garments are purely on the outside, are purely material, they are also adorning the uniqueness of God’s creation in our bodies. What we put on our outsides, what materials we use to adorn our bodies represents how we feel about our insides. And as cliché as it sounds, it is what’s on the inside that counts.

Our parshah begins with the discussion of the Ner Tamid, the eternal flame. The rabbis describe this flame as being caused to burn continuously. This is the light that we have in every sanctuary, physically representing a recreation of the mishkan, the tabernacle. But, I would argue that each of us also has a Ner Tamid. Each of us has a flame that burns within, our passion, our soul, our gift to the world. Each of us chooses to present ourselves to the world through both our Ner Tamid and our priestly garments. The care we take to dress our physical being shows our respect for ourselves, our personality, our individuality. But the words we speak when presenting ourselves identify us as God’s creation, as individuals, allows our Ner Tamid to burn through.

As we enter into Shabbat Tetzaveh, may we be blessed to bask in the flame of the Ner Tamid. May we find the strength to not only look marvelous on the outside, but recognize the inner desires that make each of us unique and magnificent in our own way.

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