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Parasha No. 20
Tetzave: “And thou shalt command”

Shemot 27, 20 - 30, 10

The beauty of ideal man and his garments

- Themes of the parasha
- The mitzvot of the parasha
- The senses and attentive care
- The beauty of Israel
- The beauty of unity (between Israel and the world above)
- The beauty of man and his garments
- Moshe's garment
- The garment of the High Priest
- The garment of Jews
- Reflection on the garment of Jews and the role of light
- The garment of Jews as a sanctuary
- A garment adorned with stones of light
- The educational role of the Cohanim
- The function of beauty and appearance in Jewish anthropology




Themes of the parasha

The preceding parasha described the setting (the sanctuary) for the meeting between man and his creator, in the obstinate attempt to recreate the paradisal conditions of initial creation. Now, parasha Tetzave describes the ideal man who will live inthis sanctuary of meeting. Aaron is the prototype of this ideal man.

The mitzvot of the parasha

They are mitzvot 99 to 105:
- the first describes the pure olive oil to be used for the perpetual lamp,
- the second describes the garments to be worn by Aaron for "splendor and distinction,"
- the third describes the breastplate and ephod (vestment) of the High Priest which are joined together,
- the fourth describes the robe of the High Priest and its special threading to avoid
- tearing,
- the fifth instructs the High Priest to eat the sacrificial offerings,
- the sixth instructs him to burn the incense twice a day,
- he seventh prohibits him from offering a "strange incense;" one that is not prepared in the prescribed manner.

The senses and attentive care
Many senses are involved here (sight, smell, touch……).
The text begins with instructions for a lamp to be perpetually lit with pure olive oil "beaten for the light" (to be kept burning); this is the hatavat hanerot. The most beautiful and strongest flame requires attentive care, in order that it can sustain itself, every day, and from day to day. Attentive care is the rule in everything that is important.

The great emphasis on attentive care dominates the rest of the parasha. It is "wise-hearted" men (hohkme lev) who are entrusted with making the garments of Aaron, which is the 100th mitzva of the Torah. Note that these are not experts in garment making but experts in the ways of the heart, for it is the heart which commands the body; and the body itself is adorned with garments that reflect its inner beauty. The body of such a man is not the body of an ordinary functionary. The men who are chosen are wise men who know the 32 paths of the wisdom of the heart (cf. Chapter 1 of Lev Gompers).

The beauty of Israel
Why is it that Aaron must be clothed with garments of kavod vetiferet, distinction and beauty? Developing Nahmanides'commentary on Shemot 28, 2, the Shla writes that it is because Aaron is the restorer of Adam who was created in splendor and beauty and who was bathed in light.
This beauty still resides in the people of Israel says Psalm 89, 18: "For thou art the glory of their strength," and this concept recurs often in the Torah: in Isaiah 64, 10: "Our holy and beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee," Psalm 96, 6: "Strength and beauty are in his sanctuary," and Isaiah 49, 3: "Israel, in whom I will be glorified." Ribbi Yosef Caro connects the holy garments to the people of Israel.

The beauty of unity (between Israel and the world above)
If one remembers that the sanctuary in the world below is paralleled in the world above, one understands that the glorious garments express the beauty of Hashem Himself, and they have been linked by the commentators to the letters of the divine names. The ephod, they say, has to be joined to the other garment of the High Pries in order to be a reminder of the perpetual link to the source of this beauty. All beauty must be seen as linked to its supreme source. This is also seen in the shape of the windows of Solomon's Temple (I Kings 6, 4) which were narrower inside the Temple than outside, in order to show that glory comes from inside, not from outside.

The beauty of man and his garment
The importance accorded to garments should make us view our clothes in a more elevate way. For this, we must return to the concept of man who is made in the image of the Creator, to live with Him in His light.
Before his sin, Adam had a skin of light. This means that his luminous soul radiated through his body, bathing it in a pure, translucent light. After his sin, an obstruction was created, and or (light) became or (skin), and man became separated from his surroundings.

In the same vein, Moshe Rabbenu wore only a light garment when he built the tabernacle, for only he was close to the purity of Adam. He had no need to wear special garments for it could be said that he preceded the fall of man.

The garment of the High Priest
In contrast, the High Priest, who represents man in the process of renewal and is the closest to the ideal state,
--- wears garments that characterize all men,
--- but these garments are made and adorned in ways that reflect the former ideal state of man.

The garment of Jews
Because the role of a Jew is to work on renewing himself, he must wear garments that express both what he has in common with other men and what he has that is different: this is the state of holiness called kedusha, a term which also means "separate."
In order for the body to be sanctified, it must be separate from the material world and must express with kavod vetiferet (dignity and beauty) the purity and radiance of Adam. Thus, Aaron and his descendants, who represent, revive and transform us, are given separate places, tasks, food and clothing.

Reflection on the garment of Jews and the role of light
Several conclusions can now be made:
--- what we have said about the Cohanim also applies to the role of Jews among nations, which is to be a light unto the nations (or la goim, cohen la goim), as in the laws that govern the food we eat;
--- Jews must therefore be very attentive to tzeniut, modesty in dress which should reflect the holiness of light;
--- thus the garments of Jews must be different and radiate beauty, cleanliness, difference, modesty, dignity and light.

The garment of Jews as a sanctuary
We learnt in the preceding parasha that Hashem's wish is to dwell among His people as in a sanctuary and it is the role of His people to express His glory and His beauty just as a glorious sanctuary and the dress of a bride are expressions of beauty. Psalm 89, 17 says: "For thou art the glory of their strength, and in thy favour our horn shall be exalted." He who seeks the beauty of Israel can say with the prophet Isaiah (49, 3): "Thou art my servant O Israel, in whom I will be glorified."

A garment adorned with stones of light
It is important to read Isaiah 64, 10; 60, 7 and 13, and the references given by the Shla, as well as all of Psalm 45 which is recited during the marriage ceremony-- a moment of holiness and radiance.
All Jews should know the wonderful picture of man bathed in divine light, which is revealed in these texts.

We can now understand why the High Priest wore on his robe 12 different precious stones representing the tribes of Israel, each one arranged in a setting of gold, mishbetzet zahav.
Referring to this, I told my master Ribbi Moshe Zenu, with whom I had a relationship immediately touched these deeper levels, on the day when his beloved wife departed to the sanctuary On High in a painless death, mitat neshika: "when I look around you at the pupils trained in your wisdom, they seem like these precious stones, arranged in mishbetzet zahav -- the initials of your name (Moshe Zenu)." I knew he understood my meaning and this helped to alleviate his pain.
It is possible to say such things to someone who has always lived modestly. With others, it is more difficult and can be misunderstood or perceived as false compliments.

The educational role of the Cohanim
According to these teachings, it follows that we must look at garments as the expression of the splendor of Hashem whose radiance will shine on us. In their daily blessing, the Cohanim remind us that these gifts of splendor and beauty of Hashem are ours, within us and shine through us: "Hashem make his face shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee. Hashem lift up his countenance upon thee and give thee peace," (Bamidbar 6, 25-26). The role of Aaron's descendants is to remind us of this luminosity. The centuries of poverty and exile, during which Jews had to hide themselves, must not extinguish this light for it represents not only our initial condition, but us as human beings made in the image of the Creator and expressions of His splendor.

The function of beauty and appearance in Jewish anthropology
1. The aesthetic view of man is fundamental in Jewish anthropology and ugliness, dirt and vulgarity must be considered as elements that conceal the beauty of the creator and harm His image.
2. A garment should not only reflect a person's background, role, age, sex, or physical beauty, but should reflect the source of his or her beauty.
3. Just like the High Priest only wore his most splendid robes to officiate in the Temple, we must have a hierarchy of garments for different occasions and must never let this fall below the level of our true selves and our inner light.
4. Much personal examination is necessary for this, as is written in Psalm 57, 9: "awake up, my glory," or as Ribbi Yohanan called his garments "my glory" (Tractate Shabbat, 113).
5. This sensitive and delicate view of how we should relate to ourselves is far removed from the brutality of human relationships. Judaism is not only refined in the analytical domain, it is also refined in its approach to interpersonal relations and to our physical appearance.
6. The beauty of each human being can and must be seen, but this visual message must be perceived as stemming from one source which is Hashem Himself: this is what is called berakha, the blessings which flow from this source.
7. On perceiving the beauty of Hashem's creatures, this blessing should be said: "thus it is in His world, for Him, in His image" and not "thus it is for the vulgar and superficial pleasure I get from seeing others." Tradition reminds us that this requires constant vigilance on our part, for what we see affects our deepest recesses and drives. This is why the word ayin means in Hebrew both eye and source. (Refer to the commentary on the blessing for the festival of Tu bi Shevat).
This is the meaning of Shemot 23, 20: "Behold I send an angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared."
Rashi explains this verse thus: "this is the place which corresponds to the place of My residence: it is one of the texts which shows that the sanctuary On High corresponds to the sanctuary Below."

In summary, the beauty and dignity of others must be perceived as the place of residence of Hashem, and this will lead us to the invisible source and residence.

The importance of beauty, light, and perfumes (the last word in the Song of Songs) in the sanctuary and, therefore, in all Judaism, comes from this concept.

But not everyone is adorned like the High Priest, and not everyone is a Cohen.
However we are all Israel, whose beauty is expressed by the High Priest. We are also the precious stones on the garment of the High Priest.
And, in His benevolence, the Creator directed the Cohanim to transmit to us this divine beauty, that it should fall on our faces:
yaer Hashem panave eleikha vihuneka
"Hashem make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee" (Bamidbar 6, 25).

We are reminded of this every morning, together with the blessing to "clothe the naked" (malbish arumim).
This blessing is neither an injunction or a demand, but is said in the present tense as a
sign that it is being applied in practice.

The Jewish science of aesthetics is the external representation of one's inner light through physical appearance, scents and garments.
This is expressed in the Song of Songs and in the description of the Shabbat Queen dressed in argaman (purple). In order to abbreviate these teachings of the Sages, the texts say that the word A.R.GA.MA.N represents the names of the 5 angels who enclose the beauty of the shekhina, the divine presence: following the order of the letters of the word argaman, they are: Uriel, Raphael, Gabriel, Mikhael, Nuriel.

The festival of Purim, which takes place at this time, also aims to make us aware of this concept: the disguises we wear at Purim help us attain a different level and represent what is good and evil in our lives, in order to ensure the victory of goodness, beauty and blessings.
The disguises are therefore much more important for adults than for children. One must dare; one must dare to acknowledge that inner beauty can emerge and one must enable it to emerge. One must learn to live it and to maintain this state of blessing.

It is for this reason that a husband commits himself, in the marriage ketuba, to ensure that his wife will radiate through her garments and jewels, just as he commits himself to ensure her happiness.
The Jewish women who were in the wilderness are praised for having maintained this level of holiness, for they did not use their finery to honor the "golden calf," and they unhesitatingly donated their mirrors to build the fountain of purification. It is wonderful to see how all the women knew the teachings of the Sages.

The 24 books which make up the Tanakh (the Bible) are also called the "jewels" (takhshitim) of the shekhina.

The boldness of a Jew's relationship with God leads him to say: "He is my God and I will prepare him an habitation" (ze Ei ve anevehu. Shemot 15, 2).
Jewish beauty is the beauty of eternal purity, as is indicated in the juxtaposition of this theme with the pure olive oil that begins the parasha.


1. Identify the concepts in this parasha that particularly appeal to you and re-read the parasha with particular attention to them.
2. Discuss your feelings and ideas with those close to you, and the questions that arise from them in relation to you as individuals and to Jewish life.
3. Verify your knowledge of the Hebrew words in this parasha.
4. Read the texts cited above.


- Psychology and Repentance
   (in french)

Part 15

Part 16

- Jerusalem excavations
- Terror and counseling
- Peace and peoples
- Israel and Iran
- Visual study & song on snow
for, through our union with the song of nature, the plan of Creation will be fulfilled

Poem: to be moon

In french

Avec Modia, vivez
vos vacances en Israël,
Texte et photos

- Par Modia, arrivez au Kotel
- La vie du Kotel
- Prières au Kotel
- Fête au Kotel
- La destruction du Temple
- Photos rares et émouvantes des abords du Temple
- Synagogues de Jérusalem
- Maisons de Jérusalem
- Les fleurs de Jérusalem
- Ici, tout sur Jérusalem
- "Le" texte sur Jérusalem
- Voir et visiter Israël
- Voyage dans le Nord d'Israël
- Belle carte d'Israël
- Jérusalem et les nations

- Vacances en Israël sur Modia
- Le Kotel en film direct
- et ici aussi, autre caméra

- Trahison historique:
L'antique synagogue de Jéricho


Part 17

- Love towards all people
- Light in war
- Before the hanukiah
- Land of Israel
- Jerusalem excavations 2007
  Proof of the lies propagated
  by the media

In french - Hope in Israel

Part 20
"Encounters with God
in the real"

- You are planning a tour in Israel - Photos
- My photos and judaism
- New year of beauty
- Flowers
Gallery photos

Part 21

- My english songs


Rav Professor
Yehoshua Rahamim Dufour
(Dipur, in hebrew)

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