Making sense of the sedra: High Fashion
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Making sense of the sedra: High Fashion

In our thought-provoking new series, rabbis and rebbetzen relate the week’s parsha to the way we live today

The UK fashion industry was estimated to be worth £62.2 billion in 2021. New clothes and accessories are constantly put onto the market. Fashion trends constantly change, and many people buy the latest clothing to keep on track with designer labels. It is always exciting to get something new, and most of us feel better when we are wearing something chic.

The most elaborate clothing in the Torah is mentioned in this week’s Torah portion, which discusses the clothes of the High Priest. They were ornate and beautiful, and conferred upon him both honour and glory (Exodus 28:2). The commentaries explain that the clothes he wore reflected the fashion worn by the nobility. His clothing reflected the notion that he was God’s representative on earth, and his resplendent clothes were honouring the Almighty.

One of the items worn by the High Priest was a robe with pomegranates on its hem that held within them clappers that rang like bells. Whenever he walked, the bells would ring. The Torah adds that wearing these bells was necessary for his service in the temple on Yom Kippur. If he didn’t wear them, he would surely die.

Why was it so important, not only for the High Priest’s service, but also for his life, that he wore these bells shaped like pomegranates?

This question bothered me for many years until I read a beautiful verse in the Song of Songs. This book states: “Your brow behind your veil [gleams] like a pomegranate split open.” The Talmud explains this verse to be a metaphor comparing Jewish people to a pomegranate. Just as a pomegranate has many seeds, so too, every single Jew, no matter how observant, has many merits. Every Jew, from the leaders to the least observant, has huge value.

The job of the High Priest was to represent all the Jewish people, to be their messenger and intermediary to God. It is easy for the High Priest to represent the upright and the religious, but how does one represent those who seemingly do not have merits? He was warned against that invasive thought by the pomegranates that jingled as he walked,  reminding him that there is not one Jew, even the lowest of the low, who is without merits. Each person is bursting with potential and greatness.

This idea has relevance for everyone. Knowing that every human being has value in this world means that we have no right to judge anyone as lacking merit. We cannot cast aside others because they don’t meet our criteria of moral uprightness. Finding greatness in others is always possible, and it is our job to seek out that greatness in every person we meet.

By Rebbetzin Stephen Dansky, Cranbrook synagogue

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