This week’s Torah portion, Tzav, describes the linen raiments the priest wears when taking the ashes of the burnt offering and placing them beside the altar. Then these raiments have to come off of him before he can take the ashes to a pure place outside of the camp. This ritual is not complete unless he is wearing specific clothing and doing specific things.
Like many American Jewish teens I go to a school where I have to wear a uniform. Although they might not be the most comfortable raiments, they make the children in our school look and act professionally when in class. Our uniform comes with an obligation as well. When I put on my uniform in the morning it implies that I am going to school; wearing my uniform reminds me of the responsibility to obey the rules of my school everywhere I go.
Rabbi Berkowitz teaches that this is also the lesson of the Kohen Gadol’s uniform: Its purpose was not “to impress the Israelites, who rarely saw the Kohen Gadol during his service, but to remind Aaron and his descendants of their sacred task of representing the people.”
This seems like something they did only back in biblical times, but in reality, we do it every time we pray by wearing a tallit, kippah and tefillin. By wearing this prayer uniform, we are fulfilling the obligations of our Jewish religion. When we go to synagogue to pray we are supposed to be listening attentively, or we are supposed to be participating.
As a young Jewish woman, my uniform consists primarily of a tallit. When I put on a tallit I feel like I am being enveloped by Torah and the captivating stories of our ancient religion. When I hold the tzitzit in my hand it makes me feel like I am holding a part of God. When choosing my tallit I wanted to have a uniform with a prayer on it, a design of Israel the Jewish homeland, and colors that would suit the environment of prayer. Like it did for the Kohen Gadol, wearing my uniform reminds me of my responsibilities and helps me focus on my obligations.
Jessica Tannebaum is a seventh-grade student at Krieger Schechter Day School.