Parshat Tetzaveh: How Customs Keep the Jewish People Strong

Jordan Gincel
Jordan Gincel (Courtesy)

By Jordan Gincel

This week’s Torah portion is Tetzaveh. This portion is about the kohanim, and how they worked together wearing special garments to serve God. Their role was special because the kohanim were the people who offered sacrifices to God for the Israelites. The garments they wore were not only items; they would start the kohen’s day off with meaning and would help them remember to have a stronger connection to God. The clothing that the kohanim wore was very interesting because all of the garments had meaning to them. I found this topic meaningful because I am a kohen.

The garments that the kohanim used included the onyx stones, which were worn on both shoulders of the kohen gadol, the high priest. The stones had the 12 tribe names engraved, with six names on each one. Connected to the stones was the Breastpiece of Judgement. The breastpiece had 12 different precious stones to also represent all of the Israelites. These garments were not worn on a daily basis; they were only worn when serving in the Temple. All of the kohanim dressed in a specific way that set them apart from the rest of the people of Israel and highlighted their authority. The gift that God gave the kohanim of being priests helped carry the religion from generation to generation. In Parshat Tetzaveh, God gives Aaron and his sons the great responsibility of being leaders to the people of Israel. The special garments that they were supposed to wear were very specific and symbolize their authority. Additionally, Aaron and his sons were given detailed instructions on how to perform the important rituals that God gave the people of Israel.

All of this helped to create a culture and structure for the people of Israel to show their love for God and pray, which separated them from every other culture in the world. These clothes that the kohanim wore were not just everyday clothes. These garments were worn for the glory and splendor of connecting to God in a very special way. The amazing thing is that today, we are still different from other cultures in the world by our specific customs and traditions. Customs like celebrating the Jewish holidays and keeping Shabbat have kept the Jewish people strong until this day. The kippah and tallit are the things we wear today to symbolize the commandments and our connection to God.

The name of the portion, “Tetzaveh,” has the same root as “mitzvah,” and the definition of both of these words means “commandments.” My parshah is about the kohanim and how they helped people practice a religion important to me and a lot of other people. Becoming a bar mitzvah shows me I can be independent from this day on, and have my own meaningful connection with God, just as the kohanim did.

Jordan Gincel is a seventh-grade student at Krieger Schechter Day School.

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