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Tetzaveh-Keeping the Jewish Look

Written by Peretz Traube

Tetzaveh focuses mainly on the clothing of the Kohen Gadol and of the other Kohanim. When you hear of a Parsha so dedicated to clothing, it makes you stop and think a little, doesn’t it? Why would there be a Parsha dedicated to clothing? There are so many things that were not put into the Torah that we only know from Midrashim, why do we need so many Pesukim about clothing? Why can’t this be passed down in Torah Shebaal Peh, along with so many other halachos?
To find an answer to this question we really need to go back in history a little bit. About 10 weeks ago, we lained Parshas Vayishlach. In that Parsha, we see the words “Vayishlach Yaakov Malachim Lifanav”, that Yaakov sent messengers to Eisav bearing gifts and a small, yet very interesting message. Yaakov sends in his message the words “Im Lavan Garti”. Rashi teaches us that the word “Garti” has the gematria of 613, referring to the 613 mitzvos that Yaakov kept while staying with Lavan. But there still is another answer, one that is not quite so well known, that the word “Garti” contains the shoiresh of “Ger”, that Yaakov remained a stranger while staying in Charan. There are many ways that a person can be considered a stranger, but in this case Yaakov was referring to a total separation. On Yaakov’s way to Lavan, he spent 14 years in Yeshivas Shem V’Ever. At that point, Shem had already died, and Eiver was the Rosh Hayeshiva. I heard over from my Rav that the name of Yeshivas Eiver showed exactly what they tried to do. The word Eiver means side. כל העולם על עבר אחד, ואברהם על עבר השני. The Yeshivas Eiver tried to teach their Talmidim that they need to stand apart, be above, be different. And that is why, all throughout history, the Jewish look has always been with Jewish clothes. Yaakov sent a message to Eisav that “I remained with those ideals of Eiver, I remained different, I kept the same clothing, the same way of life”. The Jews in Mitzrayim kept the “Jewish look” even throughout slavery. Jews have always been identified by their clothing. And that, in my opinion, is why Hashem dedicated an entire Parsha to talk about clothing. To teach us that no matter what, a Jew should always keep the “Jewish Look”, keep על עבר השני, be like Yaakov Avinu even going through these times, and realize just how important it is to Hashem that we should remain unchanged.
Now we have another question though. Why do we need a Parsha for the clothing specifically of the Kohanim? Why do they need such a special reminder to remain unchanged? Also, why do they receive such a special wardrobe that the rest of the Bnei Yisrael do not?
To answer this question, we need to look a little bit into what was going on in Mitzrayim when the Yidden were slaves. Rashi brings down that there were three things that the Jews didn’t change throughout their slavery; their names, their speech, and their clothing. For the Jewish slaves, this may not have been so hard, because they were already in a lower class of the Egyptian society. However, the Shevet that wasn’t enslaved, Shevet Levi, was in a higher class in the system, and they were therefore closer to the Mitzriyim. They were the ones in danger of being absorbed into the general population, and it was much harder for them to keep the three things the other Shevatim kept. The Parsha of Tetzaveh (in my opinion) may be a reward to Shevet Levi for keeping their clothing even when it was hard for them.
This is something that we should think about all the time. In a country like America, where we are considered to be the same as all the goyim, we have much harder nisayonos than Klal Yisrael ever had. We are in danger of mixing into the general population, of looking like the goyim, and it is much harder for us to hold back. In Mitzrayim, the people of Shevet Levi were sitting and learning in Goshen all the time, and they were not so close to the goyim. For us, where we are stuck with the goyim every day, it is very hard to stop their ideas and culture from infiltrating our lives. In order to create a shield between us and the goyim, to stop ourselves from wearing their clothing, from listening to their music, to enjoying the shmutz that they enjoy, we must always remember what Shevet Levi did to keep above, and how they were rewarded when they were freed. If we keep in mind this message of Shevet Levi and Parshas Tetzaveh, just imagine what our reward will be when Mashiach comes.

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