Wednesday, February 28, 2007

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Who is the High Priest?

by Reb Gutman Locks of the Old City, Jerusalem, Israel at Mystical Paths

This week’s portion of the Torah deals almost entirely with the Kohanim (the priests). Going back to one of our original questions, if this section of the Torah deals only with the kohanim and their service, then of what value is it to me? There is no Temple now and even if there would be, I am not a kohen.

As last year’s comments point out, each of us must become a High Priest. Obviously we cannot wear the High Priest’s actual physical garments, but we must don them in a spiritual way. How do you put on a spiritual garment?

When the High Priest was told to wear a garment over his chest with twelve different precious gems on it, we have to ask, “How do we do that?” Each stone represented one of the twelve tribes of Israel. One of the spiritual priestly duties that is incumbent upon all of us individually is to carry all of the Jewish people upon our hearts. This love is commanded to all of us but especially to the High Priest when he came before G-d and asked Him to forgive us. We who are spiritual priests of the Jewish people must also do this.

We also wear precious stones that represent Israel on our shoulders. This shows that our love for Israel is more than mere emotional love; it must also include carrying the people, supporting them with physical benefits.

The plate on our forehead reads “Holy to Hashem.” This is to be our priestly mindset. The plate was to be worn “always.” But this is impossible since those garments were to be worn only when the priest was fulfilling his duties in the Mishkan and Temple. But since he was told to wear it “always” we see that this points to its spiritual service, that is, spiritually we are to wear it always. This means at least when we perform our individual priestly acts (Torah and mitzvot) our minds are to be focusing on the Holiness of Hashem. We dedicate our deeds and our thoughts to G-d.

Look through each of the priest’s garments that are described in the Torah remembering that garments represent deeds. See which of these garments implores us to do which priestly deed.

For instance, the priests were to wear hats while performing their service. The hat of the common (not the High Priest) priest was turban-like. Rashi tells us that it was a type of “dome” (kipa). All of the priestly garments were worn to give honor and glory,[i] but each also had its individual function. Here we see one of the priestly garments being worn today by all Torah observant men. The yarmulke is a direct descendant from that hat worn in the Temple.

Today, Jewish men are enjoined by the rabbis to wear this head covering. Although this comes from the rabbis we see that its roots are from the Torah itself. And its function today is just as valid as it was back then. It is to give honor and glory.

We wear a kipa and it gives honor to the one who wears it and glory to the One it reminds us of. How does a simple yarmulke give glory to G-d? First know that the name itself reminds us of G-d. Yarmulke comes from “Fear of the King” (Yira Malka). But more than that, when we wear a kipa we are always aware that there is something above us. When we look hard in that direction (above our head), we will come to give glory to G-d.

[i] Ex 28:3

Posted at Mystical Paths. Read it elsewhere? Stop by the source.

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