“V’asita vgdei kodesh l’aharon achicha l’chavod u’ltifaret” – “you will make holy clothes for your brother Aaron for respect and glorification.” (Exodus 28:2 )
I stopped by the jewelry store today to pick up a beaded necklace that they restrung for me at the request of my mother in law, who was dismayed when the necklace broke the first time I tried to wear it. Seamlessly and professionally, the sales woman brought my attention to the jewelry in the store, tried an exquisite, but expensive necklace around my neck and examined my wedding rings. Apparently, the rings are in desperate need of re-sizing to keep them from getting lost or broken. The saleswoman spoke about the rings as these objects of interest that I would want to protect. But to me, they are meaningful because I have endowed them with meaning.
23 and half years ago, I told my then fiancée not to get me a ring, and at first refused to wear it when he did anyway. Marriage wasn’t about jewelry, wealth, or status, I insisted. I eventually succumbed to wearing the diamond when I didn’t see it anymore as a diamond, but as a gesture of love. In the absence of any other meaningful exchange, the ring started to feel special because my love had picked it for me, and had done so because he wanted to signify our relationship in some way.
Over the last 23 years, I have given the ring emotional significance, as it has been on my finger throughout all my life events and encounters.
Why do we have objects to express or signify meaningful encounters in our life? What is the role of objects in celebrating, remembering and creating these encounters?
This week’s Torah portion, T’tzave, touches on this question while describing to us with incredible precision the garments and jewelry worn by the High Priest. While the text spends many verses and words describing in detail the garments of the priests, and the rituals for ordaining the priests, the real beauty lies not in the ornamentation and craftsmanship, but in the actions that the priests will do while wearing these items.
In Exodus 28:2 God commands, “V’asita vgdei kodesh l’aharon achicha l’chavod u’ltifaret” – “you will make holy clothes for your brother Aaron for respect and glorification.” The actions and intentions given to the creation of all the items are actions and intentions of making something holy.
The objects themselves don’t give Aaron his power, but they do signify a power granted to him. It is a power granted to him through the action of creating those same objects. Aaron is holy because the work that went into creating his garments, and following specific directions to make the priestly vestments as well as the tabernacle, has created a holy and sacred place.
In the act of “creating,” attention was given to quality, to detail, and to doing it with the intention of creating something sacred. It is actually the behaviors that give the objects their significance and that thereby communicate respect and glorification when worn by Aaron. The ring I wear isn’t special because it is a diamond or has a gold band, it is special because of the time, care and love that my husband gave to choose the diamond and have the ring made for me.
When we take care to set things apart, make them special and endow them with meaning, then the result of that intention and behavior is the creation of something special or holy.
We spend time in our modern life choosing furnishings, clothing, cars, jewelry, home ornaments and more to make our appearance and the appearance of what we own seem beautiful. But, real beauty doesn’t come from the items and ornamentation that we purchase, but from the love, care and meaning that we give to those items as we choose them and dedicate them to someone or something in our life, just as holiness and meaning doesn’t come from the garments worn by the Priest, but from the care, attention and dedication that went into their creation.