Tetzaveh 2022

 Rabbi Philip Weintraub


Parshat Tetzaveh

As a rabbi, one aspect of my profession that I enjoy is participating in civic life.  Joining my colleagues for blessings of the city, uniting to do good works, supporting our community in sundry ways inspires me.  It reminds me that no matter our faith traditions, we can do good, we can better this world.  Yet one tiny note, I feel inferior--clothing.  For certain occasions, my clergy colleagues dress up in ritual garb.  They wear stoles, hats, robes, and other accouterments. While I could wear a tallit, I associate that garment with traditional prayer!  We hear the clothes make the man, and this week’s parsha demonstrates that.

In Tetzaveh, we see the details of the garments of the Cohen Gadol.  He wears a robe, ephod, tunic, headdress, sash, breastplate.  Fine thread and yarn are used, including gold.  The breast plate has gems representing each of the twelve tribes and is the holding place for the Urim and Thummim.  The priest literally is all dressed up with bells on, with pomegranate bells on the hem of his garment.  The high priest had different outfits for different occasions, representing the sanctity of the moment.

Thinking about our own lives, there are times when we expect certain outfits.  Whether going to the beach or a black-tie affair, there are expectations.  If your surgeon walked into the operating room with a tux, you might be concerned.  The same might be true if your handyman showed up in scrubs.  When we come to synagogue we tend to dress in a certain way to show respect for the day and the place, yet we also set aside times to be more casual here.  When you come back this evening for the melavah malkah--be comfortable--no formal jackets are required!

In her sisterhood d’var Torah this week, Rebecca spoke about tallit and tefillin as our uniform for prayer.  When we enter our sacred spaces, when we wrap ourselves in our traditional prayer tools, we declare to ourselves and others that we are in a time of prayer.  We remind ourselves of our intention THROUGH the garments.

An actor can tell you that by putting on a specific style of clothing, it can help them inhabit the role.  As we dress each day, how do the choices we make in our attire help us consider our day’s plans?  In the world of zoom, we have had new paradigms--dressing elegantly from the waist up and shorts or sweatpants at the bottom!  Today dressing up often means making sure that we are appropriately dressed on top AND on the bottom--something our ancestors might never have imagined!

Returning to the uniforms of my clergy friends, I do not covet their designs, but I do wonder how I could imagine a Jewish clergy outfit--and no I do not mean a black suit and black hat!

In the spiel yesterday, I shared about a new learning opportunity.

Sometimes we have the chance to participate in something even larger than that.  A number of our members participate in Daf Yomi, studying a page of Talmud each day.  While an incredible learning experience, it is more than many might wish to take upon themselves.  Today I want to share a bite-size program, that will lead to a great accomplishment. 929 is a program to read one chapter each day of the TaNaKH, the Jewish Bible.  The newest cycle began this past week and continues through 8/27/2025.  Each Sunday-Thursday you read one chapter (5 per week) and review on Shabbat.  It is not a huge time commitment, but reading a little each day you see the depth and breadth of our Scriptures.  Of course, as Jews, TaNaKH is just the beginning.  We have thousands of commentaries and thousands of years of Jewish practice that follow--yet learning some of our foundational texts can lead to great meaning. 

On the webpage:  https://www.929.org.il/lang/en/today/  you can sign up for regular reminders, read the chapter in English, see works of art and more.  On a communal level, I will be sharing daily lessons at my "other" facebook page.  My goal will be to inspire questions and share positive thoughts about the day's readings. Link: https://www.facebook.com/morejoylessoy/. If you "like" that page, you will see my posts.  The more you interact, the more other people will be able to see it.  I will also share brief videos at times and am considering the best way to create a weekly podcast.  (If you have great ideas or would like to participate, let me know.

If you are interested in signing up with CBI, please follow the link here:https://forms.gle/VzoTCgh47HxngJo48 

In my lunch and learn this week, we learned about the mystical power of community in prayer and study.  May this endeavor lead us to holiness and blessing!

Shabbat shalom!