Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Te'tzaveh 74 - The Priestly garments and changing our behavior

The portion –parasha of Te'tza'veh  deals  with the Priestly    garments. These   were   worn by   the priests while doing the ' service' in the mishkan or beis ha'mikdash- temple.  Clothing has the effect of hiding a person's faults and frailties, honoring and elevating him. The priestly garments had to come from communal funds. They elevated the cohen-priest beyond his stature as an individual to a person fitting to serve God in the temple , bring the sacrifices ,representing and being  in ' service ' of the nation as a whole.  Just as the sacrifices atone for the sins of the children of Israel, so do the priestly garment atone for various sins.

The verse –Exodus/Shemot  28:31 says – You shall make the Robe of the Ephod entirely of turquoise  wool …….The robe – me'il was  worn by the kohain ga'dol – high priest and was  made of sky blue-turquoise  wool, the color representing the purity of Godliness. It was sleeveless, possessing 2 openings for 2 arms. Its top hem was secured with a heavy double border. Attached to the bottom hem were 72 hollow ornaments in the shape of pomegranates alternating with 72 golden bells.
The robe – me'il was an  atonement for the sin of lashon ha'ra – slander and evil speech. People who saw the me'il and its blue color, by association with the color - reflected on the sea that stays within its bounds, so we too should keep our speech within bounds, holy and pure.

The double hem reminds us to surround our tongues with a double barrier – teeth and mouth so we can refrain from talking lashon ha'ra – evil speech.

The 72 pomegranates allude to the 72 possible shades of white that could make someone a metzora- a person inflicted by the spiritual disease of tza'raas for gossiping and speaking badly about others.

The bells attached to the hem rang announced  the high priests – kohain ga'dol's arrival in the miskan- tabernacle and departure from it. From the fact that the Kohain ga'dol – high priest's entry was announced by the bells, we learn that a person should not enter even his own home unexpectedly and certainly knock on the door and wait for a response before entering.

 The verse in Kohelet- Ecclesiastes   10:8 says … whoever breaks or breaches a fence, a snake will bite him. Every person is surrounded by a protective wall or fence - his privacy- and when we speak badly – la'shon ha'ra about someone we are invading his privacy. The snake spoke la'shon ha'ra to Eve – Chava about God – that God did not want man to eat from the tree of knowledge and so become as clever as God. As a consequence, the snake has to exact retribution and bite the person who has broken the fence and invaded the person's privacy with his evil speech..  The bells teach us the importance of respecting the privacy of others by ' knocking ' before we enter, how much more so we should be careful of invading their privacy by speaking badly about them.

Respecting the privacy of our kids - giving them some space which is theirs,  not over-monitoring or not speaking badly about them to others is very, very challenging. If we build a trusting relationship, share with them something appropriate about ourselves, be good listeners - they will come forward and be more open to us about what is happening in their lives. If we have good communication, we can speak to them about our concerns or unmet expectations – instead of venting to others.

It is not easy not to speak la'shon  ha'ra about kids who are challenging, hard wired, have  difficult temperaments and really give one a hard time. The collaborative problem solving approach mantra – kids do well if they can and not kids do well if they want to – helps us to have a different mindset. He is not a difficult kid, but a kid with difficulties and challenges – he is doing the best he can. If we are accepting of the reality, we become emotionally free and liberated. This makes us calm and puts us in a position to work with the kid for a better reality. But we can go further and have a positive view about the kid and notice his good points.  Changing our mindsets about kids is not only good for them but good for the family and good for us.

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