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The Bells On His Robe

The Kohen Gadol, high priest, was required to wear eight garments when he served in the Holy Temple. One of the garments discussed in this week’s parsha is the M’il - the Robe.

The Torah states that, at the bottom of the Robe, the Kohen Gadol was to wear “pomegranates of turquoise, purple and crimson wool, all around the edge, and golden bells among them all around.” The function of the bells was to be “heard when he enters the Holy Place before G-d, and when he leaves, so that he will not die.”

Abarbanel explains that the High Priest needed to hear the sounds of the bells to remind him that he was about to enter or leave a holy place. Routine behavior can cause a person to become desensitized to the significance of the service he is about of perform.

Baal HaTurim cites two other places in the Torah where the expression “v’nishma”—shall be heard—is used.

When the Jewish people were offered the Torah at Mount Sinai, they responded “Naaseh v’nishma-We will do and we will hear.” Another mention of v’nishma is in the Megilla, the Book of Esther. When the Persian King’s advisor suggested to him that he issue a decree for women to honor their husbands in the aftermath of Queen Vashti’s refusal to appear before the king, the Biblical text states “V’nishma pisgam HaMelech-And the edict of the king shall be heard.”

How are these three references to the word v’nishma connected?

 When the Jews were offered the Torah they immediately consented and declared impulsively: “We will do and we will hear.” While their enthusiasm for the Torah was noble and praiseworthy, their next step was to prepare to enter into its holy precincts with measured steps and serious reflection.

What are the proper preparations for Torah?

First, we must acknowledge that the Torah is Divine, by orally by reciting the blessings on the Torah each and every morning soon after getting up. We do not rush into it without that acknowledgment.

Second, we must attempt to purge all improper and extraneous thoughts that would sully our minds.

Third, we must divest ourselves of our preconceived notions and our egotistical mindset. Only when we become “empty vessels” can the Divine teachings of the Torah penetrate and integrate with us.

Even when the Kohen Gadol leaves the Sanctuary he must hear the sounds of the bells on his robe. The implied message is that even when we take leave of the holy experience and we go out of the synagogue and House of Study to be involved in mundane pursuits, we have to make preparations for that transition.

After attaining the excitement of embracing the Torah, coupled and tempered with our cautious and incremental preparations for its study and practice, we now reach the third and final step in our spiritual journey.

An individual focus does not suffice. The entire world must hear and embrace the message of the Torah: the Jewish people embracing the 613 commandments and non-Jews their seven Noachide commandments. This is the point where the third reference to v’nishma comes in and assures us that ultimately—upon following the first two steps of v’nishma—a guaranteed third v’nishma will come to fruition. G-d’s word will spread to the entire world with the coming of Moshiach and the true and complete Redemption.

This is the underlying spiritual meaning of the third reference to v’nishma in the Book of Esther in the context of the king’s edict. According to our Sages, every reference to the word “king” in the Megilla can also be allegorically interpreted as a reference to G-d, the Supreme King of Kings. The Book of Esther, in thus describing the edict of the king, also alludes to G-d’s edict; it will ultimately be heard in all His kingdom, consonant with the verse: “G-d will be the King of the entire earth; on that day He will be one and His name will be one.”



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