Talmud Tips

For the week ending 21 July 2018 / 9 Av 5778

Zevachim 86 - 92

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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Clothes that Atone

Rabbi Einini bar Sasson said, “Why does the Torah write about bigdei kehuna (the kohen’s garments) adjacent to where the Torah writes about sacrifices? This is to teach you that just as sacrifices provide atonement, so too do bigdei kehuna provide atonement.”

Rashi here comments that the adjacency mentioned in this statement is found in the following verses of the Torah portion in Tzav (Vayikra 7:13): “This is the law for the burnt offering, for the meal offering, and for the sin offering, and for the guilt offering…. and for the peace offering.” Rashi explains that this is followed by a verse that commands Moshe about a different topic, in Vayikra 8:2: “Take Aaron and his sons with him, and the garments,” followed by naming the various kohen’s garments and with Moshe's putting them on Aharon the Kohen Gadol. (Commentaries point out that this same idea is taught in masechet Erchin 16a, with a slight variation in wording, and that Rashi cites different Torah sources there, based on verses in the Torah portion of Tetzave (chapters 28 and 29.)

Examples of how each of the kohen’s garments helps atone for specific transgressions are listed in our sugya. For example, the mitznefet, the hat, atones for the fundamental transgression of haughtiness. The Maharsha explains that just as a hat is worn on the top of the head, the place symbolic of the negative character trait haughtiness — a haughty person feels above the others, with his “nose in the air”. The Maharsha points out that wearing a head covering is conducive to having the awe of Heaven upon the wearer. This is the idea behind wearing a yarlmuka (which literally means “awe of the King” and is called kippah in Hebrew). We are taught (in Shabbat 156b) that the mother of Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak was careful that her son’s head was covered, even as a young child, so that the awe of Heaven would be over him.

  • Zevachim 88b

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