As we leave the family story behind and the story of the exodus from Egypt the Torah begins to delve into descriptions of the Mishkan. Parshat Tetzaveh is exclusively about Aaron, who acts as the high priest, and the clothing he is to wear, which is described in great detail in the parsha. This Parsha brings up all sorts of questions about clothing and makes me wonder about how uniforms that we wear change us outwardly into a different character? That will be a different post, but in this poem I want to think about how Aaron's clothing separates him from others and puts him into a position not only of unique responsibility, but also great vulnerability because God is very strict about adherence to the detailed laws of sacrifice.
I try here to imagine not Aaron's pride in his position, but in the absolute terror of being responsible for the sacrifice. I have focused in specifically on the breastplate that Aaron was instructed to wear over his heart. The breastplate, fashioned of gold and semi precious stones, represented each of the twelve tribes.
You wear history over your heart
Twelve jewels chosen carefully
Twelve burning memories
Rights and wrongs
Creation and destruction
Revelation and redemption
Wanderings and returns
Beginnings and endings
Life and death
Our past and future
Smelted in gold
weighs on your chest
Stand up straight
despite the weight of the twelve.
You are bejeweled, adorned,
a sight to behold
You are different from the rest
your shoulders pulled back
to balance the weight over your heart
This breastplate elevates you, burdens you
You are Hamavdil, the divider
You, a mere human,
stand between heaven and earth
a conveyer of fragrant smoke
Feel that separation
feel the awesome power
close to your heart
Aaron, you are an older brother
a son, a husband, a father
You are human.
You surely feel fear You tremble as you don your robes
multilayered and tasseled
Your fingers are icy
as you fasten the heavy breastplate
honoring you, burdening you
setting you apart
You are a holy representative
Are you afraid of missteps?
Do you tremble
under the weight of your clothing
which God designed?
The weight of the past is upon you
You carry the burden of sacrifice
The power of God inspires awe
The power of God elicits fear
You carry it on your chest.
Do you fear the future of you and your children?
Your heart, beating wildly, echoes in your ears
Even so, you step forward
Carrying the weight of God on your chest
וְנָשָׂ֣א אַ֠הֲרֹן אֶת־שְׁמ֨וֹת בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֜ל בְּחֹ֧שֶׁן הַמִּשְׁפָּ֛ט עַל־לִבּ֖וֹ בְּבֹא֣וֹ אֶל־הַקֹּ֑דֶשׁ לְזִכָּרֹ֥ןלִפְנֵֽי־יְהוָ֖ה תָּמִֽיד׃
Aaron shall carry the names of the sons of Israel on the breast piece of decision over his heart, when he enters the sanctuary, for remembrance before the LORD at
Exodus 28:29 Translation from Sefaria