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    The garb of leadership – T’tzavveh

    Depiction of the kohen gadol wearing his priestly garments

    Depiction of the kohen gadol wearing his priestly garments

    One of the priestly accoutrements was the ephod, which Rashi says was like an apron.

    Others think it was a kind of tunic fastened by shoulder straps.

    The crucial thing was that the ephod and the accompanying garments marked out the kohen gadol from the rest of the people. The high priest had to look different, as a symbol of his special role and status.

    The histories of Jewish costume by Alfred Rubens and others show how special garb was always associated with different kinds of spiritual leadership.

    These days there are fewer rabbis than before who believe in rabbinic robes – the Sephardi chief rabbis of Israel being an exception to the “mufti” tendency. Personally I see a purpose in rabbinic robes, even though most of my colleagues seem to disagree with me.

    Whatever one’s view on that issue, it must be pointed out that there is a rabbinic rule that no-one holding an official position should dress in untidy, unclean, scruffy fashion.

    When people look at the leader, he or she must at all times exemplify the rules in Psalm 19 about God’s Torah looking pure and unsullied.

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