> Weekly Torah Portion > Beginner > Brainstorming with Baars


Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20-30:10 )

by Rabbi Stephen Baars

In Jewish life, there are two things that wear bells: Daisy the cow and the High Priest (the Cohen Godol). The Torah describes lots of bells sown around the base of one of the High Preist's garments (Exodus 28:33).

Most would consider that alone to be strange enough, but this week's Torah portion instructs us that the High Priest's garments were designed specifically to exhibit "Honor and beauty." (ibid 28:2)

Being British, it's hard for me to imagine the Queen of England opening Parliament wearing a bell.

So why the bells and what does this have to do with honor? The solution to this riddle is found in understanding honor. For many, obtaining honor is somewhat of an enigma.

You have probably encountered the person who thinks he is entitled to more honor than perhaps he deserves. These people demand that their name be pronounced properly at all times, that they get a seat commensurate with their "station" in life, and other conspicuously little (and some not so little) details.

Our Sages tell us "He who chases honor will have honor flee from him." In other words, the more we demand respect, the less we get it.

Honor comes from respecting others. As Ben Zoma (Perkey Avot 4:1) explains, "Who is the one to be honored, the one who honors others." So what do clothes of honor look like?


As our Sages explain, so that the High Priest would never walk in on someone unexpectedly and potentially make him feel uncomfortable, he would wear bells to alert him of his presence in advance. In fact, our Sages explain that even a person in his own home should knock before entering a room, to respect everyone else.

The more we value, respect and honor others, the more honor returns to us.

That is true honor, bell or no bell.

* * *


Question 1: Have a family debate, who is the most honorable person you have ever met?

Question 2: Who is the most honorable person in the world today? In history?

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