י״ז בשבט ה׳תשע״ד (January 18, 2014)

Yoma 71a-b: And This is How They Dressed

The Mishna on our daf teaches about the bigdei kehuna – the special clothing worn by the kohanim and the . The kohen gadol wears eight special garments, of which four of them were the standard attire of a regular kohen. The bigdei kehuna included:

Kohen:
kutonet (tunic)
mikhnasayim (pants)
mitznefet (mitre)
avnet (belt);

Kohen gadol:
hoshen (breastplate)
ephod
me’il (robe)
tzitz (frontplate).

With regard to the mitznefet we find a disagreement among the commentaries. According to the Rambam, both the regular kohen and the kohen gadol wore the same type of head covering, which was made of a long strip of fabric 16 amot (cubits) long. The difference between them was in the way in which it was wrapped, with the kohen making it into a tall turban and the kohen gadol would wrap it around his head and beard. The Ra’avad understands that only the kohen gadol wore a mitznefet, while the regular kohanim wore tall, thin hats.

The Gemara derives from passages in Shmot 39 that the basic material used in the fabric for the bigdei kehuna was linen, derived from flax – Linum usitatissimum. It is an erect annual plant growing between 30 and 100 cm tall, with slender stems. The flowers are pure pale blue, 1.5-2.5 cm diameter, with five petals. The fruit is a round, dry capsule from which oils are derived. Flax is one of the oldest cultivated crops on record; its growth is mentioned in ancient Egypt. Today it is cultivated mainly in tropical areas.

The main product of flax is the fibers from which linen is made. Flax fiber is extracted from the bast or skin of the stem of flax plant. Flax fiber is soft, lustrous and flexible. It is stronger than cotton fiber but less elastic. It is removed via a lengthy process whereby the plant is dried out and then soaked until almost rotten. At that point they are once again dried out and the fibers combed out.

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