כ״א בכסלו ה׳תשע״א (November 28, 2010)

Zevahim 18a-b – Keeping stylish in Temple attire

We learned on yesterday’s daf (=page) that kohanim are required to wear special garments – bigdei kehunah – when they perform the Temple service. The Gemara on today’s daf continues the discussion of proper attire in the Temple.

 

The Gemara quotes a baraita that teaches that although the bigdei kehunah are supposed to be fit properly for each individual kohen, nevertheless the Temple service is still valid if the garments were a little bit long and touched the floor, or if they were a little bit short and raised a bit from the floor, or for that matter, if they were a little bit worn out. (The Gemara also quotes the opinion of Rav, which is accepted as the halakhah, that if they are too short the service is invalid, but if they were too long and the kohen shortened them by means of the belt on his uniform, then it would be valid.) If, however, they were dirty or torn, then the service that was performed is invalid.

 

Rashi explains that the fact that torn bigdei kehunah invalidate the service is true even if they are brand new, since they do not serve the purpose of le-khavod u’le-tiferet – for honor and splendor (see Shemot 28:2) – they cannot serve as priestly garments. From the Rambam‘s Sefer HaMitzvot, however, it appears that the prohibition against wearing torn clothing during the Temple service stems from the commandment given to Aharon and his sons after the death of Nadav and Avihu (see Vayikra 10:6), where they were told to continue their work in the bet ha-mikdash and that they should not tear their clothing as mourners ordinarily do. The Ramban argues that this cannot be the source, since it was a one-time commandment made to the in a specific situation, which cannot be applied to others. The Ramban himself suggests that the problem with torn clothing is simply that it would not cover the entire body of the kohen, which is one of the basic requirements of the bigdei kehunah.