The Number One Quality of the Temple Priests

Photo courtesy of the The Temple Institute


The Torah Portion of Tezaveh describes the duties of the priests in the times of the Temple. The Torah’s emphasizes on the quality of humility encouraging it’s readers to strive to emulate the priests.

Much is learned about the priest’s importance in the nation’s role of serving God, yet they have a constant requirement to remain humble in their service. While a priest may get caught up in the idea of working in the Temple and being a representative of God’s work, he must remember that he is not the one being served – he is the priest, the server.

Rabbi Yeshayahu Leibowitz explains, that no place in Bible does it state that Moses was wiser than any man, nor does it say that he was more righteous than any man, nor does it say that he was mightier than any man, even though we can deduce from events that he was wise, with the greatest comprehension of any man and that he was righteous and mighty.

But the Bible finds it proper to stress only one thing: that Moses was more humble than any other man . . . Humility without any doubt, is a high level of human perfection. Human nature is such that each person considers himself to be great and important—if not consciously, at least subconsciously.

In other words, it is not natural for a person to be humble. To be humble, is to strive for the one of the highest levels of “human perfection.” Pridefulness too often becomes a stumbling block in the pursuit of power. Learning to become humble allows one to internalize the discipline of self-contraction, and in so doing, makes space for the wisdom and inspiration of others.

The Kohen Gadol, the high priest, is called gadol – great – because he is superior to the other priests in five areas: wisdom, strength, beauty, wealth, and age. The high priest had extraordinary attributes, and was also dressed in costly and elaborate clothing, bedecked with precious gems, as well a golden crown with God’s Name upon it.

He could easily have become arrogant and thought himself superior to others, but his tendency to arrogance was kept in check by the commandment that priests not wear shoes. Going barefoot was a sign of humility, and the contact of bear feet with the cold stone floor of the Temple serves as a reminder that one day, the body would return to the cold ground from whence it came.

Shoes wear out; while one’s feet carry a person for an entire lifetime – and we too, must endeavor never to become “worn out” and lackadaisical in our service of God, but instead retain a freshness and vitality in our spiritual lives.

A proud person forgets that every step he takes is dependant upon the Almighty giving him the strength to do so. This is the role of the priest: to teach the Bible, bless the people, and guide them back to the Al-mighty when they stray.”

This excerpt was from Torah Novel Thoughts (TNT). To purchase TNT: Torah Novel Thoughts, click here.


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