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(5742) Explanation of Rashi (Lev.16:4): "He shall wear a… linen shirt…" Difference between Rashi and Rambam (Hil Kli Hamikdash 8:1) regarding the white garments.


Why does the Torah specify only four garments when the High Priest usually wore eight garments? (v. 4)

RASHI: Scripture is telling us that (the High Priest) does not perform the "inner service" (i.e. service connected With the Holy of Holies) wearing the eight priestly garments with which he performs the "outer service." For (the eight garments) contain gold (which is reminiscent of the sin of the Golden Calf; so the gold which was the) "prosecuting attorney" (of the Jewish people) cannot become a "defense attorney" (To atone for them).

Rather he wears four garments, like an ordinary priest. They are all made of linen

Rambam: There are three types of priestly garments: The garments of an ordinary priest, the golden garments, and the white garments.... The golden garments are the garments of the High Priest. . The white garments are used by the High priest when he serves on Yom Kippur (Laws of Temple Apparatus 8:1-3).

All the daily communal offerings and festival offerings are offered by the High Priest while he wears the golden garments. The services which are unique to this day (Yom Kippur), namely The High Priest's bull, the two goats (one of which is the scapegoat), offering the incense in The Holy of Holies—alI these procedures are carried out in the white garments (See Laws of the Service of Yom Kippur 2:1)


Rashi's comment to verse 4 presents us with the following difficulties:

  1. What is troubling Rashi? At first glance, verse 4 appears to be quite straightforward; The Torah requires the priest to wear a particular set of garments when serving on Yom Kippur. Since Yom Kippur is a unique day—as the Torah stresses below, that it is "once a year" (v 34) it is quite logical that this special day might require its own set of garments. Why did Rashi find this problematic, at the literal level?
  2. Rashi writes that the golden garments were not by the High Priest for the “inner service” of Yom Kippur because gold is reminiscent the Golden Calf and that "the prosecuting attorney cannot become a defense attorney" to atone for the Jewish people.

But if gold indeed has negative connotations, how can the High Priest wear the golden garments at all when carrying out the services of Yom Kippur? Rashi himself writes that the High priest wears golden garments when performing the "outer service," which consists of offerings specifically associated with the Day of Atonement, and yet we are told that gold is a total anathema, as far as atonement is concerned!

  1. Rashi writes a negative reason why the priest does not wear only golden garments (because they are reminiscent of the Golden Calf). This suggests that, in the High Priest should really be wearing all his garments —which are made "For honor and for splendor (Shmot 28:2) - but since it is Yom Kippur he is deprived from wearing his golden garments, which are inappropriate for this day.

This however leaves us with the question: How could we allow the 'honor and splendor" of the High Priest to be compromised? The requirement to wear all of priestly garments is so serious that a priest who is missing just one is liable for death penalty (Rashi ibid v.33). So it seems unreasonable that such an important Mitzvah is compromised merely because gold has negative connotations?

Why did Rashi reject the more straightforward interpretation of Rambam that the white garments of Yom Kippur are not a compromised version of the High Priests' regular garments but rather, a different type of priestly garment altogether (as he stresses, "There are three types of priestly garments....")? For according to Rashi's negative approach we are left with the above question: How could the High priest be "lacking garments" on Yom Kippur?


On reaching verse 4, Rashi was troubled by the following question: Why did the Torah choose to teach us about the garments of Yom Kippur here, in the middle of a passage dealing with the special sacrifices of the day? Surely the dress requirements of the High priest should have been recorded either before the details of the day’s offerings (before verse 3), or afterwards (i.e. after verse 22). Why does the Torah begin to tell us that Aharon must bring “a young bull for a sin-offering and a ram a burnt-offering" (v.3), and then interrupt to tell us, "He must wear a linen tunic etc." (v.4), and then revert back to the subject of sacrifices in the following verse: “He shall take from the community of the children of Israel: two male goats as a sin-offering, and one ram as a burnt-offering"?

Clearly, concluded Rashi, the Torah wishes to indicate that the content of verses 3 and 4 is strongly connected, such that having read verse 3 (that Aharon should bring "a young bull for a sin-offering and a ram for a burnt-offering") we must immediately he told what Aharon must wear. Apparently, the Torah wishes to tell us that Aharon must wear these four white linen garments when offering the young bull and ram.

However, on reading the following verses it becomes apparent that this could not possibly be the Torah's intention. For after completing the services associated with the young bull, we read that Aharon must "put on his (golden priestly) garments," before "he should go and offer his burnt-offering (ram)" (v. 24), i.e. the Torah states explicitly that Aharon does not wear his white linen garments when offering the ram.

So Rashi wondered: What is the Torah suggesting by placing verses 3 and 4 together?

Rashi concluded that the Torah wished to connect the beginning of Verse 3 with verse 4:

“Aharon should enter the Holy (of Holies only Yom Kippur). . . He should wear a linen tunic . . . “, i.e. that the linen garments worn by the High Priest are associated,

not with the day of Yom Kippur in general, but rather, with the entrance into the Holy of Holies in particular. And while the entire day of Yom Kippur is associated with the atonement of the Jewish people, the fact that the Torah begins this passage with the words, “Aharon should enter the Holy of Holies only on Yom Kippur) . . ." suggests that the primary atonement is achieved through the entry into the Holy of Holies in particular. Therefore the High Priest "does not perform the "inner service" wearing the eight priestly garments . . . which contain gold, for the ‘prosecuting attorney’ (of the Jewish people) cannot become a ‘defense attorney.’"

Nevertheless, he may perform the “outer service" in the golden garments, for this involves sacrifices which are not directly connected with any service in the Holy of Holies, and thus they do not bring about the primary atonement of the day*

(In this respect, Rashi's interpretation is superior to that of Rambam. For according to Rambam's view that the white garments are for "services which are unique to this day” we are left with the question: Why are the two ram burnt-offerings not offered in white garments, since they are offerings that are indeed unique to Yom Kippur (see v 3,5,24)? According to Rashi however, this does not pose a problem at all, as Rashi's view is that the linen garments are worn for services specifically connected with the Holy of Holies, which clearly excluded the rams whose service is completed entirely “outside”).

However, according to Rashi's interpretation we are still left with the question: How could the High Priest be "lacking garments" on Yom Kippur?

To address this problem, Rashi continues: “He wears four garments, like an ordinary priest. They are all made of linen." At first glance, this statement appears to be totally superfluous, for the reader can count for himself that four garments are listed here and the Torah states explicitly that they are made of linen. Furthermore, since the services of Yom Kippur may only be carried out by the High Priest, it appears improper to state that he is "like an ordinary priest"!

In truth, however, with these words Rashi wishes to inform the reader that the High Priest has not compromised four of his eight garments, but rather, that the correct attire for the High priest when entering the Holy of Holies is that of an ordinary priest. Proof for this point is that "they are all made of linen.” For if the High Priest was merely wearing four of his eight garments, then he would not be wearing only linen, since the High Priest's sash was made of “fine linen twisted with turquoise, purple, and crimson wool” (Shmot 39:29). Thus, the fact that he is wearing only linen proves that he is not wearing a partial set of High priest’s garments, but rather, a full set of ordinary priest's garments, for (at the literal level **) Rashi was of the opinion that an ordinary priest wears a pure linen sash.


Rashi was of the opinion that;

  1. The white garments of the High Priest are associated with the location of the service performed while wearing them—the Holy of Holies.
  2. Thus gold garments are not worn since, they have negative connotations for the service in this special location

Rambam was of the opinion that:

  1. The white garments of the High Priest are associated with the time of the service performed while wearing them—Yom Kippur.
  2. The gold garments have no negative connotations. The white garments are worn for positive reasons - because they are the appropriate priestly garments for this day.

* It still remains to be clarified why the service of the scapegoat is carried out in white garments, since its blood not sprinkled inside the Holy of Holies. Perhaps the two goats are in fact considered to be one single sacrifice (as suggested by the verse, “He should take... two male goats as a sin-offering – v.5), and thus the blood of the goat "for G-d" which is sprinkled in the Holy of Holies achieves atonement on behalf of both goats. In fact, this connection would seem to be supported by the law stated in the Talmud (Yoma 40b), that the scapegoat must be kept alive until the blood of its fellow goat has been sprinkled. However, Rashi does not cite this law in his commentary to the Torah and it appears to be incompatible with Rashi's commentary, since the Talmud derives the law from scriptural redundancy (in v. 10) which Rashi interprets differently.

**Shemos 39: 27-28 describes the linen tunics, turbans and pants of Aharon and his Sons, whereas Verse 29 describes a single sash, suggesting that only Aharon's sash was made of "fine linen twisted with turquoise, purple, and crimson wool." Thus it follows that, at the literal level, the ordinary priest's sash was made of plain linen, like his other garments. For differing views on this matter in Jewish law see Yoma 6a; Rambam, laws of Temple Apparatus 8:1.

(From Gutnik Chumash. Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. 22, p. 89ff)





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