Four vestments were worn by an ordinary Cohen, and eight by the Cohen Gadol. The Torah delineates with detailed precision the dress appropriate for Hashem’s ministers. This was not optional; the divine service had to be performed whilst being accurately garbed. If the Cohen failed to don even one of his vestments, not only did he invalidate his ministration, but he was liable to die.
“It shall be on Aaron when he performs the service, and his sound shall be heard when he enters the Sanctuary before the Lord and when he leaves, so that he will not die.” (Shemos 28:35)
The Torah chooses to inform us of this concept of being properly attired, in context of the Robe. Considering that this rule is not limited to the Robe but it is applicable to any of the garments, why from all of the eight that the Cohen Godol wore, is the Robe selected to teach us this principle? What do we learn from this juxtaposition?
The bottom hem of the Robe was adorned with bells; each of these golden bells, of which there were seventy two in total, had a small golden gong. These seventy two gongs would clap on the seventy two bells at every movement of the Cohen Godol. Each additional step taken, was accompanied with additional clanging. Why all the noise?
It is unbecoming to barge into one’s own home, all the more so it is improper to enter someone else’s home unannounced. The Cohen Godol’s arrival would be no different. The accompanying noise helped publicize his ingress and egress into and out of the Mishkan.
Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai informs us that Hashem hates one who enters his own house suddenly. (Nidah 16b)
This behavioral etiquette is derived from the bells on the Cohen Gadol’s Robe. The underlying reason why he had bells, as the Torah records is so that “his sound shall be heard when he enters the Sanctuary”
When Rabbi Yochanan would visit Rabbi Chanina, he would breathe heavily to make them aware of his presence, in concordance with the verse of ‘his sound shall be heard’.”(Vayikra Rabbah 28:3)
This is a matter of protocol. There is chartered course how one is to set foot into his or her own home. Common decency presents a method of how to make an entrance. One does not arrive unannounced, it is not right to just walk in. It is proper to communicate to the people inside one’s intention to access.
This concept of a defined decorum and a code of propriety, determines the etiquette of the Cohanim’s clothing. There is a similarly defined protocol of how to dress when performing ministry service within the Mishkan. Not only is a priest restricted from designing and wearing his own apparel, he is punished for service performed when omitting any of the prescribed clothes. The four vestments for the ordinary Cohen and eight for the Cohen Godol, were determined by the Almighty as the appropriate and respectable manner for His divine servitude. This is the precise ceremonial format in which to do the Avodah.
It is now self explanatory why the Torah informs us the severity of improper garb, in context of the Robe. Moreover it is the very same verse that instructs in the fashioning of the bells. Of course they are juxtaposed. Both are communicating to us how to best employ the correct formal approach for interaction with the Holy one.
Rabbi Chananya Ben Chachinai was a guest at the wedding of Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai. As the celebration was winding down Rabbi Chananya said “I will now be on my way to the Yeshiva”.
“Wait for me” cried the bridegroom Rabbi Shimon “until I am able to join you”. Rabbi Shimon was hoping to delay Rabbi Chananya one week, until the end of his Sheva Berochos.
Rabbi Chananya said “I cannot wait” and proceeded immediately to the Yeshiva. It was there that he spent the next twelve years studying.
By the time he returned home after twelve years the streets of the town had been altered. Rabbi Chananya Ben Chachinai was unable to find the route to his own home. He went down to the river bank and whilst sitting down he heard a girl being addressed: “Daughter of Chachinai, daughter of Chachinai, fill up your pitcher already so we can leave”. It is obvious, he thought, that the girl is from our family, and he followed her.
When they reached the house his wife was sitting and sifting flour. Rabbi Chananya failed to prepare his spouse of his imminent return. His wife lifted her eyes and saw beheld her husband. She died, overcome with shock.
“Master of the universe” Rabbi Chananya prayed “this poor soul who waited so many years for her husband, is this her reward?”
His prayers for mercy were accepted and she revived.