In Parshas Bereishis it is written, "And Elokim made for Odom and his wife
leather tunics and He clothed them." Chazal reveal to us that the making of these
garments had a very profound significance.
In Midrash Achbir it is written: "This teaches that Hashem made priestly
garments for Odom. This is derived from a similar mention of clothing, "And lo, the
man was clothed in [linen] garments [referring to an angel]," and "A holy tunic of
linen shall he [the Kohen] wear." From the parallel wording, we learn that the
Kohen godol is likened to an angel, for he is verily a messenger, an emissary
like an angel, of the L-rd of Hosts.
"To what can this be compared? To a king who saw a simple peasant and garbed him like
a prince. Said the members of the royal family, "Even though he is a provincial
fellow, he still looks like us." Thus did the angels say before Hashem, "Even though
man is fashioned from earth, nevertheless he is like us -- For lo, man has become
like one of us."
Odom Horishon wore priestly garments which exalted him to appear like angels. Of
Aharon, the Midrash says: "Hashem showed honor to Aharon by clothing him in
priestly garments to resemble the angels."
Why did Odom need priestly garments? And how did they cause him -- and the Kohen
godol -- to resemble the angels?
Midrash Rabba brings thoughts that are similar in content but different in
style. It says (Bamidbor 4): "These were Shabbos clothes, and the firstborn
used to wear them. These same garments the firstborn will wear in the distant future
in their sanctified G-dly service. These were garments that Hashem personally
prepared and with which He clothed Odom Horishon. Their uniqueness was that they were
What does this mean? Does Shabbos clothing have an added uniqueness besides their
being clean and distinguished? What significance lies in the fact that because the
priestly garments were "Shabbos garments," they were especially suited for the
priestly service of the firstborn?
In Parshas Bereishis (at the end of the ninth essay), the Baal Hoakeida
teaches us the profound purpose of these clothes. "After Odom was smitten with
madness and blindness, and was fated to stumble in darkness, as were all succeeding
generations, the Creator wished to radiate the "sun of kindness and healing" which
would illuminate mankind's eyes to remove from them the shame of their nakedness.
Hashem fashioned leather garments for Odom and Chava and clothed them thereby. The
significance of this is that just as clothing suits and enhances the body, so does
the light of Torah, and its commandments, including its warnings, are like a sheath
for their eyes, a tikkun for what the serpent confounded, and a measure of
restoration of that special sense of instinctively knowing good from bad. How goodly
and pleasant is the teaching of R' Meir who wrote "tunics of light," with the Hebrew
homonyzing "leather" and "light" -- ohr [spelled with an alef and/or
ayin]. This parallels the verse that "a commandment is a candle and Torah is
light." And the word "garbed" here would correspond to "Then the spirit 'came upon'
[was clothed upon] Amosai..." (Divrei Hayomim I 12:19).
When Odom sinned, he strengthened the potency of materialism and empowered it to
deceive the intellect, which then became more susceptible to enticement. Chazal say
that when Hashem asked Odom, "Was it from the tree which I commanded you not to eat
thereof -- that you did eat?" Odom replied, "I ate, and I shall eat more."
This answer seems exceedingly brazen, but the masters of Mussar explain that this was
not said as a reply to the question but, rather as a complaint, a plaintive fact. "I
ate, and [I am afraid that] I will eat more. That is the situation: I have become
exposed and vulnerable to the danger of backsliding and sinning repeatedly. What can
I do? That is my fate now."
But "Hashem is good and straightforward; therefore will He guide the sinners on the
path." Hashem in His goodness restored to man the power to surmount temptation and
repulse the beckoning of physicality. This is through the medium of clothing which
restore the discerning power of good-bad to its former potency.
The tunics of leather shall also become tunics of light. Donning that raiment is like
the spirit which "clothed Amosai." He was girded and sheathed with a spirit of
courage. Modesty, which characterizes the wearing of clothing, girds a person, as it
were, with courage -- the courage to withstand mortal temptations, for "Who is a
mighty one? One who conquers his drives."
When Chazal compare the raiment of Odom to the priestly garments, they mean to say
that the priestly attire also possessed this special power -- to purify and sanctify
the Kohen who wore them. "They are holy garments."
And it was in this sense that Odom resembled a Kohen and an angel by virtue of
his clothing, for they left an impression upon his heart and infused him with
strength to overcome his desires, just like an angel is purified from all matter and
The Midrash also says that the reward for modest behavior is sons who become
kohanim gedolim and wear the priestly garments. It comments on the verse, "Her
clothing is inwrought with gold." This refers to Aharon, for whom it is written, "And
you shall make inlaid gold." Every maiden who conducts herself modestly, even if she
is a Yisroelis [and not from priestly lineage], is worthy of marrying a
Kohen godol and producing offspring who become kohanim gedolim, as it is
written, "Her clothing is inwrought with gold."
This is measure for measure. As the reward for modesty, one merits priestly garments
which invest humility and holiness upon the priest who wears them.
The Sfas Emes explains along these lines a verse appearing in our week's
portion, "And they shall be on the heart of Aharon." The priestly garments left a
permanent mark upon the heart of the Kohen which enabled him to control his
will. "The priestly garments were a tikkun for the limbs of the body, for
certainly, Aharon, the chosen of Hashem, harnessed all of his organs to subservience
to Hashem, like an angel, as it says, "For he is an angel of the L-rd of Hosts." "And
they shall be on Aharon's heart" parallels the verse, "Place them like a seal upon
your heart." The aura of the garments left a lasting impression upon the body of that
tzaddik, as it is written, "And these words shall be upon your heart," and "You
shall place them upon your heart." " 'On' denotes that they will control all the
desires of the heart, nor will forgetfulness have any hold over this one."
This, then, is the purpose of the priestly garments: "Put me like a seal upon Your