We learn that the priests have their garments when they come on duty on the Sabbath. The Mishmar (course) that is coming off duty will do the morning service and the oncoming Mishmar will do the afternoon service. The oncoming Mishmar must appear before the Sanhedrin first, however, before they can enter the service. The Sanhedrin will question each one to see if there were any ritual impurities among them. This was done person by person.
If everyone is ritually pure, a special feast was held. Then, they select the priests that will be serving on the first day (they will all serve for one week-Sabbath to Sabbath-2 Kings 11.7) Minchah (afternoon) service. There will be thirteen priests that will do this, and they go in and an attendant (a Levite) will help them get dressed in their priestly garments. They have their lockers and their garments. They start with thirteen at first, but eventually all the priests will need to be dressed, hundreds at one time. The garments would then be replaced as they were taken. These lockers would be in the chamber called Beit Avtinas, next to the Kior (laver), at the southeastern corner of the Azarah.
In the Mishkan, we always see the usual layout. The problem is, it won’t work. Josephus mentions a gate in the southeast corner of the Mishkan. So, if you look at a typical layout of the Mishkan, this gate would be at the southeast corner. Josephus says that the Kior was in this gate, and that is where it was placed in the Temple. So, there had to be a tent that was next to the Mishkan where they stored all the priestly garments, and they had to wash in the laver and have their garments on before they entered the courtyard. It is possible that they had tents in all four corners of the Mishkan, just like the four corner buildings in the Temple.
The high priest would have his garments in his chambers, which was called by three names. It is called Ha Etz (chamber of wood), Lishkat Palhedrin and Lishkat Parhedrin. This is also in Beit Avtinas at the southeast corner. When a priest was not on duty, they could wear their garments, except for the sash because it was wool and linen. They will stand in the Ezrat Kohanim.
Now, why can’t he wear the sash? Because there is a Torah command that says they were not to mix wool and linen. The only reason a priest can wear the sash when he is serving is because his priestly duty supersedes that command. He is in a different environment in the Temple and he is a picture of a glorified believer. The high priest wears garments of wool and linen because he is a picture of the perfect man. But, when he is not on duty, he cannot wear those particular items.
Whenever the Torah uses the word “Shesh” it is referring to flax (linen). Whenever the word “Techelet” is used it refers to wool, which is dyed sky blue. The term “Argamon” (purple) comes from the same murex shell from the creature called a “halozon.” It is wool dyed purple. Tolat Shanni (scarlet) is wool dyed with an insect called the “Tola” and it secretes a scarlet or crimson fluid. Whenever the Torah uses “Shesh” or “spun” it is necessary the strand be six-fold. Shesh, argamon, techelet and tolat shanni are six-ply threads, and six times four equals twenty-four.
When the Torah uses the term “a work of embroidery” it means that a design is woven into the fabric and can be seen on one side of the fabric. When it uses the term “a work of a craftsman” the intent is the design will be seen on both sides of the fabric (front and back).
The tunic of the priest was made with a box-like net. It had squares. The sleeves were sown on the tunic and made separately. The length of the tunic went to slightly above the heel (he is barefoot). The sleeve went to the wrist. The leggings extend from the loins to the thighs (knees). They had strands (suspenders) and they did not have an opening for the private parts. That means, every time a priest had to use the restroom they must take all these garments off, and the sash and the turban was very long. You had to be assisted and aware that these items had a kedusha. The turban was 25 feet long and the sash was three finger breadths. How much organization does it take to dress two thousand priests? How much room do you need? The sash was 51 feet long, twice as long as the turban. The priest would wrap it around himself, widening it slightly.
The Tzitz of the high priest (forehead plate) was two finger breadths wide and it extended over the forehead of the high priest, from one ear to the other. On it was written “Kodesh YHVH” written in Hebrew. It is said that “YHVH” was written, and below that “Kodesh” was written. At times they were written on one line, and it has been settled that it will be written on one line now. The letters projected outwards. A craftsman would engrave the letters on the back of the plate. It had holes on the two ends, and a techelet strand ran from hole to hole, and it tied at the back of the neck. What is interesting about all of this is that age old questions are being answered as they make these items and prepare for the coming Temple. What is controversial in the Mishnah or Mishneh Torah has now been settled in many areas, such as the color of argamon (purple) and how was Kodesh YHVH written on the tzitz.
The blue cloak (Me’il) was techelt wool, and its strands were twelve-fold (each thread) and it was like a “poncho.” It was joined at the throat. You couild not tear the opening or you would receive lashes (Exo 28.32). This applied to all priestly garments. We know that Caiaphas tore his garments, but he was in street clothes because he was not in the Temple courts (Matt 26.65).
Techelet, argamon and tolat shanni are spun eight-fold (8 x 3 = 24). They made pomegranates for the hem of this garment. They are made into shapes whose mouth are not open, and hung. He brings 72 cups and 72 clappers made of gold. From the cups and the clappers were hung were a series of bells and pomegranates suspended on the hem, 72 bells and 72 pomegranates.
The gold woven into the ephod and the breastplate is mentioned in the Torah. A strand of pure gold was taken and placed with six strands, making seven strands, for total of twenty-eight strands (7 x 4 = 28). The breastplate was woven from gold, techelet, argamon, shesh and tolat shanni. The only garment with gold in them was the ephod and breastplate of the high priest. The breastplate was 19.2 inches long and 9.6 inches wide, folded in two. This made it 9.6 inches square. Four rows of stones were fixed to it, square and set in gold. On these square stones were written the names of the twelve tribes, in their birth order.
Four gold rings were made for the four corners of the breastplate. The two upper rings held the breastplate and two cords were placed. In the two lower rings, two cords of techelet are placed. You will notice that these things are “cornered” alluding to the regathering of the exiles from the four corners of the earth.
The ephod is the width of the person’s back from shoulder to shoulder. Its length was from the elbow to his feet.. Two bands extended from it and fastened, called the “belt of the ephod.” The entire garment was woven with gold, techelet, argamon, tolat shanni and shesh, making 28 strands. Two shoulder straps will extend to the shoulder of the high priest. On each shoulder there was a square sardonyx (black) stone, set in gold. The names of the tribes were engraved, six names on one stone and six on the other, according to their birth order.
Joseph’s name was written with the Hebrew letters “yod, heh, vav, samech and a closing “peh” (“f” sound). This will give 25 letters on one stone and 25 on the other. This speaks of balance. The stone with Reuben’s name was placed on the right shoulder, and the stone with Shimon’s name was on the left shoulder, then Levi on the right, Judah on the left and on down. Isa 9.6 alludes to this. Two rings were on each shoulder, one above the shoulder and one below the shoulder above the belt. Two gold cords were placed in the two upper rings. He places the end of the cords of the breastplate in the upper rings that are on the shoulders of the ephod, and he he placed two cords of techelet on the hem of the breastplate into the rings that are above the belt of the ephod.
The gold cords that are in the rings on the shoulders of the ephod should descend until the reach the upper rings of the breastplate so that they will be joined to each other and not separate. When he wears the ephod together with the breastplate, the breastplate will be flat over his heart. The belt of the ephod is tied over his heart below the breastplate. The two shoulders of the ephod lie on his two shoulders. The two cords of gold extend down from his shoulders on either side from the shoulders of the ephod to the rings of the breastplate. The two strands of techelet are tied below his elbows from the two lower rings of the breastplate from the two lower rings of the breastplate of the two lower rings of the shoulders of the ephod which are above the belt.
What is the order for putting on these garments? He puts on the leggings first, tying them above his navel, then the sash at elbow height. He would wind it fold after fold until it ends, and then tied. The sash and where it can be placed is according to tradition (Ezek 44.18) and it is not to be in a place where one perspires (arm pit) but over the heart. Afterwards he would arrange the headpiece as a hat. There was a Levite to help him dress. The high priest puts on the leggings, sash, the cloak and then the ephod and breastplate. The belt of the ephod over the cloak, below the breastplate. The cloak was called the “cloak of the ephod.” Then he winds the headgear like a turban. He ties the head plate behind his head above the turban.
Now, all of this takes time and it takes help from others. You didn’t just put on a 52 foot sash by yourself. We know that you also needed room to do this. The priests would get up very early and take an underground stairway through a tunnel to go to a mikvah for an immersion (tevilah). There were toilets there and it had locks so you could have some privacy (like stalls). Once you get into these garments, which takes time, you had to take them off to use the toilet. So, you would need a Levite to help you take them off. You could not wear them outside of the area with a certain kedusha (Ezek 44.19). When the priest was done, he had to have a Levite help him get dressed again. What we are talking about is time, a lot of space, and organization.
If the high priest or any priest served with less garments on than what he was required to wear, his service was invalid and he was liable to the death penalty at the hands of God. A non-priest who drew near to the service of the Mikdash shall die. This applied to one who wore extra garments also. That means the story about the high priest who wore a rope into the Holy of Holies is false and spread by people who don’t know what they are talking about, and that story is still out there.
Nothing should intervene between his flesh and the garments. If it did, his service is declared invalid. This holds true for immersions, which were done in the nude. Nothing should come between the water and the flesh (no jewelry, rings) and the hair was loosed.
The Urim and Thummim was not used in the Second Temple because the Ruach was not vested there, and there was no Ark of the Covenant. Whenever a priest does not speak with the Ruach Ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit), and the Shk’inah does not rest there, inquiry was not made. Inquiry should not be made by an ordinary person when the Urim and Thummim was used. It is said that only a king, the court, or one who the community at large requires can inquire. This is derived from Num 27.21, “Before Eleazar the priest shall he stand…(he and all the children of Israel with him, and the entire congregation).” the “he” there refers to the king, “all the children of Israel” is the priest anointed for war, or someone whom the people need to make inquiry for them; and “all the congregation” refers to the court.
When inquiry was made, the high priest would face the Ark. The inquirer would ask “Should I go up to war or not?” He would ask in a low voice (not loud), like someone praying. The Ruach Ha Kodesh would come upon the high priest and he would get the answer through the Urim and Thummim. Then the high priest would give the answer. Two questions were not asked at one time If they were asked, one replies only to the first question. Of course, this was how this procedure was perceived to have happened.
In Part 35, we will pick up here with the consecration of the priest and the altar from Exo 29.1-46.