Clothing for the Priests

Exodus 39:2-43

This section begins with detailing, step-by-step, the creation of Aaron’s garments as High Priest. First the Ephod is made, then the breastplate, then the robe. Three verses quickly tell us about the four garments common to both the High Priest and the ordinary priests — the tunic, turban, breeches and sash — then the Torah returns to Aaron’s special garments with the preparation of the headplate.


With the priestly garments, the work on the Tabernacle is complete. The people bring all the pieces to Moses for inspection, and he deems it correctly made. He blesses the congregation for its work.


Following as it does upon the heels of the sin of the golden calf, it was vitally important that the Children of Israel complete the Tabernacle exactly as instructed. As the Israel Bible points out, this demonstrates they have learned that serving God is meant to be done precisely as commanded, and not in accordance with their own interpretations. Moses is overjoyed to see the people have learned their lesson and is moved to bless them.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

As we were initially told in the portion of Tetzaveh, the High Priest’s robe is to be hemmed with pomegranates and bells so that he makes a sound when he enters and leaves the “holy place” and thereby “that he die not”. Why do you think he needs to make a sound as he comes and goes?

Comments ( 12 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bible™.

  • Thank you all again, these are mind blowing reasons, I love them all particulary SueJean's and Shira's. May Yahweh continually bless this midrash forum

  • Here are three ways that different commentators explain the reason for the bells on the bottom of the High Priest’s garments:
    1. The 13th century Rabbi known as Chizkuni wrote that the bells alerted the people that the High Priest was entering the Temple to perform the holy service. This would allow them to pause and hold on to the moment of holiness.
    2. Nachmanides explains that the bells announced the presence of the High Priest before entering God’s inner domain, much like one knocks on a door before entering someone’s house. This teaches that being sensitive to others is fundamental to the Torah.
    3. Rabbi Yaakov Zvi Mecklenburg, in his work K’tav v’hakaballah, wrote that the bells remind that High Priest that he is in God’s presence. In that way he would not get caught up in the grandeur of his position and his clothing.

    • Thank you for sharing that. I had never heard these things about the bells on the priestly garments until now.

  • Kenneth Osterman

    All the actions and intentions of the High Priest are known of the Lord for he reads the heart of his servants. But the special activities of the High Priest within Holy and Most Holy are hidden from sight from the under priests and Levites and those who serve nearby but outside. Perhaps the bells alert those outside that the High Priest is active in special Holy services. Though all should be holy in thought and deed in all that one does regardless of position, there are times when special protocol requires a depth of awareness and attitude of quiet listening. This depth of awareness and listening is also heightened during the times of the 7 feasts.

    • I like this thought as I considered the people waiting outside of the Tabernacle focusing all of their attention to the sound of the bells as the High Priest moved about doing what was required of him but hidden from the sight of the others.
      Too often, we rest our eyes on things in front of us, but our minds are drifting about thinking of other things. When we have to really listen, it takes great effort to put all of our attention to that function and we must shut out or push away every other sense.
      When we consider this with the Shema – “Hear O Y’srael” which goes far beyond the simple act of hearing to the act of listening with the intent to act or obey, I see the bells in a new way.
      They would help to keep my attention focused on what was happening right in front of me mainly because I knew that if the High Priest somehow failed to carry out his duties properly, he would die and the sound of the bells would cease. Crude, I know, but sometimes, it’s stuff like this that works with people.

      • As I considered this matter further, I loosed my imagination and saw myself standing in front of the Tabernacle watching the High Priest preparing to enter the Holy Place. I tuned my ears to hear the quiet tinkling of the bells.
        I know all the steps that the High Priest will take because these steps are repeated every day and through the sound of the bells, I’m invited to walk along with the High Priest. It’s the only way that I can come inside the Holy Place, but it is enough.
        As the Priest pauses to complete each task, the bells are quiet for a moment and I hold my breath as I wait for the sound to continue. Every part of me strains to hear and my attention is completely focused for that sound.
        When the quiet tinkles start again, I catch a small breath and listen till the time that the High Priest comes once again into sight and I give thanks that Elohim has given us another day to serve Him.

        • Very descriptive! We pray for the time that we can all lay eyes on the Temple in Jerusalem and the service of the priests will be renewed within it.

        • The bells do seem to cause a yearning to Shema and take time upon the hearing to experience even a small part of the holiness that is found being present in the Holy Place.

  • Sherry

    I had been told in Bible study of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, the Priests wore the bells, and a rope tied to their ankle as they entered the Holy of Holies. Another Priest would listen for the sound of the bells. If there was an extendend period of silence it meant the Priest had sinned and was struck dead. He was pulled out by the rope since no one could go into the Holy of Holies to remove the body. I may be way off on this but that is what I was taught

    • Hi Sherry … I have been taught the same. Although I do wonder why G-d ordered the bells to adorn the robes. I don’t see Him doing it for this purpose without specifying it for that reason. I think it was a side benefit, if you will, that man discovered from it’s implementation.

  • The sages taught that this was a lesson in simple decency. When entering someone else’s space, we are to announce our presence. This is usually done by knocking on the door. (One should even knock on their own front door to give warning to the people inside that they are about to enter). The High Priest, in his high spiritual role, is teaching a simple lesson through his clothing. And since the High Priest abides by this form of etiquette, perhaps we can learn that no one is above it

  • Diana Brown

    I went to this site and learned some important teachings I didn’t know.
    However, to answer your question from my understanding … SOUND is important in the service of the Tabernacle. I believe the bells announced the Presence of the Lord as the shofar announced news to the nation. The Pomegranates symbolized the covenant connection between God and Israel, His Beloved. Could I be processing this correctly?

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