By Rabbi Label Lam
And these are the garments you shall make: A Breastplate, an Ephod, a
Robe, a Tunic of a box-like knit, a Turban, and a Sash. They shall make
these garments of sanctity for Aaron your brother and his sons to minister
to Me. (Shemos 28:3-4)
…And you shall make for them Headdresses of splendor and glory. (Shemos
And you shall make a Head-plate of pure gold and engrave upon it, engraved
like a signet ring, “Holy to HASHEM!” (Shemos 28:36)
These are the eight glorious garments to be worn by the Kohen Gadol, the
High Priest when performing the service in the Holy Temple. There is one
area of “clothing” that is conspicuously absent from the Kohen Gadol’s
wardrobe. Can you guess? You got it! Shoes! Why? Amongst all the elaborate
and decorative outerwear that adorns the Kohen Gadol, why do his feet remain
Let us hearken back to a slightly earlier time when Moshe was shepherding
the sheep of his father in-law, wandering in the desert, and he turned to
take note of the phenomenon of the burning bush. At that moment HASHEM spoke
to Moshe and demanded of him, “Take off your shoes from upon your feet
because the ground that you are standing upon is holy!” Why was he told to
remove his shoes? The Ramban answers, “because in places of holiness such as
the Temple, even Kohanim may not wear shoes!” That begs the question, “Why
are Kohanim, as Moshe at that moment, not to wear shoes?
In the Yalkut Shemoni there’s a dispute about the original stature of Adam
the First Man before he was diminished. One opinion says that at one time he
reached from the earth to the heavens. Another opinion states that he
stretched from one end of the world to the other end of the world, so that
when he would lie down his head was in the east and his feet were in the west.
What is meaning of the discussion? I once heard from a great person an
approach to this argument between the sages. It’s a debate about the nature
of mankind. People are curious and they love to travel to new and exotic
places. This is consistent with notion that the Talmud Sanhedrin states,
that the dust that was used to form Adam was gathered from all over the
world. Man has a connection to allover the planet. Therefore there exists in
the hearts of men this insatiable appetite for adventure- to move
horizontally about the world, even mentally, imaginatively wondering about
events in distant lands. This is a basic description of one dimension of
Then there is another type of man. He has no desire to budge from his place.
Maybe he wandered enough and came to understand, as the phrase says these
days, “been there- done that”. Such a person discovers the real limitless
adventure in life is not horizontal like the snake moves but vertical like
Yaakov’s ladder planted here on earth while ever striving for the heavens.
That is a different type of person altogether.
When Moshe discovered that “burning bush” his horizontal journeying ceased
and he became anchored to that place. When one removes their shoes it
expresses a commitment to remain here. This is where it is happening! This
is hallowed ground! Perhaps the same can be said for the Kohen. Shoes are
for travelers in sideways direction. A golden plate that declares, “Holy to
HASHEM” is for one whose head is reaching for the heavens.
I heard directly from the mouth of Rabbi Shimshon Pincus ztl that once while
on a flight from America to Israel the plane made a stopover for a brief
period in London. When the connecting flight was ready to continue, he was
deeply involved in Davening Mincha. In spite of all the announcements, “now
boarding…” , “last call for flight #...” he continued to remain steadfast
and focused on his prayers. As a result, he missed the flight. This created
a load of logistical problems for him to get another flight and then catch
up with his luggage. When asked why he allowed that to happen, he replied,
“I was talking to HASHEM! Why would I want to be anywhere else?
DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.