The theme of this week is “noise.”
We all strive for inner peace and tranquility. When we are productive and feel good about ourselves it is easier; when we mess up it is more difficult as regrets create a resounding static within. Between the lines of the recent Torah passages appears an interesting dialogue about these two states of being.
It is one of the most pivotal, though oft overlooked, scenes wherein the High Priest- the Kohen Gadol– dressed in his eight specific garments, enters into the Holy place in the Temple. Each of these garments was crucial and had a special power in achieving atonement.
Here, we will examine one garment-the robe- and its broader significance. When describing the robe, the Torah relates the following: “And on its bottom hem you shall make pomegranate [shaped balls] …all around, and golden bells betocham…It shall be on Aaron when he performs the service, and its sound shall be heard when he enters the Holy place before the Lord…so that he will not die. (Exodus 28;33)”
There is an interesting detail in the instruction of the last verses stressing the importance of the bells on the hem, that “its sound shall be heard when he enters the Holy place.” The obvious question here is: what is so important about the jingling of the bells? How does this relate to the service and purpose of the High Priest?
The simple reason given is that he should not enter such a holy site unannounced. The jingling bells served as a means of asking permission to enter “the king’s chamber.” A more profound explanation relates to the overall function of the High Priest, as a messenger from the Jewish people to G-d, and the symbolism of the bells and pomegranates.
When one is satisfied with his/her standing there is no inner-noise. The soul is calm. But the spiritual struggle of one who is attempting to change- to leave behind sins, self destructive habits, or shortcoming and to become motivated to perform better, creates noise.
[This idea is reminiscent of a story: someone once came to the Baal Shem Tov and asked why one of his students made so much noise while praying. He answered “did you ever see someone drowning in the sea and lying quietly. One naturally thrashes about when trying to save one’s life.” What he was communicating was both a fundamental issue in psychology and in the service of prayer. Silence is a representation of peace. Noise and movement represents the inner struggle to connect, which is expressed in prayer.]
In the same way, the jingling of the bells is symbolic of those that struggle. Consequently, when seeking to gain atonement on behalf of the entire Jewish people, it was essential that the Kohen provide an accurate symbolic representation of the entire spectrum of the community, the righteous along with the wicked. If he approached the Holy place in silence, he would then not be fulfilling his duty as a messenger.
The final message pertains to our enthusiasm in being Jewish. Often the vibrations of the world and the worries of life make plenty of noise, creating plenty of turbulence in our mind and heart. Meanwhile the investment in being Jewish remains on the backburner- dull and quiet. In order to counteract this we must remember the noise of the bells, and attempt to create our own noise, a clamor and effort in improving, in being Jewish.