When one looks through the various descriptions of the Mishkan and its vessels, one word springs to mind: glamour (or pshhh if you’re a yeshiva boy). No expense was spared. The aron was plated with pure gold, as well as having gold rings on it. The kapores was pure gold, the shulchan was gold-plated, as were its baddim. Moreover, the menorah was made out of one solid lump of gold, and the rest of the Mishkan used other expensive and valuable materials too. The gemarra sums up the attitude very nicely via the phrase ‘there is no poverty in a place of wealth’ - there is no skimping when it comes to the Mishkan. The same attitude is ascribed to building

synagogues, which are incidentally referred to by Yechezkal as ‘mini-Batei Mikdash.’ The gemarra tells us that a synagogue should be the tallest and highest building in the city - again, something which would require significant expense. All this glory and expense forces us to ask a vital question. As the Ramban points out, the central positive character trait is modesty/humility (anavah).

Therefore, we can ask regarding the ‘fancy’ Mishkan in general and the clothes of the Kohannim in particular - what on earth happened to anavah? Indeed, when the Torah (28:40) does describe the point of the Kohannim’s clothes, it says that they are to be ‘for honour and glory’ - is this not the antithesis of anavah? The answer requires a closer look at what humility is… The idea is that humility does not mean hiding one’s talents and pretending that they do not exist; as we shall soon see, that is the opposite of humility. HaShem does not want you to hide your talents; on the contrary, He created you with certain talents and expects you to utilise them. What anavah means is admitting that you have these talents, and using them in the right ways. Rabbi Twerski cites several authorities who stressed this point. For example, Rav Eliyahu Lopian remarked “the essence of the concept of humility is not that one should be unaware of one’s capacities. On the contrary, a person should recognise his strengths.

However, he should know that his skills and talents are a gift from G-D and that they are not his doing.” The Chazon Ish added that these talents should not make one feel superior to others; for after all, they are a gift from HaShem - and someone else could equally have achieved the same as you had HaShem given them these talents.

Similarly, Rabbi Leib Chasman commented that “it is obvious that a humble person is not one who is unaware of his capacities and strengths. This person is a fool and not humble.” The idea is that true anavah is realising that your talents are from HaShem. Rav Elchonon Wasserman commented that the accolade ‘servant of HaShem’ attributed to Moshe Rabeinu at the end of the Torah meant that Moshe put every talent he had into the service of HaShem. And it is no coincidence that Moshe is described in the Torah as the most humble man that ever lived (Bamidbar 12:3) - it was this trait of anavah which meant that Moshe used his talents to serve HaShem. If you deny your talents, you are assuming that these talents are yours to deny - this is not so; HaShem gave you your talents with a responsibility to put them to good use - denying them is anything but anavah. So now we have realised that the biggest show of anavah is the using of all of one’s talents and resources to serve HaShem. This is precisely what the Mishkan was. Everyone donated the funds; no expense was spared. The women weaved certain materials and embroidery, and everyone gave of themselves and their resources to help the Mishkan effort.

This was anavah in its purest form. This is also why the aims of the clothing of the Kohannim being ‘for honour and glory’ do not contradict anavah. For the honour and glory here are not for the Kohannim and their own self-aggrandisement - they are for HaShem’s honour and glory.

These precious articles of clothing are that which enables the special serving of HaShem in the Mishkan and the sanctification of His Name; the entire thing (as far as we are concerned) is for His honour and glory. And if we are talking about HaShem’s honour, there can be no holding back; no skimping - ‘there is no poverty in a place of wealth.’

The same thing goes for a shul and any other mitzvah; why not make it as nice as possible - it is the honour of HaShem that we are dealing with.

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