Upside-down Shaatnez – Parshat Tetzaveh
Have you ever had a time where what you thought about a topic turned out to be the opposite of what you thought? Like when Pluto stopped being a planet or when you found out that a baseball team was caught cheating.
Or in a positive direction, you may have thought that all cancer couldn’t be cured and found out that there are cancers which react well to treatment. I had that kind of experience while studying the parsha last week and thankfully the topic continues in this week's parsha.
When I heard about Shaatnez1 (a prohibition to wear wool and linen in the same piece of clothing), I always assumed that this mixture was a bad thing and therefore was forbidden to be worn. Though I was familiar with the fact of the kohanim wearing Shaatnez while performing their duties in the Mishkan and the Beit Hamikdash, I had never really thought about it much.2 Last week, as I reviewed the parsha, I noticed in Rashi for the first time (even though I had read that same commentary of Rashi a number of times already) that parts of the covering of the Mishkan were made of Shaatnez as well. This piqued my interest. God was commanding us to use Shaatnez in the building of the Mishkan and in the clothing of the kohanim. I, however, was not allowed to wear it. What was the meaning of this? What is my takeaway?
Wool and flax independently have been likened to the opposing concepts of Rachamim (mercy) and Din (strict judgement).3 Din or Mishpat represent the human ability to have set guidelines while Rachamim is the ability to note the needs of the individual within the guidelines. It requires diligence so that we not come to a situation where we are kind to the cruel and cruel to the kind but rather view each situation with the proper perspective.
The kohanim are expected to be able to merge these two concepts represented by the Shaatnez while being our agents in performing the different parts of the Avoda in the Mikdash. And even then, they are only allowed to wear these garments while performing the Avoda and must remove them once they finish their tasks.
We cannot assume that even kohanim can constantly and consistently be on this level. But it is still a level that we, too, strive towards even as we know that we will achieve only a certain level and only for a limited time. We are not perfect and cannot expect ourselves to be so. Yet we may not allow ourselves to give up trying.
We all have conflicting parts. We want a career yet we want time with our family. We need to continue in our jobs but are not really happy there. We try to improve spiritually but it requires a change in my order of priorities. And more...
We want to be able to merge our conflicting beliefs, priorities and personality traits into one coherent path. Not an easy task and not one that we will always be successful with. But we will always try. The struggle is part of our growth as we clarify who we are and where we want to go. As we embrace that struggle, we also move forward towards a better understanding of our own individual meaning.4
*image by Maryna Kriuchenko Dreamstime.com
Have A Great Shabbat!