Parshat Tetzaveh begins with a discussion about preparing and kindling the menorah. It then moves on to describe the different priestly garments worn by the Kohanim while serving in the Temple, and it concludes with the construction of the incense altar and the laws of the daily incense offerings.

What connection is there between these three ideas? What is the common thread that ties them together into one Parshah?

Let’s first understand the nature of these three things:

1. Menorah

The theme of the menorah is light. What is light?

Light is not an entity unto itself; it is merely an emanation from its source. The source, be it the sun or a candle, is full of brightness, and this automatically radiates out, creating light. Light can only exist because its source does.

2. Incense and Incense Altar

The function of incense is to create an aroma. What is the nature of an aroma?

An aroma works very much the way light does. It too is not an entity unto itself; rather, it is something which emanates or wafts out from its source, and its existence is representative of that source.

What light and smell have in common, therefore, is their authenticity. They are true reflections of their source. When you look outside in the morning and you see sunlight, you know that the sun is in the sky. When you walk into a kitchen and smell an aroma, you know that something is, or was, cooking, and you might even know exactly what it is. Light and smells don’t lie.

3. Priestly Garments

What is the nature of clothing?

Clothing, too, is not entirely an entity unto itself. It is attached to the person who is wearing it, and is nothing more than an extension of him.

But clothing differs greatly from light and smell. Clothing does not necessarily represent the person wearing it. It is possible to dress as anything, even if it’s not who you really are. Clothing can be used in an inauthentic way.

The Profound Sandwich

This, then, is the connection between these three ideas and why they appear in the Parshah in the order that they do—menorah, priestly garments and incense.

The Torah sandwiches the description of the priestly garments between the ideas of light and smell to convey a profound and important message.

A Kohen serving G‑d in the Temple had to dress appropriately. He had to dress in a manner fit for the King of kings, with special garments that looked honorable and beautiful.

But this alone was not sufficient. The Kohen couldn’t just dress this way on the outside; the garments had to be an authentic representation of who he was as a person, beautiful and honorable on the inside. As with light and smell, his external qualities had to mirror his internal ones.

The same is true for us. The garments that G‑d wants us to wear are a reflection of the way G‑d wants us to be as people.

It is very important to dress in a Jewish way, modestly and respectably. But more importantly, we have to be modest and respectable. We must be authentic in the way we present ourselves—not only holy and pure on the outside, but on the inside as well.