As mandated in the Torah,1 the Kohanim (priests, who were descendants of Aaron, brother of Moses) wore special clothing while serving in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem (or its portable predecessor, the Tabernacle).

The rank-and-file priests were assigned four garments, while the High Priest (Kohen Gadol) had eight.

The Four Garments of the Ordinary Priest

A common priest (known in Hebrew as Kohen Hedyot) wore four garments:2

Ketonet: A long linen tunic that reached until the heels.

Avnet: A 16-cubit-long sash made of linen and red, purple and blue wool, worn over the heart.

Migbaat: A linen turban wound around the head.

Michnesayim: Knee-length, linen trousers.

The Eight Vestments of the High Priest

In addition to the four garments worn by every priest, the Kohen Gadol wore four more of his own.

Choshen: Often referred to as a “breastplate,” it was a rectangular piece of cloth, folded and hung on the chest of the High Priest. Nestled within the fold was the Urim V’Tumim, through which G‑d would communicate (read: What Were the Urim and Thummim?). The choshen was decorated with 12 stones, each engraved with the name of one of the 12 Tribes (read: The 12 Tribes of Israel). For more info, read: What Was the Choshen?

Ephod: Resembling a backwards apron, the ephod was made from blue, purple and crimson wool; linen; and fabric spun of gold.

The choshen was suspended from the ephod’s shoulder straps, each of which held a stone with the names of six tribes.

Me’il: This was a robe made of blue wool, worn under the ephod. There was a special mitzvah that the neckline of the me’il must not be torn. Its hem was decorated with alternating bells and “pomegranates” made from blue, purple, and crimson wool.

Tzitz: The High Priest’s turban, called the migbaat, was slightly different from the cone shaped headgear of his colleagues. On it was affixed the tzitz, a golden plate engraved with the words: “holy to G‑d” (read: The Golden Tzitz).

Study Resources

Read the Torah’s instructions to make the garments in Exodus 28.

Read Maimonides’ description of these garments in Laws of the Temple Vessels, chapters 8 and 9.

More about the Priestly Garments on Chabad.org.