“And you,” says G‑d to Moses,

shall command the children of Israel that they bring to you pure olive oil crushed for the light, to raise an everlasting flame.

In the Tent of Meeting, outside the parochet (curtain) which is before the Testimony, Aaron and his sons shall order it from evening to morning before G‑d.

For Dignity and for Beauty

The next 43 verses—about half of the Parshah’s total—consist of G‑d’s instructions to Moses regarding the making of the priestly garments for Aaron and his sons, who will perform the service in the Sanctuary.

And you, take Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister to Me: Aaron, and Nadav, Avihu, Elazar and Itamar, the sons of Aaron.

You shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for dignity and for beauty.

A total of eight types of garments should be made. All kohanim (priests) should wear the ketonet (tunic), michnasayim (breeches), mitznefet or migbaat (hat or turban), and avnet7 (sash). In addition, the kohen gadol (high priest) should wear a me’il (cloak), ephod (apron), choshen (breastplate) and tzitz (crown).

The Ephod

The Ephod
They shall make the ephod of gold [thread], blue- and purple- and scarlet- [dyed wool], and fine twined linen, artistic work.

The Ephod resembled an apron worn backwards, so that it covered the back of the wearer from above the waist down to the ankles, and overlapped in the front. A sash tied in the front beneath the heart, and two bands extended up the wearer’s back to his shoulders.

On the ends of these bands (which rested on the shoulders of the wearer), G‑d tells Moses to place two shoham (onyx?) stones in gold settings. The stones should be engraved with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel: “six of their names on one stone, and the other six names on the other stone, according to their birth.”

The Breastplate

The second garment that Moses is instructed to make is “the breastplate of judgment.” A rectangular piece of fabric (woven of the same materials as the ephod) should be folded in half to make a square pouch measuring half a cubit by half a cubit (approximately 10 inches × 10 inches). Upon its front, in gold settings, twelve gemstones should be arranged in four rows:

The choshen (before folding)

A row of a ruby, a chrysolite and a beryl: this shall be the first row.

And the second row: a turquoise, a sapphire and a diamond.

And the third row: a ligure, an agate and a jasper.

And the fourth row: an emerald, a shoham and a jade . . .

And the stones shall be with the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings of a signet.

Within the folded cloth under the gems should be inserted the “Urim and Tumim.”

The breastplate should hang upon the high priest’s chest, firmly bound to the ephod by means of gold chains extending from the breastplate’s upper corners to the fittings of the ephod’s shoulder stones, and ribbons of blue wool binding golden rings on the breastplate’s lower corners to corresponding rings attached to the ephod’s sash—this to ensure that “the breastplate shall not budge from the ephod.”

The twelve stones were each inscribed with the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel:

Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel on the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goes in to the holy place, for a perpetual remembrance before G‑d.

The cloak (me’il)

The Cloak and the Crown

You shall make the cloak of the ephod all of blue [wool].

There shall be a hole for the head in the middle . . . Beneath, upon the hem of it, you shall make pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet around its hem; and bells of gold between them round about. A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the cloak round about.

It shall be upon Aaron when he comes to minister; and its sound shall be heard when he goes in to the holy place before G‑d . . .

The tzitz

The fourth priestly garment commanded to Moses is the tzitz (crown)—a gold plate inscribed with the words “Holy to G‑d” that was affixed to the forehead of the kohen gadol.

The Other Four Garments

The tunic

These four garments—ephod, breastplate, cloak and crown—are exclusive to the high priest. The other four should be worn by all kohanim. These are:

The ketonet: A tunic made of pure linen, covering the entire body from the neck to the feet, with sleeves reaching to the wrists.

The mitznefet or migba’at: A long band of linen cloth that was wound around the head as a headcovering. On the ordinary kohen’s head it was wound as a cone-shaped hat (migba’at), while the kohen gadol wore it as a broad, flat-topped turban (mitznefet).

The turban, wound as a mitznefet (left) for the kohen gadol
 and as a migba’at (right) for the ordinary kohen

The avnet: A long cloth sash that was wound many times around the waist. The kohen gadol had two types of sashes: one of linen and multicolored wool with “embroidered work” for use throughout the year, and one of pure linen for the Yom Kippur service. (The Torah does not specify how the ordinary kohen’s sash should be made; some say it was like the kohen gadol’s year-round sash, while others say that it was like the one he wore on Yom Kippur.)

The breeches

The michnasayim: “You shall make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the waist to the knees they shall reach.”

You shall put these upon Aaron your brother, and his sons with him. You shall anoint them, consecrate them and sanctify them, that they may minister to Me.

The priestly garments were worn as follows: The ordinary kohen put on the breeches, over which he wore the tunic, and wound the turban upon his head and the sash around his waist. (His feet remained bare under the floor-length tunic.)

The kohen gadol first put on these four garments as worn by the ordinary kohen (except that he wound his headcovering differently, as above). Then, over the tunic and sash he draped the cloak of blue wool—basically a long piece of cloth with a hole in the middle for the head, which hung down in front and in the back. The cloak all but covered the tunic, leaving only a narrow band exposed beneath its bell-trimmed hem.

The kohanim in their priestly garments: the ordinary kohen (left); the kohen gadol, front and back (right)

Over the cloak were tied the ephod (which left a portion of the cloak exposed beneath it) and the breastplate. The crown was placed on the kohen gadol’s forehead, and fastened in place by means of blue wool ribbons extending over his turban and around his temples to be tied behind the head.

They shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they come in the Tent of Meeting, or when they come near to the altar to minister in the holy place, that they not bear iniquity and die. It shall be an everlasting statute for him and his seed after him.

Seven Days of Preparation

Moses is then instructed to initiate Aaron and his sons into the priesthood.

Before the Tabernacle is to be “officially” erected, there should first come a seven-day training period. On these days Moses himself is to assume the role of the kohen, offering a series of sacrifices (an ox, two rams, and several types of unleavened bread prepared with olive oil) which Aaron and his sons are to bring on each of the seven days.

This is in addition to the daily offerings—which are to be brought every morning and afternoon upon the altar: a yearling lamb, a tenth of an ephah of fine flour, a quarter-hin of finely crushed olive oil and a quarter-hin of wine.

This shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the Tent of Meeting before G‑d, where I will meet you, to speak there to you.

There I will meet with the children of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by My glory . . .

I will dwell among the children of Israel. . . . They shall know that I am the L‑rd their G‑d who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them; I am the L‑rd their G‑d.

The Golden Altar

The last ten verses of Tetzaveh describe the golden altar (which was not included in the description of the other “vessels” of the Tabernacle in the previous Parshah):

You shall make an altar for the burning of incense; of shittim wood shall you make it. A cubit shall be the length of it and a cubit its breadth—it shall be square—and two cubits shall be its height; its horns shall be part of it.

You shall overlay it with pure gold, its top, its sides all around, and its horns; and you shall make for it a rim of gold all around . . .

Like most of the other vessels, the golden altar should have rings and carrying poles to transport it. It should be placed in the center of the outer chamber of the Sanctuary, “before the curtain (parochet) that is by the Ark of the Testimony.” The golden altar should be used only for the twice-daily burning of the ketoret:

Aaron shall burn upon it sweet incense every morning: when he prepares the lamps, he shall burn incense on it. And when Aaron lights the lamps at evening, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before G‑d throughout your generations.

Once a day each year, however, the golden altar served an additional function: On Yom Kippur, the high priest sprinkled the blood of the day’s special offerings on its “horns.” “Once in the year shall he make atonement upon it throughout your generations; it is most holy to G‑d.”