This week’s Torah reading focuses on the priestly garments, including the eight garments worn by the High Priest. Among those garments were the High Priest’s cloak, concerning which it is said: “There should be a golden bell and a pomegranate on the entire circumference of the hem of the cloak. It must be upon Aaron to serve. Its sound will be heard when he enters the Sanctuary before G‑d and when he departs.”

The question arises: Why must the sound of the bells be heard when the High Priest enters the Sanctuary? Seemingly, their noise would be a drawback, as reflected by the verse referring to G‑d’s revelation to the prophet Elijah: “G‑d was not in the noise.” Instead, it was a “still, small voice” that conveyed the revelation of G‑d’s presence.

The concepts do not, however, conflict, because they are referring to two different levels of G‑dliness. The verse: “G‑d was not in the noise” refers to a lofty level of G‑dliness, one that transcends the limits of worldly existence. When, however, one relates to the lower levels of G‑dliness, those vested in the created beings, Divine service should be associated with noise.

To explain: “A still, small voice” reflects the Divine service of a person who has totally subsumed his individual identity to G‑d. For this reason, he is silent. He has no voice of his own, for his personal identity is eclipsed. When, however, someone has not reached such a level of Divine service and still retains his identity, he must carry out a service that is “noisy.” His ego presents challenges and conflicts; there are vestiges — or perhaps more than vestiges — of evil in his character that he must confront. These conflicts and confrontations cause “noise,” as it were.

To illustrate with a material example: When refined and pure substances burn, they make little if any noise, but when coarse substances burn, they crackle loudly. Indeed, the coarser the substance, the greater the noise.

On this basis, we can understand the conduct of the High Priest. On Yom Kippur, when he entered the Holy of Holies, he would not wear his cloak. Instead, he was clothed in simple white robes that had no bells. For when he entered the chamber where G‑d’s presence was overtly revealed, silence was the proper demeanor. In the Holy of Holies, he would lose all sense of individual identity, following the motif of “a still, small voice.”

Throughout the year, by contrast, as he carried out his service in the Sanctuary, he would wear his cloak and its sound would be heard. For there, he was acting as the agent of the entire Jewish people, even those on a low spiritual level. As such, his service involved noise, i.e., a sound that resulted from the spiritual conflicts these individuals face, for he was relating to them within the context of their challenges. On Yom Kippur, both he and they were lifted above such conflicts. During the year, it was necessary for them both to face these issues.

There is a further advantage to the “noise” represented by the High Priest’s bells with regard to communicating the Torah. In a world when everything is publicized loudly and that is the way attention is drawn to a subject, similar techniques — obviously, with an approach of refinement — should be used for spreading the Torah. Unabashedly, we should go out to the public domain and attempt to attract people to the Torah, proclaiming its message in a loud voice.

Looking to the Horizon

The Torah reading begins with the commandment to prepare olive oil for the Menorah, the candelabrum used in the Beis HaMikdash. The Torah relates that the oil must be “crushed for the light.” Our Sages explain that the olive is an analogy for the Jewish people. When they are “crushed,” pressed to their very core, they produce oil “for the light,” “the light of the redemption.”

There is, however, a difference between the manner in which this motif applies in the present generation and the manner in which it was expressed in previous generations. In previous generations, the “crushing” was external. Through persecution after persecution, pogrom after pogrom, exile after exile, the external shell of the Jewish people was crushed and their inner G‑dly core revealed.

In the present era, thank G‑d, such crushing generally does not exist. By and large, the Jewish people live in peace and prosperity without persecution by the nations of the world. And yet, we feel “crushed;” the very fact that we are in exile, that Mashiach has not come, and the world has not reached its desired purpose is a crushing realization, one that shocks each one of us to his very core and motivates him or her to “produce his oil” for “the light of the redemption.”