To Shake Ourselves into Awareness (Vayakhel/Pekudei)

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
2 min readMar 15, 2023

The double-portion of Vayakhel and Pekudei describes in intricate detail the clothing of the High Priest, Aaron. His ritual attire was regal, with flowing fabrics and precious stones. Even the hem of the priestly robe was decorated with alternating pomegranates and bells (Ex. 39:25–26).

The hem-bells served many purposes. For the Israelites, their sound would make them aware of Aaron’s location. The sounds also served as a reminder to Aaron of his spiritual responsibilities as he executed his role as High Priest. The text suggests that even God was made aware of Aaron’s approach to the tabernacle due to the jangling of the pomegranate bells, a precaution that protected Aaron from dying from proximity to the Holy of Holies (Ex. 28:35). The sound made the High Priest’s presence inescapable, for self, for community, and for the Divine. The bells, in effect, shouted “Hineini/Here I am” with every shake.

High Priests no longer perform our sacred duties. That responsibility is now more equitably distributed. Every person’s relationship with self, community, and God, is their own to nurture and maintain. And we are called to accomplish these tasks today without the assistance of jingling pomegranates to remind us to be present. That mindfulness alarm is now also distributed more equitably, and just in time, given the incessant buzzing of alerts in our pockets and flashing images before our eyes at all times.

The beauty of the ritual garb of the Priest is like that of the ornate dressing on the Torah scrolls. The Torah is dressed in fine fabrics; a breastplate, a keter (crown) on each of the atzei chayim (wooden poles) attached to the Torah scroll decorated with bells and pomegranates. The Israelites didn’t worship Aaron in his priestly attire, and we don’t worship the Torah. Both served as sacred conduits, supporting us remain aligned in the world, as a reminder to be grateful and aware of the beauty all around us.

We must remind ourselves and each other to seek out and cherish beauty, regardless of circumstance, to be present in the face of distraction, to learn, once again, to shake ourselves into awareness that we are not alone. It is our own voices that must relearn to sing and say with gratitude: “Hineinu/Here we are.

Find one thing of beauty around you. Be open to it, notice it, reach out and share that beauty and wonder with those you love. We mustn’t forget amidst abundant distraction that there awaits infinite wonder in the world to embrace — and to share.

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