top of page

The High Priest’s Garments - Torah Portion Tetzaveh

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

Exodus 27:20 – 30:10

The word tetzaveh means “to command” and this portion begins with Adonai commanding Moses to tell the children of Israel to bring the pure olive oil so that the eternal flame in the Menorah will remain burning before Him.

This portion of scripture also describes the garments worn by the priests; kohanim

in Hebrew.

Again, our Creator spares no detail.

These scriptures regarding the priestly garments can sometimes get confusing and even overwhelming. Let’s consider some of the intricate details of the high priest garment.

The high priest had two sets of garments. One set was called the “white garments” and they were only worn on Yom Kippur (Leviticus 16:1-4 then again in verses 23-24). These were linen trousers, linen tunic, linen sash, linen turban. He ONLY wore these on the Day of Atonement when he entered the holiest place. (Actually they were always worn under his golden garments but anyway they were never seen).

The everyday garments were called the “golden garments”. This garment consisted of: breastplate, an ephod or ornamented vest, a robe, a tunic, a turban, sash, and linen underpants (Exodus 28:1-43). The breastplate was adorned with two stones on each shoulder which bore the names of the 12 tribes, 6 on each stone. The ephod contained 12 precious stones, one for each of the 12 tribes.

The ephod was made of (vs. 5 and 6) gold, blue, purple, and scarlet, and the fine linen. Likewise, the breastplate was made of the same thing (vs15). The robe was made of all blue (vs. 31), the tunic of fine linen (vs. 39), the turban of linen (vs. 39) and the sash or belt of woven work (vs. 39) The plate of pure gold on the turban which said “Holiness to YHVH” was held in place by a blue cord. The underpants were made of linen.

Now, according to all Rabbis’ (writings that I have found), Josephus, and the New Temple Institute, the high priest’s golden garments consisted of the weaving of linen and wool together (sha’atnez). This is forbidden in scripture in Leviticus 19:19 and Deut. 22:11, OR IS IT ?

In the scriptures in Exodus you will

notice the word thread is not in the original Hebrew; instead it says gold, blue, purple and scarlet, AND the fine linen. The second “and” means that it was not of the same material as the colored thread. They say the colored thread was of wool and linen because when it comes to textiles it had to be wool or linen. Kairite Jews do not believe this, all other sects do (I think).

Josephus lived in the first century and

saw the high priest and declares this to be true. The great Rashi declares this to be true. They also believe that the sash had wool and linen, the blue cord holding on the gold plate had wool and linen and the blue tunic was all wool. My personal opinion – for what it is worth - is that it is true. If so, it would shed a whole new light on Leviticus 19:19 and Deut. 22:11, but that is a different teaching and thus I will not go there in this Torah Portion review. Please see the three articles under #tassels if you wish to dig deeper into this topic (there are two additional articles on tzitziot and one on mixing wool and linen).

As described above, the high priest DID NOT wear his golden garments into the most holy place on Yom Kippur.




Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page