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    Bells on the robe – T’tzavveh

    kohen gadol high priestThere were many little bells on the hem of the kohen gadol’s robe.

    The Talmud says (Z’vachim 88b) that there were 72 bells, 36 on each side; another view says 36, 18 on each side.

    The rabbis thought the bells were there so that everyone would know where the high priest was. From this we learn that one should never burst in anywhere.

    Just as the high priest’s movements were tracked when he entered the Holy of Holies, so one should not enter any premises, not even one’s own house, without announcing their arrival (Lev. Rabbah 21:8); P’sachim 102a).

    I had a personal concern during my rabbinate when though I kept my office door open, I felt invaded when a certain person used to walk straight in without knocking or otherwise announcing her arrival.

    I often had confidential papers on my desk and though this particular congregant would not deliberately read such papers, I preferred to put things away before anyone entered.

    The Lubavitcher Rebbe had an additional take on the rule about bells. He said that the world ought to hear and see what Judaism had something to say about a major issue.

    The Jewish idea should never be kept under wraps but be brought into the open and expressed with bell-like resonance.

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