By manipulating our posture, formal dress has a subtle power in teaching manners and decorum. For example, a suit demands the wearer to stand up straight, which in turn breeds confidence. The nicer the cloth, the more confidently the wearer must hold themselves to avoid wrinkles. My aikido (Japanese martial art) teacher likewise informed me that her special robes are actually designed to inhibit movement. That is, a true master learns grace and precision by overcoming the restriction their hakama provides.
With this in mind, it makes perfect sense that God calls for golden bells to be sewn into the High Priest’s robes. Surely if the clatter of jingling bells accompanied my every movement, I would learn to both physically and spiritually tread lightly. Every step would be a lesson in delicate compassion. The ultimate goal of such a garment must be to achieve a level of grace that allows one to walk silently before God.
This, however, is expressly not God’s intention. In fact, God says, “Aaron shall wear it while officiating, so that the sound of it is heard when he comes into the sanctuary before the Lord and when he goes out” (Shemot 28:35). Silence is not the goal at all, rather the High Priest is meant to make noise in all his movements – in his comings and his goings.
In this lies a very deep lesson.
Unfortunately, we live in a world far too familiar with people of power, specifically religious leaders, taking advantage of their positions to the great harm of others. It is precisely the ability for these people to act out of higher authority, live above scrutiny, and come and go silently, that causes so much pain.
Perhaps if we sew bells to our actions – bells that ring out the danger lurking between discrepancies of power – we can learn to walk humbly before God. For the ultimate expression of humility is not silence, but actions that sound out harmony and peace.
Then we can truly be “Holy to the Lord” (Shemot 28:36).