(Unless otherwise stated, all interpretations are from the Kli Yakar, even if not in quotes.)
The Blue Thread - Hapatil Techeilet
- Sea Blue I: The Kli Yakar says that looking at the teichelet should remind one of the sea, in that never goes past its boundaries, which would flood the world (even a tsunami only goes in so far, and those don't happen often). And just as the sea "does not break through its 'fence' and it remains within the decree of the Blessed Hashem'," then so we, too, should always remain within the Torah-proscribed boundaries and never break through the life-saving "fence" of Torah Law.
- Sea Blue II: Furthermore, he says, one's tongue should not pass the Torah-mandated boundaries by speaking lashon hara or other forms of forbidden speech.
- Sky Blue I: The teichelet is azure like the sky. Thus, the Kli Yakar says, "By looking at the sky (rakia), which resembles the Throne of Glory (Kisei Hakavod), with his eyes he will see the place of his sculpting, and he will yearn to return and cleave there because the soul yearns for the place 'where his tent has been there previously'."
- Sky Blue II: If you are busy gazing at the sky and contemplating the Kisei Hakavod, you will speak less in general, and the Kli Yakar considers this a happy result.
So the next time we see or read about teichelet, we've got some nice things to ponder.
More Beautiful Mishkan Symbolism
The windows of the Beit Hamikdash that were wide on the outside and narrow on the inside: This symbolizes how it was not the sun which illuminated the Beit Hamikdash, but the Beit Hamikdash that illuminated the world.
The Kli Yakar gives us some insights into why it is so powerful:
Upward-Rising Smoke/Ma'aleh Ashan: Symbolizes the soul, which rises upward, so to speak.
Pleasing Fragrance/Rei'ach Nicho'ach: Symbolizes the "perfume" of good deeds
Pounding the Spices into a Fine Powder/V'Shichakta Mimena Hadek: Symbolizes the atonement needed to refine the soul and elevate it to the place where it was originally "sculpted."
The One-Unit Measurements (meaning not 1.5 cubits, but specifically 1 cubit, etc.) of the Ketoret Altar: Atones for the soul, which is also one unit and unique, just as Hashem is One and Unique.
Morning Incense: Symbolizes the soul's sin-free arrival in This World.
Tending the Morning Flame/Hatavat Haner: Just as the flames were tended and the lamps cleaned during the day, so a person should tend and clean his or her soul throughout one's life.
Evening Incense: Symbolizes the hope and goal that the soul leaves as free of sin as it came.
The Garments of the Head Priest/Kohen Gadol:
Even More Beautiful Symbolism
A work of thought/Ma'aseh Chashev: The efod was directed to be a ma'aseh chashev to atone for the fact that idol worship is really a sin of the heart. Before one can even contemplate idolatry, one must first possess a crack in one's emuna.
Robe/Me'il: Atones for slander
Tunic/Kutonet: Atones for murder
Flax/Pishtan: The kutonet was made of flax to atone for Kayin, the first murderer, because his rejected offering included flax seed.
Turban/Mitznefet: Atones for arrogance
Belt/Avnet: Atones for sinful thoughts (hirhurei halev)
Gold Forehead Plate/Tzitz: Atones for brazenness
Pants/Michnasayim: Atones for immorality/gilui arayot
The Kli Yakar also explains how Aharon Hacohen deserved the Kahuna/Priesthood, in which he wore the efod over his heart, in the merit of his great humility, evidenced by how he was not jealous of his younger brother being chosen over him as a leader—even deep in his heart, Aharon Hacohen did not feel one bit of envy.
The Priestly Garments and the Roman Who Wanted to Convert
Basically, a non-Jewish Roman heard this parsha as he wandered past a synagogue, and got all excited upon hearing about the garments worn by the Kohen Gadol described above. In his enthusiasm, he went straight to Shammai and asked to be converted on the condition that be appointed as the Kohen Gadol (a total impossibility) and therefore, get to wear the amazing clothes. Shammai drove him away with "a builder's rod." (Then he went to Hillel, who fortunately set our hapless convert straight, enabling him to become a good Jew.)
Now, I always sympathized with Shammai in this story. I mean, this potential convert really comes off as so arrogant and superficial. But the Kli Yakar (28:38) sees him in a much more positive light.
"Was he such a fool that he wanted to convert in order to wear these garments?" asks the Kli Yakar rhetorically. "Rather, he certainly heard the voice of the scribes reading [the section of the parsha describing the Kohen Gadol's garments] with an explanation of their meaning about what they atone for. And the convert realized on his own that he had transgressed all these during his non-Jewish phase and he needed these atonements."
This interpretation is sort of shocking at first because it implies that this convert originally committed murder, adultery (along with a whole other slew of immoral acts), occult worship, rumor-mongering (and all the character assassination that implies) and that even his very mind was one big putrid mess.
(The Kli Yakar expounds a lot on everything the different parts of the garments atoned for; only a short sample appears in this post.)
Yet the yucky pagan did manage to change completely and become a full-fledged Jew.
Probably no one reading this is even one iota as bad as this Roman seems to have been.
So if God accepted this guy's teshuvah, He'll certainly accept yours, too.
Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim of Luntschitz (1550-1619) lived in Bohemia (which is today Poland and Czechoslovakia). He served as rabbi and dayan and wrote several books, the most well-known being his commentary on the Chumash known as the Kli Yakar.
Although I did borrow a few terms here and there from Rabbi Elihu Levine's translation, this is primarily my own translation and any errors are also mine.
For a wonderful rendering of the Kli Yakar into English, including helpful footnotes, please see Rabbi Elihu Levine's translation.