In Tetzaveh, this week’s Torah portion, we read about the vestments of the High Priest. There we read:
And you shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue. And it shall have a hole for the head in the midst of it; it shall have a binding of woven work round about the hole of it, as it were the hole of a coat of mail that it be not rent. And upon the skirts of it you shall make pomegranates of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, round about the skirts of it; and bells of gold between them round about: a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the skirts of the robe round about. And it shall be upon Aaron to minister; and the sound thereof shall be heard when he goes in into the holy place before the Lord, and when he comes out, that he die not. (Exodus 28:31- 35)
What is the deal with all of the pomegranates? Having just returned from Israel I can say that the images of all of the seven species for which the Land of Israel is praised are ubiquitous (Deuteronomy 8:8). In that context it does not seem strange to have the seven species represented on this garment, but why the pomegranate on this garment?
Maybe there is some association with the day of Yom Kippur being the day that the High Priest would go into the holy place. The Talmud records the custom of eating the pomegranate when breaking the fast after Yom Kippur (Shabbat 115a). This is interesting in that the High Priests clothes look good enough to eat. Or even more interesting you could hear the sound of these little bells. Throughout Song of Songs the pomegranate is symbol of beauty (Shir HaShirim 4:3, 4:13, 6:7). The fringe of the garment is not just a detail to be overlooked. There is a certain beauty of things that look, sound, and taste good. Maybe this garment points at our national aspiration that we should all strive for a certain kind of multi-sensory consistency and excellence. No matter what the reason, the pomegranate is a beautiful brand.