I have a question that I'm trying to understand and I would like a logical and coherent explanation.

1) In Leviticus 16,4-23-32 the priest (also Aaron) God indicates to them to dress only in linen only. The question, why "only" by Lino?

2) Shatnez (linen and cotton) is forbidden in Leviticus 19.19. The Torah unfortunately does not explain the reason for Sha`atnez. However, we know that the clothing of the priests was in particular exempt from the prohibition of sha'atnez. Exodus 28.6-8-15 and 39.29 prescribe various pieces of interwoven linen and colored wool (see Kil. 9.1: "Priests wear only wool and linen [ie sha'atnez] when they serve in the Temple") .

3) This is a contradiction! That is, if for the priests they were exempt because God told them to dress in linen (Leviticus 16.4-23-23) despite being contradicted by Exodus 28.6-8-15 and 39.29?

4) A scholar provides an explanation. The priests authorized to enter the Temple did not have to wear robes of two different fabrics because together linen and cotton led to producing electrostatic discharges that could have killed anyone near the Ark of the Covenant. Thus, the priests wore a linen robe, as an insulator of the Ark's electrostatic electricity. What do you think?

5) Ibn Ezra points out that in Leviticus 16.4-23-23, this verse does not mention the cuirass, or the ephod, or its robe. Rashi believes that the "pure" linen has to do with the temple treasure ?!

6) Tur HaAroch says "The Torah by emphasising the fact that the garments enumerated here are to be linen, בד, indicates that during service inside the Tabernacle only linen garments are to be worn. [Approaching Hashem in golden vestments when asking forgiveness would be the ultimate in bad taste. Ed.] In Vayikra Rabbah, 21,10 a comparison is drawn between the way service by the angels is perceived as taking place in the celestial counterpart to the Tabernacle on earth. In those regions the service is performed in linen vestments. The words כתונת בד קודש match what our sages used to describe as taking place in those regions. (Compare Ezekiel 9,1)"

What I'm trying to understand is why the priests had to dress only in linen if they were exempt from Shatnez (Cfr. Exodus 28.6-8-15 and 39.29 and Kil. 9.1)!?

Thank you!

  • Welcome to MiYodeya Flavio and thanks for this first question. Can I recommend you take the tour to get a sense of how the site works? Great to have you learn with us!
    – mbloch
    Aug 25, 2019 at 3:54
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    Isn't shatnez wool and linen? You mentioned wool and cotton
    – larry909
    Feb 19, 2021 at 11:30

2 Answers 2


The kohanim do not have a blanket exemption from shatnez. (Rashi on Arachin 3b makes a point of this.) They are only allowed to wear shatnez in fulfillment of mitzva to wear bigdei kehunah. The mitzva of Yom Kippur is for the clothing of the kohen gadol to be made of pure linen. So the exception to shatnez in other cases is irrelevant.

The reason given for not wearing the normal bigdei kehunah is not because of shatnez, but because they have gold on them, and אין קטגור נעשה סניגור, gold used in the golden calf should not be used for attonment in the inner sanctuary (Rashi, from Rosh Hashana 26a).


I will respond according to the comment that anyone may answer. I think that if the 'blue, purple, scarlet' were in any way 'woolen' material it might possibly distort the order of the materials as introduced in Exodus 25:3-7, whereas first the metals were listed, then the linen materials, then the animal type coverings(e.g. woolen goat's hair, rams' and badger skins), wood, oil/spices, and gem stones. This would rather make the order to be metals, wool, linen, wool, etc, instead of grouping the woolen materials together(an outside to inside approach does not seem to apply either - the tent of goats' hair was above the white curtains with colors).

Other than this proposal, there seems to be two other ways to interpret the 'blue, purple, scarlet', that if they were made of linen, then their role vs the 'shesh' would correspond to a contrast of color, instead of material(shesh contrasting the white colored material from the other colored materials). Else, perhaps the colors were made of 'real silk'[Eze 16:10-14], a finer linen, which would then be contrasted from the fine white linen(shesh). Personally, I don't see it proven that it must have been 'real silk' since verses like Exodus 26:1,39:29, introduce the term 'white linen' first, and then follow with the colors, implying that the colors may have been of the same material, but I leave this a possibility. Either way, you have rightly quoted Leviticus 16:4.

Also, I would compare such a proposition to Ezekiel 44:17-19, where the likelihood that God would have commanded such materials of wool to be worn in their duties at the first, and then later revert, seems to me a bit questionable.

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