Parashat Tetzaveh: Halakhah
Illustration Credit: Rivka Tsinman

Halakhah הֲלָכָה

Knock before entering!
The כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל (kohen gadol, high priest) wore a מְעִיל (me’il, robe), which had tiny bells sewed all along its hem. The Torah says about these bells:
וְהָיָה עַל אַהֲרֹן לְשָׁרֵת
וְנִשְׁמַע קוֹלוֹ בְּבֹאוֹ אֶל הַקֹּדֶשׁ...
Aharon shall wear (the me’il) when he is serving God; that way, his sound will be heard whenever he enters the holy space...
Here’s a story that explains the purpose of these bells.
רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן כַּד הֲוָה סָלֵיק לְמִשְׁאַל שְׁלָמֵיהּ דְּרַבִּי חֲנִינָא הֲוָה מְבַעְבֵּעַ.
וַהֲלֹא דְּבָרִים קַל וָחֹמֶר הַנִּכְנָס לְבֵית חֲבֵרוֹ בָּשָׂר וָדָם צָרִיךְ לְבַעְבֵּעַ, כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל שֶׁנִּכְנַס לְבֵית קָדְשֵׁי הַקֳּדָשִׁים עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה! עַל שׁוּם: וְנִשְׁמַע קוֹלוֹ.
When R. Yohanan used to go visit R. Hanina, he would always clear his throat (before entering).
If, when visiting a person, you have to make a sound to warn your friend that you are coming, then it’s obvious that the kohen gadol would have to do the same thing when entering God’s most holy space! This is why it says, “his sound will be heard.”
R. Yohanan was nervous that he would startle R. Hanina if he just walked in on him, so he made a sound to announce his arrival, like knocking on the door. Another midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 21) says that if Yosef hadn’t warned Yaakov that he was still alive, and instead just popped up for a visit, Yaakov would have died of shock. They were only able to reunite in joy because Yosef prepared Yaakov for this major event.
These midrashim teach us a basic lesson: Don’t barge into spaces without knocking or telling people you are coming! People need and expect their privacy, and they also need a chance to prepare themselves to be back face to face with you, whether they haven’t seen you for a few hours or for many years.