Perhaps most striking of the special garments worn by the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) was the tzitz. This was a gold plate tied around the forehead, engraved with the words “Holy to God.” What was the significance of this priestly crown?
Rav Kook explained that the tzitz, fashioned out of pure gold, reflected the loftiest spiritual riches. The crown’s placement on the forehead - the location of our inner drive (ratzon) for good and holiness — symbolized the kohen’s aspirations for the highest good contained within his inner soul.
The Talmud teaches that the tzitz encircled the kohen’s forehead “from one ear to the other” (Shabbat 63b). What is the significance of the ears in relation to the tzitz?
The ear is an organ which we use to hear and listen. One aspect of listening, represented by one ear, is directed above — receptive to the inner voice of elevated thought. The tzitz extended from this ear to the forehead, indicating that its function was to conduct these lofty thoughts to the kohen’s inner will. In short, it symbolized the kohen’s aspirations to actualize his loftiest goals, implementing them in life, character traits, and deeds.
The second aspect of listening, our awareness of the physical world below, is represented by the second ear. This connection allows the physical world to acquire a new inner content, while providing practical knowledge which could not be attained in the spiritual realm. Here the spiritual is enriched through insight into the material world, its actions and emotions.
The tzitz encompassed both types of listening — receptiveness to lofty ideals from above, and practical understanding from the physical world below. It provided a channel connecting these two realms, uniting the world with all of its disparate parts.
In this way, the Kohen Gadol became whole and integrated, aware of how the physical can extend and enrich the spiritual realm. He could serve as a unifying force for the people, who share this yearning for complete unity.
This ability to bridge the physical and spiritual worlds corresponds to the essence of the mission of the kohanim. They are a conduit, connecting the Jewish people to God and God to the Jewish people. The Talmud describes them as sheluchei dedan — our representatives, as they bring Israel’s offerings to God. And they are also sheluchei deRachamana — God’s emissaries, bringing God’s blessings and Torah to Israel.
The placement of the tzitz, encompassing both ears, indicated that the Kohen Gadol should not suffer from a disconnect between his spiritual and physical sides. As a conduit between humanity and God, he needed to be attuned to the spiritual, while still in touch with the material world.
(Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. IV, Shabbat 6:72, p. 113)