Can someone’s greatest virtue be his greatest vice?
The Kohen Gadol was assigned to wear a particular wardrobe during his service in the Mishkan, “Lekavod U’Ltifares, for honor and splendor.” How are we to process that with the understanding that the clothing was designed to accomplish the exact opposite? Each garment worn was designated to bring atonement for specific sins of the people. The atonement came about provided that the violators repented. One of the garments, the turban, served to atone for arrogance. How can a garment atone for arrogance and encourage honor?
In analysis of the character of Esther that made her worthy to be the person instrumental to bring deliverance to our people, the Talmud identifies her unique trait of modesty. It was traced to her ancestor Shaul, who in turn had inherited it from the Matriarch, Rachel.
Shaul was anointed King by the prophet Shmuel, in secrecy. After that occurred and King Shaul was on his travels, he crossed paths with his uncle who asked about his whereabouts. The uncle understood that Shaul had encountered Shmuel and inquired about their conversation. Shaul shared what had been discussed, but did not reveal that he had been appointed as king. The Talmud lauds the modesty he demonstrated at that time.
Later on when Shaul was functioning as King, Shmuel conveyed to him the command of G-d to eradicate the Amalekites. Although he overcame the troops of Amalek, he had compassion for Agag the King, and spared his life. Hashem appeared to Shmuel and related that Shaul disobeyed the instructions, a decision which would cost him the throne. Shmuel delivered the message to Shaul, expressing, “Im katan atah b’eynecha, though you may be small in your eyes, you are the head of the tribes of Israel; and Hashem has anointed you to be king over Israel.”
Shmuel admonished Shaul for his misplaced humility. A leader must be powerful and bold. He informed Shaul that his position would be taken from him and as Shmuel departed, he ripped the garment of Shaul. The garments of a leader serve as a reminder to him and to others of the responsibility carried on his shoulders. The objective is not to foster arrogance, but to bear the role as expected and demanded. It could keep the leader from succumbing to feelings of weakness, pity and humility, when strength, fortitude and power are called for. The rending of the garment symbolized that the honor that it represented was not maintained and would therefore be removed from the king.
One decision cost Shaul the throne. Had he considered the revered garments that adorned him, he could have acted with forcefulness, courage and confidence. Having the Kohen Gadol wear clothing for honor did not encourage arrogance. Rather it fostered responsibility, to fulfill the charge of Hashem and duly represent His people.
Do we shy away from responsibility erroneously selling ourselves short by considering that we are not up to the task? How do our garments reflect on our attitudes and behavior?
Rabbi Hershel D. Becker
 Tezave 28:2
 Sanhedrin 37b Tosefos; Shitah Mekubetzes Arachin 16a
 Zevachim 88b
 Megillah 13b
 Shmuel 1 10:16
 Shmuel 1 15:17
 Shmuel 1 15:27; as per opinion in Midrash Rabbah Rus 7:12