The Torah tells us in this week’s portion that the hem of the priestly robe (ephod) would have bells sewn on them.  As the priest enters the sanctuary with the bells on his robe, “a voice will be heard” (Exodus 28:33-35). What is the significance of these bells and their “voices”?

Rabbi Avi Weiss explains that among his many duties, the priest would offer atonement for his own sins.  As it would be embarrassing for others to be present during this personal process, the bells would signal that those present should leave, allowing the priest private moments with G-d. At the same time it was only fair that people know when the priest was entering so they not be taken by surprise. In fact, privacy is so important that Jewish Law tells us that one should be careful to knock before entering anywhere, even one’s own home or a child’s room (Pesachim 112a). It is these little bells of privacy and sensitivity to others that should make the Torah so private and personal to each of us.