By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, expressions of outrage and patriotism abounded. One memorable such response was the depiction of the American flag on billboards, T-shirts, and bumper stickers, accompanied by a defiant slogan: “These colors don’t run.”
That pun may help explain the significance of the Biblical “argaman” – the regal purple associated with the Sanctuary and its Altar (Exodus 26:1, Numbers 4:13), the High Priest (Exodus 28:5), and royal dress and décor (Esther 1:16, 8:15; Judges 8:26, Song of Songs 3:9-10).
Israeli archaeologists recently discovered a swath of just such “argaman” – purple fabric dating to around 1000 BCE (the reign of King David). The vibrancy of the hue – even after some 3000 years – is breathtaking: a vivid, radiant, almost neon purple. “These colors don’t run!”
The enduring regal color worn by Israelite priests and sovereigns expressed the indissoluble quality of their commitment to the Eternal God, an eternal people, and its eternal values. We common “Israelites” – with no other claim to royal status – are thereby reminded of our own capacity for moral sovereignty. We are charged to hold fast to our true colors, and to demonstrate an unfading devotion to lofty, even regal standards of faith and principle… especially when all we hold sacred is under attack.
Forgive the purple prose.
(Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey and the former National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.)