The Migbaas, Headdress, worn by the Kohen was very distinctive. Rashbam explains that since it is worn on the head, the highest portion of the body, it is noticed and transmits an image of the individual who is wearing the Headdress. The Migbaas and Mitznefes, Turban, were to be regarded as specific marks of distinction or worthiness, similar to the crown worn by a king. The Kohen’s Migbaas was made of white linen, reminding him that maintaining his purity, distancing himself from anything that is base and immoral, is his sine qua non. The Headdress was a subtle reminder of the Kohen’s function and responsibility. People looked up to him. He had to be worthy of their respect.
We understand now why Chazal tell us that the Mitznefes atoned for gasus ruach, arrogance, gross haughtiness. The Mitznefes warns even the highest and most distinguished in the nation of the necessity to be constantly on guard, to rise above and remove himself from everything ignoble or impure. By doing this, he comes to realize that he must banish any overestimation of himself and divest himself of any form of conceit.
Paradoxically, these Headdresses are to be made for glory and splendor. This seems to be in direct contrast with the goal of abrogating conceit and atoning for haughtiness. The answer is simply that the Kohen must understand that he is merely a medium, a vehicle for inspiring holiness and respect. He is nothing more than an agent through which the lofty concepts that he represents are taught. Thus, by wearing the Headdress, he serves to atone for the sin of arrogance.
To know one’s worth, to realize one’s position in life is not arrogance. Indeed, one must demand the proper respect for his position – otherwise, he demeans his position and himself. He is a representative of an ideal. To demean the agent is to denigrate the ideal. A ben Torah represents the Torah. Therefore, to degrade a ben Torah is to debase the Torah he embodies.
What is the definition of kavod? Chazal in Pirkei Avos 4:1, ask, “Who is honored? He who honors others.” One would think that he who is honored by others is honorable, rather than he who honors others. Apparently, one who depends on others to honor him is not really honorable, since the honor he receives is of a dubious nature. It is not his – it is dependent upon the whims of others. Honor that is contingent upon others is not honor. True honor is controlled by the individual. Therefore, Chazal view the one who gives honor as the honorable one. For, by giving honor to others, he indicates that he understands the meaning and value of honor. This is an expression of his own understanding – something that is not contingent upon others. The need for kavod, the obsession for kavod is a tragic disease that devours a person. Its cure is based upon developing respect. For if one respects himself, he really does not need or obsess about the fleeting praise of others.