A head-dress; one of the sacred garments of the priests. The high priest's miter was designated as "miẓnefet," and was made of fine linen, to which the diadem ("ẓiẓ") of pure gold, inscribed with the title "Holiness to the Lord," was fastened by means of a purple cord (Ex. xxviii. 4, 39; xxxix. 31).
The miter of the ordinary priests was called "migba'ah"; but the term is found only in the plural form, "migba'ot." These miters were also known by the compound name "pa'are ha-migba'ot," and were likewise of fine linen (ib. xxviii. 40, xxxix. 28). That "pa'are" (from "pe'erim"; sing. "pe'er") is not an adjective, but a noun, is evident from the expression "pa'are pishtim" = "miters of linen, worn by the priests" (Ezek. xliv. 18). Indeed, the use of the "pe'er" was not restricted to priests. It was a head-covering of distinction for a bridegroom and for the daughters of Zion (Isa. iii. 20, lxi. 10). Being a personal ornament, it was removed during periods of mourning (ib. lxi. 3; Ezek. xxiv. 17, 23).
The priestly miters are not described in the Bible, yet the name "miẓnefet," like "ẓanif," the miter which the prophet saw placed on Joshua the high priest (Zech. iii. 5), suggests a turban wound around the head. The term used to denote the miters of the common priests ("migba'ot," derived from "gebia'" = "cup") suggests a covering of conical shape, fitted tightly on the head, and the verb "we-ḥabashta" (Ex. xxix. 9) seems to point to the same. "Pe'er" may be translated "a beautiful bonnet"; and the "pa'are ha-migba'ot" worn by the priests may have been bonnets with a conical extension.
Josephus' description of the miter of the high priest and of that of the ordinary priests ("Ant." iii. 7, §§ 3, 6) appears to be confused; but it might be elucidated by a study of the rabbinical literature on the subject. The Mishnah makes no distinction between "miẓnefet" and "migba'ot," and calls the miter of the common priest likewise "miẓnefet" (Yoma vii. 5, 25a). The miter of the high priest was shorter, to allow room on the forehead for the diadem, which was two finger-breadths wide and reached from ear to ear (Suk. 5a), a space being left for the phylacteries (Zeb. 19a et seq.). A baraita says that the high priest wore a woolen cap, to which was attached the diadem (Ḥul. 138a). Perhaps this cap served as an underlining for the miẓnefet. The miters were all made of six-cord threads (Maimonides, "Yad," Kele ha-Miḳdash, viii. 1, 2). The code of Moses of Coucy ("Semag," No. 173) and later authorities agree that the miter of the common priests was not coiled around like a turban, but was rather a stiff, conical hat graduating to a point at the top. Ibn Ezra, in his commentary, says the miẓnefet was like a woman's bonnet and the migba'ah like a man's hat (fez). All authorities are unanimous in their opinion that the miẓnefet of the high priest was much smaller, covering only about one-half of his head. It was made of fine linen, twined around the head many times.
Symbolically the miter and the rest of the priest's vesture, like the sacrifices, represented certain sins to be forgiven. Using another symbol, R. Ḥanina said: "Let the miter on high combat the high spirit of the arrogant" ('Ar. 16a).
- Isserles, Torat ha-'Olah, ii. § 44;
- Rofe, Shilṭe ha-Gibborim, ch. xiv.;
- Lipschütz, Tif'eret Yisrael, introduction to Mo'ed, p. 39a;
- Azariah dei Rossi, Me'or 'Enayim, ch. xlix., l.;
- Braunius, De Vestitu Sacerdotum Hebræorum, pp. 517 et seq., Amsterdam, 1680;
- Bähr, Symbolik des Mosaischen Cultus, ii. 110-115, Heidelberg, 1874.