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YES, THE TORAH IS CLOTHES MINDED

by Rabbi Shmuel Weiss    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

What is so important about clothes? Adam didn’t wear any when he first strolled through Paradise.

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What is so important about clothes? Adam didn’t wear any when he first strolled through Paradise. Donning clothes would seem to only hide the “real” us from view, focusing not on the wine, but on the bottle it comes in. So why does this week’s Torah portion so intricately detail the eight special garments worn by the Kohen (priest)—each of which played an integral role in the Tabernacle service?

  Clothes Call
What is the significance of Chassidic clothing? Styles of Jewish clothing derive from three categories: (1) Clothes required by Jewish law, such as the tallit, tzitzit, head covering for men and women, modest dress in general, etc. (2) Clothes which identify (by style, color, length, etc.) a certain community. (3) Clothes which have been worn traditionally for many years, thus linking one generation to its forebears. Chassidic garb today may be traced to 16th century Poland. It includes the caftan, bekeshe or kapote coats made of velvet, silk or satin and come in black, yellow, or striped; the shtreimel hat of many types, using 13 fur sables; and the gartel belt used in prayer to delineate the lower, physical body from the upper, spiritual/intellectual center. -RSW

To answer, let us first examine the initial mitzvah mentioned in the Torah portion, to light the menorah each day, using only the purest of oil. Rashi, the preeminent Torah commentator, explains that the olives were taken only from the top of the tree, where they received maximum sunshine. They were then pounded in a mortar, but not ground up in a mill. In this fashion, there was no sediment whatsoever in the oil. Though semi-pure oil was good enough for meal-offerings, only the very purest, cleanest oil could be used in the menorah.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, the foremost leader of Torah Jewry of the past generation, comments on Rashi’s explanation. For the Jews to be a light unto the nation, our leaders—like the oil which gave light—must be pure, honest, clean, and above suspicion, with an unadulterated, untarnished reputation for integrity. Even one who was merely accused of wrongdoing and found innocent may not represent us, for we need role models without even a taint of impurity, mistrust, or sediment.

Now we can understand the importance of clothes. True, clothes are not us; they do not define our soul. But clothes do serve to send a message as to our character. Are we modest, neat, respectful in our dress, and deportment? Do we maintain high standards of cleanliness, conducting our business in a dignified manner? Do we have the appearance of a civilized creation of Hashem, rather than a sloppy and unkempt public image?

Through its emphasis on clothes as trappings of holiness, the Torah is telling us to guard not only our actions, but also the way our actions appear to others.

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Rabbi Shmuel Weiss, a close friend of the Torah from Dixie family, is the director of the Jewish Outreach Center in Rana’ana, Israel.

You are invited to read more Parshat Tetzaveh articles.

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