In this week’s Parsha, Tetzaveh, one of the main themes deals with the apparent of priests and the priestly garments. What I would like to explore today is looking at these priestly dress codes and how this relates to us in our daily life.
First, let us begin by acknowledging some basic precepts about clothes and a person’s physical appearance. One can clearly agree that the way a person dresses says a lot about who they are. Moreover, the way we look may have psychological plus social impact on our own self-esteem and how others perceived us.
Let us look at the general precepts surrounding fashion and clothing. Let’s even look at what we are wearing today at Shabbat services, why we chose what we are wearing, how long it took us to get dressed, how much did we think about our ensemble, the combination of colors, patterns, materials, style. Did anyone notice what their neighbor was wearing?
How do you feel today about how you look and what kind of statement are you making by the choice of dress you chose for today? Perhaps, for men, it is a little easier—the big choices are usually around a tie, should it be striped, solid, dotted, patterned….for the women, perhaps putting together the dress with the earrings, with the hat, with the stockings, shoes—with the coat. Is it safe to say, they have taken a few more minutes of thought and coordination with all of their accessories and choices?
In life today, people are very impressed and consumers are motivated by designer’s labels, such as Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Prada, Channel, Tommy Hilfinger, Liz Claiborne. As a matter of fact, I know a Jewish designer, whose name used to be Davidovitz and know all of the sudden, he became a famous. Now his name is LaMarais… People are very interested today in subscribing to fashion magazines like Vogue or Glamour, in order to be up on the latest clothing trends. There have been books that people read, such as "Dress for Success," which gives people guidelines on how to impress or find favor in other people’s eyes, whether it be for business, for pleasure or social situations. Perhaps you have read or seen the book, "Color Me Beautiful," there is one for men and one for women, whereby a person’s skin color, hair and eye color is matched to one of the four seasons and its color palettes—like winter, spring, summer or fall. These palettes give guidelines for individuals to pick clothing colors and hues in order to bring out in them the most beautiful aspects of their natural beauty. Think back in time to the most important celebrations you have attended, whether it was for a Bar Mitzvah, a wedding or an anniversary party, even a first date or a job interview….why did you dress in a particular manner for each particular event?
Let’s bring all these observations to the Torah portion—where very detail descriptions are portrayed regarding the apron, the breastplate, the robe, the forehead plate, the tunic, turbin, sash and pants….as well as the inauguration of Aaron and his sons. What is with all the pomp and circumstance and attention to detail? What are we to learn from all of the symbolic meaning of the designs and colors of the ritualistic items? The colors and specifics of each item have deep spiritual value and when the high priest put on the items, they feel a sense loyalty, leadership and nobility. As a matter of fact, there are three groups of priestly garments: those worn by the High Priest, and ordinary priest, and the white garment worn by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. The outfit commands a certain degree of respect and responsibility and for ceremony. So it puts everyone in the proper mood for worship of the Almighty and his commandments and it creates an ambiance of decorum which is necessary in order to carry out their holy tasks.
In conclusion, we recognize that there are certain trademark garments which on a mystical and practical level speak volumes about who we are and what we represent. May we always be comfortable and have pride in who we are and how we appear. Shabbat Shalom.