Monday, March 05, 2007

The Clothing Make The Man

R. Berel Wein on last week's parashah (link):

Thus, to a great extent, clothing made the person. As such, I feel that it is quite understandable that Jews always placed a great stress upon what clothing they wore and how they dressed. Naturally, the type and style of “Jewish clothing” varied in different ages and locations. The Jews of Persia and Iraq did not wear Polish fur trimmed hats nor did Polish Jews wear head scarves or turbans. The Jews of Amsterdam in the seventeenth and eighteenth century wore triangular cockaded hats and the Lithuanian rabbis of the nineteenth century wore gentlemanly tall silk top hats. But the common denominator to all of this is that, from the time of Moshe onwards, Jews attempted to dress distinctively, albeit always within the confines and influences of the surrounding general population.

“Jewish clothing” was always meant to be modest, neat and clean. It was to be an “honor and glory” to the wearer and the Jewish society. The Talmud speaks very strongly against Torah scholars who are somehow slovenly in the appearance of their clothing...

Clothing was never looked at as being a purely inanimate object. After all, the first clothing for humans was fashioned for Adam and Chava by G-d Himself, so to speak. Ill treatment of clothing was deemed to be a punishable offense. King David, in his old age was not warmed by his clothing any longer. The Rabbis attributed this to the fact that he mistreated the clothing of King Saul earlier in his life.

I think all of the above helps explain the importance that clothing, the type of individual “uniforms” that Jews in the world and here in Israel, play in our communal and personal life. Each of us and the groups that we belong to attempt to wear clothing that will be an “honor and glory” to us individually and to the group collectively. We should therefore not only treat clothing with respect but we should respect as well the wearers of those different types of clothing that conform to our traditions of modesty and Jewish pride.

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