In this week’s Torah portion, parshat Tetzaveh, we read about the sacred clothes made for Aaron and his sons who are going to be the priests. It says that these vestments provide them glory and splendor (Exodus 28:1). It is clear that there are many layers of meaning behind all of the layers of the clothing of the priest, but do the clothes make the man? Would the same people be up to doing their job serving as intermediaries for the Israelites were not for the clothes?
It does seem that clothing gives us a social context for understanding someone’s role in society. So while wearing certain clothes does not determine the color of your character, it might inspire you to act the part.
Just as the priests are set apart in a special space with their special duties, Adam and Eve were set apart in the Garden of Eden charged to have dominion over nature. It is only after they eat from the Tree of Knowledge that they become uncomfortably aware of their being naked. Mark Twain once said, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” If you hope to make a change in the world try to dress the part. Try an experiment of dressing up one day. See if people treat you differently. But, even more importantly – see if you act differently. What you wear can transform your image of yourself and, in turn, transform you.
Recently I went to a great conference on Israel education representing education at camp. I got to thinking about camp people, Israelis, and how both tend to under-dress for events. I have said before and I will say it again; I love camp people because we take our work, but not ourselves seriously. While the priests needed to dress up to take their work seriously, with Purim coming up I realize that some times we need to put on costumes to ensure that do not take ourselves too seriously. We need to peel off all of the layers and remember that we need to get out of our own way to do our work. As my son Yishama always says, ” Seriously Abba? Seriously.”