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Parshas Tzav - Clothes Re-Make the Man        14 Adar II 5782

03/15/2022 06:03:11 PM


How I get dressed in the morning depends entirely upon my weight. The size of my clothing not only go up or go down, rather it also changes how I wear the clothing. My button-down shirts need to expand at the seams and my pants will vary up and down my waistline. On the positive side, I have found that my socks fit all the time, and if the shoe fits, wear it. One outer accessory that I wear all the time, but others may never wear while still others wear only on certain occasions, is a necktie. Even a necktie needs to be adjusted, knotting by  starting in various positions to ensure the tie is not too long or too short. My bowties need to be adjusted in the width, coordinated with my weight as it goes up and down! I have been fighting this battle (The battle of the bulge) for a long time and I do not even see a ceasefire on the horizon. In life, the advice we give is sometimes not to fight to win the battle but to win the war! Which somehow brings me to another character of clothing, our arsenal.  

Correct me if I am wrong, but I estimate the majority of times the word “wardrobe” is used to describe the clothing of a woman, not necessarily the attire of a man, at least not mine. The official definition and etymology of the word “wardrobe” appeared in the English language in the early 14th century. It originated from Old French words warderobe, wardereube and garderobe, in which "warder" meant "to keep, to guard" and "robe" meant "garment". My take on the etymology of the word is that it’s fairly well aligned  with “War D’ Robe” -  it’s a constant war that goes on with the robe or clothing I attempt to conquer.. While it is true that clothing and manners do not make the man, however, when he is made, the stuff we choose to wear greatly improve his appearance. The great Chasidic masters emphasize the importance of proper, almost elegant attire, especially on Shabbos and Yom Tov. But even during the week a person needs to be presentable as each of us is the embodiment of Tzelem Elokim - created in the image of God.

When setting up a home, there is a halachik recommendation to affix a mirror at the entrance/ exit (the front door), to give a person one last lookover before leaving the house to be among people. The need to straighten a hat, to fix a tie, to ensure clothing is both clean and presentable all combine to make us appropriately attired to the outside world. Clothing also defines us as people. Uniforms are worn to identify someone’s business or type of work being done.  Police officers, fire fighters, nurses, doctors, members of the military, athletes, used car salesmen, technicians, and so forth, all wear uniforms or appropriate clothing that indicate their line of work and expertise. In addition, a uniform is a sign of belonging and identifying with a certain group. As you are reading this now - either on Purim day or just after - you witnessed and perhaps even participated in dressing just a little differently than you typically tend to do on any other day of the year.

One of the most prominent customs practiced on Purim is to dress up in costume. This custom was actually mentioned in the Rishonim, the writings of the early leading scholars who lived from the 11th to the 15th centuries.  In fact, the Rema, Rabbi Moshe Isserles (1530–1572),   

 a Talmudist and noted expert in halacha – Jewish law, wrote that it is acceptable on Purim for men to dress up as women, even though this seemingly violates the prohibition in Devarim 22:8 "A man's clothes shall not be on a woman, and a man shall not wear women's clothes". Others mention that is customary to dress up as non-Jews, although this violates the prohibition in Vayikra 18:3 “don't go in their ways".  One explanation regarding this custom is the prohibition to be likened to non- Jews exists at several levels. In general, this prohibition, like other Torah prohibitions, should not stand in the way of danger, and indeed the Shulchan Aruch in Yoreh Deah 157:2 writes that a person may dress up like a non-Jew to avoid being identified as a Jew if Jews are being attacked. However, in the previous Halacha it states: “…if there is a decree for Jews to dress like non-Jews in order to make us lose our distinctiveness, then we are forbidden to change our dress even in the face of danger”.

At the time of Purim, the decree of Haman was directed against all Jews. It is true that the stated reason behind the decree was Haman's claim in the Megillah 3:8 that we were a people who did not keep the king's laws. This, however, was not Haman's true motivation, and in any case the decree applied to all Jews. In this case, dressing up as a non-Jew would have been permissible. And so, the custom to dress up as non-Jews reminds us that this practice would have been permissible at the time of the original miracle due to the unique nature of Haman's decree. Another possible explanation is that the non-Jews at that time likened themselves to Jews, as the Megillah 8:17 states: 'And many of the common people Judaized themselves’. We both commemorate and mock this insincere, purely external adherence to Judaism by adopting a purely external likeness to non-Jews while internally remaining fully devoted to our faith.  More significant, there are other times that changing of clothing was not only important but imperative.

In this week’s Parshas Tzav the Torah states in Vayikra 6:4 "ופשט את בגדיו ולבש בגדים אחרים, והוציא את הדשן אל מחוץ למחנה אל מקום טהור"  “He shall then take off his vestments, and put on other garments. He shall then take the ashes to a ritually clean place outside the camp”. The Chassidic master, Rebbi Moshe of Kobrin (1784–1858), explains the removing of the vestments is when a person reveals himself by taking off his outer or exterior layer and fixes the sins of the inner layer of the neshama, the soul. It is upon him to search through his deeds and heal the blemishes and put on ‘other’ types of clothing. The removing of the stained and heavy garments and be replaced with light, clean, new clothing that is free of sin. This is part of the Teshuva process which never really ends but is always a constant battle; therefore, the changing of the garments is never ending. It is a war against the Yetzer Hora, using certain types of clothing to benefit us in the repentance process, ultimately growing closer to Hashem. Therefore, we are constantly changing, ridding ourselves of one sin, working on the next one, to eventually change that one as well.

My hope, prayer, and bracha for everyone is to have a full wardrobe - an arsenal to fight the Yetzer Hora, the evil inclination – to properly dress ourselves inside and out so as to make us the men and women who are proud to stand in front of God!

Ah Freilichin Purim & Ah Gutten Shabbos,

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Tue, August 16 2022 19 Av 5782