Say Yes! You look wonderful tonight/ parashat tetzaveh

“I see why you wear that shirt, you’re trying to hide your belly, but you can’t do that, it’s right there so you better do some diet”. I remember that I felt beyond embarrassed, totally naked.

 

“It’s late in the evening; she’s wondering what clothes to wear

She puts on her make-up and brushes her long blonde hair

And then she asks me, Do I look all right?

And I say, “Yes, you look wonderful tonight”

E Clapton

Exodus 28:2-4

וְעָשִׂ֥יתָ בִגְדֵי־קֹ֖דֶשׁ לְאַהֲרֹ֣ן אָחִ֑יךָ לְכָב֖וֹד וּלְתִפְאָֽרֶת׃

Make sacral vestments for your brother Aaron, for dignity and splendor.

This Torah Portion discusses in great detail the clothing that the Cohanim, the priests, will wear. One might wonder – should the clothing be such an essential topic? And the answer might be in an issue that many of us are familiar with:

What should I wear tonight??

We know from our daily lives that the question of clothing is often essential to our experience.

וְעָשִׂ֥יתָ בִגְדֵי־קֹ֖דֶשׁ לְאַהֲרֹ֣ן אָחִ֑יךָ לְכָב֖וֹד וּלְתִפְאָֽרֶת׃

Make sacral vestments for your brother Aaron, for dignity and splendor

Aaron was going to fulfill a new role in the society. There was a real need for that role and he had the internal ability to fulfill it. The function of the clothing was to represent the change in his status. It was in a way a reminder for himself and for those looking at him.

For dignity and for splendor לכבוד ולתפארת

The word KAVOD means respect but it also resembles KOVED, weight. The weight of the responsibility that this role conveys. The word TIF’ERET is translated as Splendor. Rabbi Levi-Yitzhak of Berdichev explains that the splendor of the garment is a reflection of the internal beauty of the wearer.

The Malbim (Rabbi Meir ben Yehiel Michael) too explains that this goes beyond the physical garment: “But [the garments] really indicate inner clothes – to clothe their souls with thoughts and traits and proper tendencies… and the craftsmen did not make those garments. But God commanded Moses that he should make these sacred garments – meaning to teach them how to refine their souls and traits, in such a way they will wear majesty and splendor upon their internal souls.”

Our clothes have the potential to help us to tell the story of who we want to be and where we want to be.

God tells Moses:

וְאַתָּ֗ה תְּדַבֵּר֙ אֶל־כָּל־חַכְמֵי־לֵ֔ב אֲשֶׁ֥ר מִלֵּאתִ֖יו ר֣וּחַ חָכְמָ֑ה וְעָשׂ֞וּ אֶת־בִּגְדֵ֧י אַהֲרֹ֛ן לְקַדְּשׁ֖וֹ לְכַהֲנוֹ־לִֽי׃

Next you shall instruct all who are skillful, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, to make Aaron’s vestments, for consecrating him to serve Me as a priest.

You can read this verse K’phshuto – literally – and interpret that we are talking about how to make the garment. But if we go one more layer in, this verse is talking about social perception and how the community will “buy” or listen to the story that Aaron is trying to tell. It sounds simple but indeed it is often challenging to be open and to have the wisdom of spirit in order to listen to the stories that others are trying to tell us.

About 25 years ago I attended a family birthday party. At that time I used to wear t-shirts with open button-down shirts on top. I truly liked that, it helped me feel confident. I remember that I was talking with one of the adults in that party who looked at me and said: “I see why you wear that shirt, you’re trying to hide your belly, but you can’t do that, it’s right there so you better do some diet”. I remember that I felt beyond embarrassed, totally naked.

For years I had been told that fat wasn’t pretty, and I was fat. And yes, I was hiding my belly, because I wanted to feel handsome that day. There was a story that I wanted to tell myself and others. I wasn’t just clothing my body, I was trying to clothe my soul. The adult in me today recognizes that there was actually truth in that story and that I was a handsome boy. However, then, the young boy was absolutely devastated by the alternative narrative offered by the adult – because what the young boy heard was “you are fat, even if you try to hide it, and therefore you are not handsome”. What that adult did not have was the wisdom of spirit to listen to my story.

 

Kabbalah teaches that T’feret -Splendor is born in the intersection between Gevurah – Courage and Chesed- Lovingkindness. In the meeting between the courage to be who you want to be and the loving kindness of the community to embrace your being.

In our ability to be Chachamey Lev, to be a community with spiritual wisdom, lies the opportunity to provide individuals with the chance to reflect the splendor of their internal light and to become a truthful version and the best version of themselves. Of course this doesn’t end in our physical appearance. Among other things, it extends to our relationships and to the roles that we occupy in our society.

Unfortunately, sometimes we are so closed in our own stories that we miss what others are trying to tell us. It is so common that we hear in order to answer rather than hear with the purpose of listening! The challenge is to try expand the narrowness of our narratives while opening ourselves to the experience of listening, defining less and allowing more.

I find inspiration in the blessing written by Marcia Falk, often used to bless our kids when we introduce them to the covenant:


היה אשר תהיה והיה ברוך באשר תהיה

Be who you are and may you be blessed in all that you are.
I’d like to invite you to start listening with this idea in your mind. What a wonderful thing it would be to listen to stories and to support them with the wish in our hearts of allowing them to become.

היי אשר תהיי והיי ברוכה באשר תהיי

Be who you are and may you be blessed in all that you are.
So going back to where we started… to the question “Do I look alright?”  You will say “yes, you look wonderful tonight!”

May you be who you are and may you be blessed in all that you are.


Shabbat Shalom

 

2 comments

  • Lovely, Rabbi Nico! How kind of you to help us all feel wonderful

  • Mrs. Rev. Dolores Louise Mary Nwta Gibbs Smith

    It was nice. Yes, we should remember that the L-RD was dressing Aaron in clothing that would symbolize the dreams that the L-RD had visualized for Aaron who would be an advertisement for holiness. Everything Aaron was going to wear would remind the family of what the L-RD wanted the family to think about.
    What we wear should be an advertisement of who we are. Kindness is key in relationships when we converse with one another and I am sad to hear how rude your relative was with you because the older should teach the children. Thank you . G-D bless you.

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