What Our Clothing Says About Us

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The fact that we as humans wear clothing distinguishes us from the animal world. After Adam and Chava ate the forbidden fruit, (Breisheet 3:7) they sewed together a fig leaf to wear. In Breisheet 3:21, God made them garments of skin and clothed them (more durable and more modest!).

According to Benno Jacob (1862-1955), a Geman-Jewish Bible scholar quoted by Nechama Leibowitz:

Clothing is not merely a protection against cold or ornamentative. It constitutes the primary and necessary distinguishing mark of human society. In the moral consciousness of man it serves to set him higher than the beast. The status and glory of man are reflected in the character of his attire. Just to be clothed already lends dignity to man. The kohanim (priests) were given special garments (Parshat Tetzaveh – Shmot 28:2) “Lechavod u’letifaret”, for splendor and for beauty. The highest status that a mortal can attain is that of the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur. He is then clothed in white as a symbol of purity and light.

Ramban points out (Shmot 28:2) that the styles of clothing that the kohanim wore for their service- breastplate, ephod, robe, tunic of a box-like knit, a turban and a sash, as well as the materials that were used, gold, turquoise, purple and scarlet wool, and the linen were similar to what was worn by royalty. The clothing of the Kohanim enhanced the dignity and prestige of the wearer and his sacred office in the eyes of the people.

In Tehillim- Psalms 104:1 we read in reference to God “You are clothed in majesty”, Hod v’Hadar lavashta.

In the Proverb “Eshet Chayil”, Woman of Valor, we read the words “Shesh v’argaman levusha”, she wears linen and purple as well as “Oz v’hadar levusha”, strength and majesty are her raiment. In these words we see that her outward dress is like royalty, like the Kohanim and even Godly. However, it is not what she is wearing on the outside; rather it is her true character on the inside that counts. We find this towards the end of the Proverb “sheker hachen v’hevel hayofi, isha yirat HaShem hee tithalal”, False is grace and vain is beauty, a God fearing woman-she should be praised.

So go to Bloomingdales and buy yourself that great new outfit but remember- in the end it’s what is on the inside that really counts.