Clothes Don’t Make The Person… so, What Should I Wear?

Posted on March 1, 2023

By Hazzan Jacob Sandler.


In this week’s Parasha, Tetzaveh, God tells Moshe to instruct the people about the priestly garments, sacral vestments made of “Zahav, t’chelet, v’argaman, v’tola’at shani” – Gold, and  blue, purple and crimson yarns. 

In that list, I hear echoes of the very special materials used just last week in parashat terumah to make the Mishkan – the portable sanctuary used by the Israelites in the wilderness. Those included Gold, silver, bronze, blue and purple and crimson among other things. 

When it came to creating a sacred space for God’s presence to dwell, it took the best of the best materials. When much of the same stuff is used to make the priestly vestments, it subtly shows us the holiness of the person wearing them. It even says, “Make sacral vestments for your brother Aaron, for dignity and adornment” Dignity and Adornment – l’chavod ul’Tifaret (Kavod and Tiferet). Respect and beauty. 

We all know ‘clothes don’t make the man’ but what we wear does matter. Clothing allows us to express our individuality, or in the case of a sports jersey or other uniform, can communicate our association with a community, team or other collective. What we wear sends a message, and not only to those around us observing us, but our clothing can also send a message to ourselves. When we put on our Shabbat best, we show ourselves that Shabbat is a special day, worthy of being dressed up for — like a wedding. During the pandemic, I was on the job search, and I always wore my full suit — even the pants, belt and shoes — to my zoom interviews. Why? Nobody saw my shoes or below my waist. Would it have really mattered if I interviewed in a shirt, tie, jacket and pajama pants? I think the feeling of being in certain clothing affects how we perceive ourselves and thus impact how we act in the world. 

There are many examples of the importance of our garments. Our Tallit and Tzitzit remind us of the mitzvot. On High Holidays, I wear an all-white Kittel, and a special hat called a Mitre to hearken back to the Priestly robes and headdresses — and all white to represent the purity I hope to achieve through the prayers and repentance. And perhaps most relevant with Purim just around the corner, (Monday Night and Tuesday — join us), we sometimes dress up in zany costumes as a profound reminder of how God can be concealed in everyday miracles, hidden beneath the surface of otherwise ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ events. 

So what will you wear? And what do you hope your clothing will say about you to others? What will your outward appearance inspire you to be on the inside?