Do clothes make the man? What is Purim's most important act?

Today, Purim, many wear costumes and tomorrow, Shabbat. we read of the High Priest's garments. But what is the mmost important Purim deed?

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol ,

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
INN: Daniel Malichi

These days we are at the height of the month of Adar, the days of Purim, and we are getting our costumes ready. Our Torah portion of the week, which this year actually “meets” Purim, also deals with the subject of clothing: The garments of the kohanim and the Kohein Gadol.

If we look at the laws pertaining to the garments of the kohanim we find that the laws are very strict. For example: A kohein is removes or adds a garment to his required clothes his work is the Mishkan or Beit HaMikdash invalid and he is sentenced to death. A kohein who wears another layer between the required clothing and his flesh his work is invalid. A kohein who has a tear in his garment his work is invalid. A kohein's clothes needs to reach his palms and heels. And the question arises “Why is so much emphasis put on the clothes? After all, isn’t it true that the garments are just external trappings while the essence of the work of the Temple is ostensibly intention, holiness and purity?”

The truth is, the laws and importance of clothing are not the domain of the kohanim alone. We are all "a kingdom of kohanim and a holy nation" and the kohanim just express the holiness of all of the people of Israel. This is why we find many refences to clothing in Jewish law. Some examples are: in which clothing is it permissible to say a blessing or to pray Shmona Esrei, the order of dressing in the morning, which clothing it is permissible to wear on Chol HaMoed, Shabbat and Chagim, Shatnaz, tzitzit, the laws of modesty in clothing and the laws of wearing a kipa.

Here, too, the questioner will come and ask, “why did Judaism, which emphasized the purity of the heart, see fit to give such importance to clothing which covers the body? Before we try to answer these things, let's just keep in mind: Many times we hear arguments about why educators pay so much attention to the laws of modesty. Do they think that G-d sits in heaven and measures centimeters?

First of all the answer is “yes”. Many laws in Judaism are an issue of centimeters. We are now in the time of the year that we read the Parshiot of the Mishkan in which the Torah gives precise measurements of all the vessels of the Mishkan and the Mishkan itself. The same is true about the exacting laws of a sukkah, the parameters are where one can go on Shabbat, to amounts of food eaten, etc. Halacha is observed through all of its precise and exacting details. But moreover, precisely on the subject of clothing, how can we complain that the Torah pays a lot of attention to it, when we live in a world that spends hundreds of billions of dollars on promoting fashion, and when we ourselves invest thousands of shekels yearly and many hours in our clothing and appearance?

Now we will try to go deeper into understanding the subject of clothes in Judaism, and for that we will return to the story of creation. Before the sin of Adam HaRishon the Torah says "and both man and his wife were naked and were not ashamed." That is to say, their souls were completely pure and so when one looked at their bodies they only saw the soul inside. Therefore, there was no need for a garment to cover the body itself. But when Adam and Eve sinned by eating from the Etz HaDaat, the filth of the serpent entered them, and their souls lost their complete purity, so when looking at them one saw also their bodies and not just their souls.

Therefore after they sinned the Torah says, "And the eyes of them both were opened, and they realized that they were naked and they sewed fig leaves into garments.” There was already a dimension of shame in possessing a body which felt greed and caused them to sin, so they felt it was necessary to cover it. And G-d supported this truth as the Torah says, "And G-d made Adam and his wife coats of skins and clothed them." It can even be said that the word garment – בגד - in this instance comes from the language of בגידה -- betrayal. The garment covered the body that betrayed its original function of just showcasing the soul and caused them to sin. If so, the first purpose of clothing is to cover the body out of shame for what it has caused and may cause in the future. In addition, clothing comes to cover the body and restrict it from erupting and controlling the soul inside. According to this understanding it is very understandable why the Torah requires of us that we wear modest clothing.

But there is another dimension to clothing, which was renewed mainly after the giving of the Torah. The body, with all its weaknesses, is also the tool through which the soul is revealed and the study of the Torah and observance of mitzvot are observed. Therefore, especially since the giving of the Torah, the body is very significant, as it carries out G-d's will in the world. Therefore, another reason for clothing is to beautify and enhance the body which carries such an important role, as the Torah says regarding the garments of the kohein: "(the garments are) for honor and glory." According to this understanding, clothing, besides for being modest, should also be beautiful and noble, so that they will be an expression of the soul.

The truth is that there is no contradiction between these two dimensions, rather they complement each other. The body may pull us to filth and sin when it exerts its own importance, and for that we cover it in shame in order to reduce its power. But when the body is used as a tool for holiness, when it understands its importance as a servant and the bearer of the soul, then we respect it but dressing it in fine and beautiful garments. And as more and more holiness is revealed through the body, so too the mitzvah to glorify it increases. Therefore on Shabbat we are commanded to wear beautiful clothing and the kohanim, who are on a higher level than the rest of the nation, are given special garments. So the next time we choose our clothes, from the closet or in the store, we need to make sure that our choice will indeed reflect the role of the garment.

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol is the head of the Barkai Rabbinical Organization and the rabbi of the Shaarei Yonah Menachem community in Modi'in

Purim’s Most Important Act

In his Book of the Commandments, Maimonides counts as Commandment 8: Imitatio Dei (imitation of the divine) as one of the 613 commandments: To emulate His good and just ways, states: "And you shall walk in His ways."Just as G-d is compassionate and gracious, so should we. The rabbis write similarly in Tractate Sotah: R. Hama son of R. Hanina further said: What means the text: Ye shall walk after the Lord your God? Is it, then, possible for a human being to walk after the Shechinah; for has it not been said: For the Lord thy God is a devouring fire?

But, the meaning is to walk after the attributes of the Holy One, blessed be He. As He clothes the naked, for it is written: And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife coats of skin, and clothed them, so do thou also clothe the naked. The Holy One, blessed be He, visited the sick, for it is written: And the Lord appeared unto him by the oaks of Mamre, so do thou also visit the sick. The Holy One, blessed be He, comforted mourners, for it is written: And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed Isaac his son, so do thou also comfort mourners. The Holy one, blessed be He, buried the dead, for it is written: And He buried him in the valley, so do thou also bury the dead.

Thus, when we give to the poor, we are not only giving charity but we are making ourselves more Godlike. This is what Maimonides directs us to do on the holiday of Purim. He writes in the Mishne Torah: It is preferable for a person to be more liberal with his donations to the poor than to be lavish in his preparation of the Purim feast or in sending portions to his friends. For there is no greater and more splendid happiness than to gladden the hearts of the poor, the orphans, the widows, and the converts.One who brings happiness to the hearts of these unfortunate individuals resembles the Divine Presence, which Iasiah describes as having the tendency "to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive those with broken hearts."

So, when we give to the needy, we imitate G-d. We must actively think about this every day but certainly on Purim. We are wont to give creative Mishloach Manot and have lavish Seudot but are we as attentive as we should be to Matanot La’Avyonim? Do we spend as much on imitating the divine as we do on Mishloach Manot and The Seudah combined? This is the most important task.

We do something else when we take Matanot La Evyonim seriously: we bring more unity and brotherhood to the Jewish people. When we give charity pleasanyly we create connections as well as more social eualty. Haman felt that he could attempt to destroy the Jewish people because they were” spread and scattered.” When we unite and come together we foil the plots of those who would destroy us. Jewish unity is very much needed at the present time.

While this is true every Purim it is more necessitated this year due to the Corona crisis. Many needy are more needy. Many have lost their jobs or have taken a large cut in salary. We must be sensitive to their needs as we celebrate ourselves.

Please take the time to consider an appropriate gift to someone who needs it on this Purim. Over this past year it has often been spoken about what we can learn and take away from Corona. Being sensitive to the needs of our fellow human beings is certainly at the top of the list.

Written by Rabbi David Fine, Founder and Dean of the Barkai Center for Practical Rabbinics and Rabbi Avrohom Leventhal. Executive Director of Lema’an Achai