Rabbi Yoni Levin, the assistant rabbi at Aish Kodesh, was kind enough to send me his Shabbos morning drashah from this Shabbos, parshas Tetzaveh. Enjoy!
Clothing is an extraordinarily powerful tool.
It’s not only a way of covering up one’s body, but it’s a way expressing one’s inner most feelings. There are studies done about how people feel when it rains versus when it‘s sunny outside; and those feelings will in turn affect their decision making and particular what clothing they might wear that day. If someone is feeling down, he or she might wear black clothing. And someone who is feeling chipper might decide to wear colorful and bright clothing. בגדי כהונהAlthough at first glance, clothing is very superficial, very external, the תורה describes the בגדי כהונה as לכבוד ולתפארת, clothing of honor and glory. The בגדי כהונה demanded respect; it imbued a great sense of fear to whoever was זוכה to see the בגדי כהונה.
When the כהן גדול would walk through the hallways of the בית המקדש with his long coat, almost like a cape with the melodious bells ringing, wearing his finely hand-woven shirt and pants, and those shining jewels lined across his חשן משפט, and his prestigious hat, and the name of Hashem written across his forehead. A person would tremble at the very jingling of the bells, let alone when the כהן גדול stepped into your presence. It would make you melt, crumble into pieces. It would instill guilt for everything you’ve done wrong making you shatter. You feel the presence of greatness, of קדושה, you feel as if the שכינה is hovering in front of your very eyes. It’s amazing what someone else’s clothing can do to us. It is amazing how are feelings can be altered by someone else’s clothing. It could make us jealous. It could make us scared. Sometimes it can even make us laugh.
How Our Clothing Affects UsThat’s how other people’s clothing affects us. But let’s not focus on other people’s clothing. Let us take a look out ourselves. How do our clothes affect us? How does that shirt that I put on this morning affect me? How do those shoes that I just slipped on affect me?
Delivery of Uniforms on Shabbos
The following Shailah was once presented to Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach. There was a חיל who was on duty on Shabbos at the army base. A package was delivered and he knew that it was the new uniforms that had been ordered. He wasn’t sure if was permitted to open it up and give them up, or if it as prohibited because of מוקצה. The boy decided to play it safe and he did not open thr package on Shabbos.
After Shabbos he sent the Shailah to Rav Shlomo Zalman wanting to know whether he had made the right decision or not. Rav Shlomo Zalman’s response was that he should have opened up the package and given them out. Because a soldier feels like a new person with a new uniform, he is reinvigorated with new energy, strength and confidence. It will motivate him to perform and serve his duty even better.
Rav Shlomo Zalman understood how clothing can impact a person’s confidence, his perspective, his ability to perform.
Clothing Transforms us
Although clothing is so superficial and so external, it has an ability to transform a person. The גמ' says that a כהן is not a כהן unless he is wearing the בגדי כהונה. The clothing makes him into who he is. בזמן שבגדיהם עליהם כהונתכם עליהם אין בגדיהם עליהם אין כהונתכם עליהם When a person wants to change, when a person wants to overcome a struggle, a תאוה, it requires baby steps. It requires small changes - changes in things that seem so insignificant, so minor, so mundane, yet to easy that can have enormous impact.
Overcoming the WeatherMy wife told me that whenever it would rain, she would wear black because that’s how she felt. But then she starting thinking that she didn’t want to be sad, she didn’t want to be gloomy just because it was nasty outside. She didn’t want the weather to dictate how she felt. She decided instead to fight the weather and that whenever it would rain she would do the opposite. She would wear brighter clothing on the rainy days. Her clothing would put her in a better mood and fight the downwards pull of the weather.
Overcoming our יצר הרע
When kids go to Israel for a year, everyone makes fun of those guys who quickly start wearing black and white. Many times these are the kids who are struggling most, and by them changing their clothing, it shows us where they want to be, it shows their רצון to overcome their struggles in life. These young boys would like to be learning in the Beis Midrash more. There is this pull that’s taking them outside. It could be the phone, the internet; it could be girls; it could be drinking. Whatever dark world that they are living, the have the רצון to pull out of it. If they dress the part, they are hoping they can play the part. Not always successful, but it comes from a deep place within them.
The ספר חינוך is famous for writing in a number of places how the חיצוניות positively impacts the פנימיות, how the external, how one dresses really does affect the deeper part of the נשמה. This is not full-proof by any means. Just because someone begins to dress a certain way, and affiliate with a certain type, it by no way means that the person will actually change. But it is at the least a start. It is an easy change and helps get the ball moving.
Perhaps this is why the word is בגד, the 3 consecutive letters in a row, בג"ד. This indicates how clothing, בגדים, something so small, something so mundane, can push us and encourage us helping us grow on a slow, steady and healthy path – from a ב to a ג to aד. It is similar to learning Daf Yomi which also starts with a ב, every מסכתא, starts with a בג"ד. That too is about taking small strides in growth. Just one Daf a day. Even if you aren’t feeling the drive, but you know you should be learning. Showing up for 45 minutes a day, one daf after the next, will engender a healthy growth in learning.
This coming Monday night, thanks to Jeremy Feder, we are beginning Maseches Megilla. Each night we will be learning one Daf. It is a great opportunity to take upon yourself a small and reachable goal. In just 30 days we will iy”h be making a Siyum.
Even the Mundane is HolyI know what you are all thinking about. Rav Weinberger goes to Israel and I am trying to convince you all to start wearing white shirts, black hats, streimels? I am not talking about what we wear, but how we wear the clothing, how we get dressed. You know, there are הלכות about how to get dressed. Something so mundane, something so routine and something so meaningless also has rules. And it is not because the Torah and Chachamim are trying to be difficult and make our lives miserable ח"ו, but it’s the opposite. Getting dressed is full of so much קדושה, we just don’t realize it! Everything in this world is full of קדושה, from getting dressed to eating, from sleeping to walking. There is קדושה everywhere we go, every person we see, every creature that we encounter, every blade of grass we see, everything we do. The כהן גדול is not a כהן גדול unless he has the special clothing. We don’t have special clothing to wear, but perhaps if we internalized what clothing means, what it means to get dressed it can help transform us us like the בגדי כהונה did to the כהנים.
I remember growing up seeing a commercial about joining the marines. You would see the camera focuses on just a boot. The boot was shiny black looking like brand new. You would see hands tying them really neatly and comfortably. Then the camera would focus on the body of a person putting on a perfectly tailored jacket buttoning to perfection. Then you would see just the head with a cap being tightly placed on top. And then the video would zoom out showing the marine in the finest uniform, standing with perfect posture ready to serve. Every morning we should be getting dressed like this. We should be dressing up ready to meet the King of the Universe, to speak to him. Each sock that we put on, each button that we button, should be done with care and intent on meeting face to face with בורא עולם.
And it is not just because we have to be presentable to ה' יתברך, but because our נשמה needs it. Our attitude and our feelings are affected by the way we dress.
When we are struggling to fight that יצר הרע each day, we need to be prepared to battle, we need to wear our uniform in whatever color and size they come in. We need to wake up and get dressed with confidence, with a goal, with a mission and say that today I will not give in to my יצר הרע. Just because yesterday you did something you shouldn’t have done. You looked at something you shouldn’t have looked at. You said something that you shouldn’t have said. ה' יתברך gives us a new chance each morning. We wake up and get dressed and can be transformed by putting on different clothing than the day before. And even if you wear the same clothing his works. אדם וחוהAfter the חטא of אדם וחוה, the first thing that happened was that they got embarrassed and realized that they weren’t dressed. הקב"ה with his boundless חסד provided them with clothing, he provided them with an opportunity to cover up their shame, the opportunity to change who they are by simply putting on clothing.
Setting the Tone for the Day
The ספרים speak about how the first moments of the day when we wake up really sets the stage for that entire day. If we wake up and run over to check our phone, likely that the rest of the day we will be checking our phone. If we run over to check the scores in the game, then that will be the focus of the day. But if we wake up and look ourselves in the mirror and say that today will be a better day. If we get dressed being cognizant that we are soldiers prepared to fight a battle and that we are getting dressed in our uniform, then our day will be filled with us overcoming fights and struggles.
The מדרש teaches us that before the חטא of אדם וחוה, they had clothing of אור, אור with an א, meaning light. They were clothed with light, they were surrounded by light. Iy”h we should be זוכה by fighting the יצר הרע day in and day out to that כתונת אור to that coat of light. By changing not what we wear but how we wear it, by dressing like soldiers, ready to battle, each day starting new, starting fresh, we should be זוכה to overcome our struggles, overcome our יצר הרע, and very soon be זוכה to the כתונת אור of אדם הראשון!