"Clothes for Honor and Glory"

  • Harav Yehuda Amital
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Student Summaries of Sichot of the Roshei Yeshiva
Yeshivat Har Etzion


*********************************************************

Yeshivat Har Etzion invites you
to join us for its Annual Dinner

which will be held Tuesday, March 21st
at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in NYC.

Rabbi Ari Berman - Rabbinic Tribute Award

Dr.  Mark and Brenda Gardenswartz - Parents of the Year

Elana Stein and Tova Warburg Sinensky - first American alumnae
of the Stella K.  Abraham Beit Midrash for Women in Migdal Oz,

Yeshivat Har Etzion Classes of 1985 and 1986

For more information contact the NY office at [email protected] or call 1212-732-4874

*********************************************************

 

PARASHAT TETZAVEH

 

SICHA OF HARAV YEHUDA AMITAL SHLIT"A

 

"Clothes for Honor and Glory"

 

Summarized by Shaul Barth

Translated by Kaeren Fish

 

 

Our parasha speaks about the priestly garments; I would like to speak about clothing in general.

 

Rambam (Moreh Nevukhim III:33) describes the values that the Torah comes to teach Israel. One of these values is hygiene of the body and cleanliness of clothes. Rambam goes on to say that a person who emphasizes only these external values is a sinful and wanton individual, but still we see that great importance is attached to a person's outward appearance and manner.

 

In the Gemara we read of Rabbi Yochanan, who was so handsome that he used to station himself outside the mikveh, so that women emerging from their ritual immersion would set their eyes upon him and eventually give birth to handsome children. In one of his sayings, Rabbi Yochanan asserts that a Torah Sage must ensure that his clothing is clean and respectable; this, too, teaches us that a person must pay proper attention to his outer appearance. Even Rabbi Yochanan, blessed with an exceptionally handsome appearance, took care to ensure that his garments were clean.

 

During the 1960's, "hippies" introduced a trend of strange clothes and a peculiar appearance. By this they meant to show that a person's importance lies inside; therefore, there is no significance to the outer form that he assumes. Judaism does not accept this approach. Undoubtedly, inner character is most important, but external appearance also has its place. The culture of the '60's expressed a lack of shame, a sort of uninterest in how a person looked. Shame is a very important principle in Judaism. We see this evidenced in the fact that the very first thing that God does, after Adam and Chava are expelled from Gan Eden, is to sew them garments made of skins. The trend towards a lack of shame reaches its extreme in the form of nudist colonies: entire communities of people who go about naked, like animals. One of man's distinct levels of superiority over the animals is our sense of shame; this emotion is important, and it is important that we care about how we look.

 

When I was younger, I used to go into the students' rooms to see how they looked, whether they were tidy. Today I am too old for that, but it must be emphasized that there is importance attached to how things look, to external appearance. Clearly, a person who focuses only on externals is corrupt, but a normal person must take this aspect of reality into consideration. It was said that in the yeshiva of Slobodka, students who bought new suits would not come to wish the rav "Shabbat Shalom," because he would praise the new garment and would wish them to wear it well, and the students did not want to be treated in any special way. The rav did this because he wanted to show them that outer appearance is important.

 

The Torah places inner values as our top priority, but does not suffice with this. One interpretation of the sin of the sons of Aharon was that they entered the Mishkan without their priestly garments. They believed that what was important was inner values, and therefore if they really wanted to serve God, surely it would not matter how they were dressed. But they were mistaken. One cannot serve God in any manner that one chooses; there is significance to one's external appearance when approaching the Sanctuary, that way in which others see us is important.  This, too, is one of the values to which the Torah educates us.

 

[This sicha was delivered at seuda shelishit, Shabbat parashat Tetzaveh 5765 (2005).]