Friday, 6 March 2009

Parashat clothing

The central concern of Parashat Tetzave is clothing.
Clothing, like so much else in Judaism, can be both holy and dangerous.
In honour of clothing's dangers I offer this glorious story told of the prophet Elijah.
I'm only osrry I no longer remember where I heard if from.


A tale told of Eliayhui Hanavi - Elijah the prophet,

Eliyahu appeared in a strange town just in time for the wedding of the daughter of the most wealthy man in the village. But he is traveling in disguise, no-one, least of all the host of the wedding knows who he is.


Eliyahu arrives at the wedding dressed like a tramp.

His shirt is worn and torn and filthy.

His pants are covered in patches

His pocket of the jacket is ripped.


The father takes one look at this bedraggled stranger and insists the tramp is shown to the door. No hospitality, not accepted.


So Eliyahu leaves, only to return but this time dressed as a prince.

The silk ruffle of his shirt shimmers.

The crown on his head glistens in the candle light of the banqueting suite.

His suit, clearly made-to-measure, is styled after the very heights of fashion.

Peeking out from the sleeves of his jacket are cufflinks set with diamonds and sapphires.


The stranger, suitably attired, is welcomed with grace and honour that would be due a Prince, seated at the top table and served the very finest food.

But Eliyahu takes the soup and dips his crown in it.

He takes the delicate mousse and rubs it into his fine shirt and then smears the main course all over the sleeves of his fine jacket.


The host looks at this mysterious stranger in surprise, unable to get a get a question past his tongue that now seems just too big for his mouth.


But, but ..


Eliyahu responds, ‘You see, it seems that all this respect was not paid to me, but to my clothes. So I thought it only fair that they, not I, should enjoy the menu.’


All seems a little ridiculous

A little like the story of the clothes of Eliyahu.

The message of the Eliyahu story is clear – clothes do not ‘maketh the man’ or the woman.

If we allow ourselves to be beguiled by the clothes that people wear, we seemed destined to be blinded by false externalities, unable to see who really is underneath.


We are all, are we not, perfect creatures, each created in the image of the Divine. Clothing, then at its highest becomes a necessary bore, and if we are not careful, it becomes spiritually dangerous. It blinds us from being who we really are. It stops us from ever truly being able to see one another.


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