Tetzaveh – Clothing Makes the Man

The substantive nature of this week’s Parsha, Tetzaveh, is straight out of a clothing design magazine. It provides a detailed description of the jacket style, pants, even headwear of the Kohen – the priests who served in the temple. The colour scheme, stitching, embellishments of ‘bells and whistles’ are fully noted. And one wonders: why the need for such details of something as secondary, as the clothing that is worn. Surely the inner character is what counts. But there is a deeper implication in this narrative. There is a well-worn (no pun intended!) adage: “clothing makes the man” (most recently voiced by Mark Twain, but also noted by Shakespeare, Erasmus, Quintilian, and going back to Homer – and now implicated in the Bible itself!) We all feel differently in different clothing styles. Something about what we wear affects us from outside in. There is a deeper meaning to the teachings about clothing in our Parsha. Spiritually, the soul’s ‘clothing’ layers are the ‘undergarments – thought (the undergarments) , speech (the ‘middle’ layer like the shirt) and behavior (the outer layer like the coat). To gain mastery over these layers of self requires clear goals and prescriptions. What the Torah is providing us with is a set of such mastery instructions to practice. Indeed every element of the priest’s garb is a component of one of our spiritual layers. As a result, our thoughts, words and actions indeed ‘make man’ – meaning, determine our personality, and consequent relationships in the world. What spiritual clothes do you wear?