Friday, March 10, 2017

Tetzaveh and Purim: The Clothes Make the Man...or the Queen (Guest Post)

A big thank you to my friend and colleague, Rabbi Kelilah Miller, for filling in for me this week. I have been in California all week, and so haven't had time to write the blog. Included below is Rabbi Miller's post for this Shabbat and the upcoming holiday. Enjoy!

Thank you, once again, to Rabbi Gerber for offering me the opportunity to guest-blog this week while he is away visiting family.

I am especially happy to guest-blog this week, because I have always liked this Torah portion. One might rightly ask: Why? We
are now deep in the part of the book of Exodus that is notoriously boring (even to rabbis!).  We have gone from the drama of the liberation from Egypt to a series of lists describing the laws of property damages, architectural details of the Tabernacle, and the garments of the priests.  Not “edge of your seat” material, no matter how you look at it. BUT, there is a really lovely connection to the holiday cycle that makes me smile every year.  

So what does this week’s Torah portion, which describes the priestly garments, have to do with Purim? Well…..costumes.  
Both the Torah portion and the tale of Queen Esther show us how important it is to dress the part.  The priests are defined by how they dress - each article of clothing signals something about their role, from the breastplate to the bells on the hems of the priestly tunic. We are even told that the priests are required to wear undergarments to preserve their modesty- no detail is left out!

When we turn to the Purim Megillah, we see clothes and costumes showing up everywhere - Vashti is deposed for refusing to appear wearing (only) the royal crown, Esther spends a year perfecting her appearance before meeting the King, Mordechai is scolded for wearing sackcloth and ashes near the palace, and is then later paraded around the capitol wearing the king's own clothes. The importance of clothes and costumes in the Purim story is one of the sources of the custom of dressing up (the costume custom?).

So, other than noticing this little coincidence, what might we do with it?  In honor of the bravery of Queen Esther, it has become one of my own Purim practices to give my Purim Tzedakah to a
cause that has some special impact on women.  And to acknowledge the importance of “dressing the part”, I have recently taken up the tradition of giving to organizations that provide affordable professional wear to women who are returning to the workforce after a long absence.  As we enter into the Purim weekend, I encourage all of us to find ways to think about the Mitzvah of malbish arumim - providing clothing for those without.  I also encourage us all to find something truly outrageous and fabulous to wear - after all, this is our chance to dress for the part we really want (even if it’s Batman).

Photos in this blog post:
1. CC image of "La Toilette d'Esther" courtesy of Center for Jewish History, NYC on Wikimedia Commons
2. CC image courtesy of Jonund on Wikimedia Commons
3. CC image courtesy of AdamBMorgan on Wikimedia Commons

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