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12 Nissan 5773 / March 22-23, 2013

Dan Horwitz photo

In this week’s portion, Tzav, we find the specific instructions delivered to Aaron and his sons as to how to perform the ritual sacrifices. In particular, we learn about a few different types of offerings: burnt, meal, anointment, sin, guilt, and well-being. We learn that priesthood would only be passed on to Aaron’s male descendants, and we learn that we’re not permitted to eat certain animal fats (who knew the Bible was so ahead of its time as it relates to eating healthily!), and that eating blood is not permitted. And at the end of the portion, Moses anoints Aaron and his sons (and their vestments), and they begin their duties as the Israelites’ designated priests.

I can’t help but be fascinated with the concept of anointing vestments. The notion that certain clothing can be spiritually uplifted via a ritual process is quite intriguing to me, as I sit here writing this Dvar Torah while wearing jeans and a t-shirt. I try to think back to my lucky sports socks or the baseball hat I wore every day for almost 3 years, and I have a hard time remembering what it was that made those objects so special and out-of-the-ordinary. I don’t recall there being any sort of formal “you are now special because I’ve sprinkled special water on you” moments…

And yet, our tradition certainly creates space for making otherwise mundane garments holy. Think, for example, of the difference between a rectangular piece of fabric, and of the same piece of fabric now containing fringes on the four corners (making it a tallit).

Even more so, think of the garments we use to clothe our Torah scrolls, such as a belt and cover. While in and of themselves ordinary, by virtue of covering our sacred objects, these garments take on an elevated status of holiness in our minds.

Should the clothing we wear be any different?

If we each contain a Divine spark, and given our traditional belief that to save a single human being’s life is to save the world, should we treat ourselves and our adornments any differently than we would those that cover our Torah scrolls? In a world where many are unclothed, what would it be like to view ourselves as holy vessels, and to elevate what we consider routine and mundane, such as our clothing, to a higher status?

In the traditional morning blessings, we praise the Divine for clothing the naked (“malbish arumim”). But the reality is there are still many who don’t have the clothes they need, and that those of us who do often are not appreciative enough of them.

This Shabbat, take stock of your wardrobe. Examine your relationship with clothing. Donate some of your lightly used items to help clothe others. Recognize that simply by virtue of you wearing them, your garments can, if you allow them to, take on an elevated, and even holy status.

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