David Walk
David Walk

Day Six: The Clothes Make the Man

Finally, it’s Friday, TGIF!! You don’t have to be Jewish to love Friday. There are so many great Friday quotes, but one of my favorites is: Every Friday I like to high-five myself for getting through another week on little more than caffeine, willpower and inappropriate humor. Thank you Nanea Hoffman, whoever you are, for expressing how I feel many Fridays. Of course, she’s leaving out my anticipation of Shabbat, but you get the idea: Fridays are cool. 

We observant Jews express our sentiments about YOM SHISHI in our SHIR SHEL YOM, which is Psalm 93. It’s very short, which also makes me happy. According to the famous Talmudic list of the daily Psalms: On the sixth day of the week, the Leviyim would recite the psalm beginning: The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty (Tehillim 93:1), because on that day He completed His labor and ruled over all of creation in full glory (Rosh Hashanah 31a). With a completed Creation activated, God dons the splendid mantle of Cosmic Ruler. 

That’s a wonderful image. God’s Day Six garments are Friday finery. This is cool, and I have no idea what it’s talking about. How do God and clothing work? And why is the Lord clothed twice (LAVESH LAVESH)? What can it possibility mean for us mortals? 

The Ohr HaChayim explains that the doubling of God’s raiment on Friday can be understood like the double GA’EH (‘glory’) from the Song of the Sea. God’s ‘glory’ increased as a result of this momentous event. Similarly, God’s completion of Creation increased the Divine clothing ensemble. Perhaps, because the completed magnificent Universe, in some way, bedecks the Creator. 

Again, can we apply this image to ourselves? I believe strongly that we can. But first allow me a technical aside. We have two major terms for clothing in Hebrew: BEGED and LEVUSH. We normally assume that Biblical Hebrew has no synonyms, and, therefore we ask, ‘What’s the difference between BEGED and LEVUSH?’  

It’s been said (Rav Moshe Shapiro and others) that BEGED comes from ‘treachery’ (like BAGADNU, ‘we have rebelled’). A BEGED, therefore, often will hide the real nature of the person wearing the garment. Like BIGDEI KAHUNA, hide the fact that these mere humans are serving in the Beit HaMikdash like angels serve in heaven. LEVUSH, on the hand, enhances the reality of the wearer. Some clothes hide who we really are; others bring out our true nature.  

  The completed universe gave us a glimpse of God’s true glory. On YOM SHISHI, as we prepare and dress for Shabbat, we should feel a certain power surging through us. We are sloughing off our weekday worries, and ready ourselves to allow our spiritual reality to shine through. The real us emerges as we adorn ourselves with our best clothing.  

Most importantly, there should be two separate projects developing. First, the physical reclamation enterprise of our Shabbat appearance emerging from our weekday drab chrysalis, the first LAVESH. Then, comes the full butterfly effect as we endeavor to allow our NESHAMA to assume control of our personality, with the advent of our Shabbat NESHAMA YETEIRA (double dose spiritual identity), the second LAVESH. 

When I consider this transformation, I think of the great Kabbalists of Tzfat. As the sun dipped behind, Mount Meron they would wrap themselves in garments of white and go out to greet the Shabbat Queen/Bride. I have this powerful image of a dual transformation. One happening as they slip into the white robes; the other as they witness the simultaneous exit of the week and the glorious entrance of Shabbat. 

Boy, do I wish that I could report that this describes my personal Friday afternoon. But I cannot tell a lie. Usual my Friday is hectic, and I’m rushing to get to shul in time. I’m neurotic about punctuality, which exacerbates my Friday issues, and annoys those around me. 

However, the end of the Psalm comes to the rescue. The penultimate verse declares: Above the thunder (KOLOT) of the mighty waters, more majestic than the breakers of the sea is the LORD, majestic on high (verse 4). Even if my Friday transformation left something to be desired, the Kabbalat Shabbat experience in shul and then Kiddush at home often succeed in instilling a sense of God’s glory, which Shabbat is about. And hopefully the singing provides the KOLOT (‘thunder’, especially Psalm 29, ‘The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over the mighty waters. Verse 3). 

Then we actually celebrate Shabbat, which is beautifully described in our Psalm’s final verse: Your decrees are indeed enduring; holiness befits Your house, O LORD, for length of days (verse 5). Those ‘decrees’ are called EDOTECHA, Your testimonies. Those are Mitzvot which bear witness to God’s great deeds, like Pesach. Here our Shabbat observances testify to our perfect faith in God the Creator, and our appreciation of the wonderful world provided. And that’s what we’ll describe next in the Shabbat Psalm.

About the Author
Born in Malden, MA, 1950. Graduate of YU, taught for Rabbi Riskin in Riverdale, NY, and then for 18 years in Efrat with R. Riskin and R. Brovender at Yeshivat Hamivtar. Spent 16 years as Educational Director, Cong. Agudath Sholom, Stamford, CT. Now teach at OU Center and Yeshivat Orayta.
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