Nelly Shulman
Nelly Shulman

For dignity and adormnent

Our Torah portion for this week is so full of the splendid details of priestly garments that people who have spent last year sitting home in sweatpants might feel a little jealous. Our beautiful clothes in many cases have been unworn and neglected.

However, Torah is very clear in pointing out that all the fine linen, purple sashes, and precious stones that Aaron and his sons are commanded to wear constitute not the purpose but the instrument. They are professional clothing, a way to emphasize the holiness of their task.

Our society has always paid attention to looks, be they the physical appearance of the person or the clothing one wears. Countless amount of resources have been spent on telling people what to wear and when to wear it. Or not to wear, as it was often the case. Well. we have not been wearing much for the last year.

It seems that Moses was not as well. In Avodah Zarah 34a the inhabitants of the city of Ginzak baffled Rabbi Akivah with three questions he had no answer to. Not only they were environmentally conscious (hence the question about re-using the jars belonging to non-Jews), they also were concerned about fashion. They asked what did Moses wore during the dedication of the Tabernacle since he was not a kohen.

Rabbi Akiva had to go to the study hall and enquire there. The answer was as simple as the garment Moses wore. According to Rav Kahana, Moses donned a white cloak without the hem. It is not what we wear, it is how and why we wear it.

About the Author
Nelly Shulman is a journalist and writer currently based in Berlin. She is an author of four popular historical novels in the Russian language. She is working on the fifth novel in this series and on her first English-language novel, a historical thriller set during the Siege of Leningrad. She a Hawthornden Fellow and an alumna of the Nachum Goldmann Fellowship.
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