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Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Style secrets

Daf Yomi Kesubos 111
 
I’m often complimented by members of the community as being the ‘best-dressed rabbi in Edmonton,’ and I think, ‘Seriously?  Edmonton?  That’s it?’
The other week, Defense Minister Jason Kenney attended a gathering at the home of Joel and Tsipora Reboh and he acknowledged me as the ‘best-dressed rabbi in Canada,’ and I thought, ‘Now, we’re talking!’

Now, being the best-dressed rabbi is not the same as being a well-dressed individual.  There’s a fusion of spirituality and physicality that needs to take place to be the best-dressed rabbi.  I’ll give you a couple of examples.  Chasidim adorn their tallis with a silver chain-link, called an atarah.  I believe I have the first-ever denim-backed silver atarah.  Yes, it’s custom-made from an old pair of jeans.  There was some material left over and so I have a matching denim tallis bag.

Or, how about this one: Some congregants marvel at my vast array of pocket squares – I’ll let you in on the secret.  I was sick and tired of paying fifty bucks for a hanky.  It also gets a bit much when every other week we’re clearing out the kippah box – that’s right, you’re not doing us any favours when you dump a bag full of old tatty wedding and barmitzvah yarmulkes at the shul. . .

Anyway, I’ve figured out a solution that kills two birds with one stone.  Yarmulkes make awesome pocket squares – feel free to take as many as you like from our box!

Rav Chiya bar Yosef taught: The righteous are destined to be resurrected in their clothing.  We may derive this idea from wheat.  If wheat, which when planted, is a tiny naked seedling, but then blossoms adorned with beautiful clothing, then how much more so, the righteous who are buried in their clothing! 

You see, really it’s not about Edmonton or Canada or even the planet – my goal is to be the best dressed rabbi in the Afterlife!  I just hope that the retro look remains in style for all eternity; I couldn’t bear going back to the baggy look of the 80s and 90s for all time. . .

On a serious note, what does it mean that the righteous will be resurrected in their clothing?  There are two words for clothing in Hebrew – beged and levush.  The former has the three root letters beis-gimel-daled; the latter contains lamed-beis-shin.   When you read the Hebrew alphabet backwards (in what is known numerologically as a-t ba-sh), the word beged corresponds to the word sheker, meaning falsehood.  Why?  Clothes are false, merely a façade to hide the true self.  You can change your external appearance and become anybody you want to pretend to be.

Levush, however, is a much more powerful concept.  Rabbi Reisman teaches that the three letters in levush span the Hebrew alphabet and represent spiritual clothing.  According to the Maharal, when the Gemara speaks of the righteous rising fully-clothed, it is referring to these spiritual garments.

The Kabbalists explain that the soul expresses itself through the three garments of thought, speech, and action.  The soul itself is absolutely pure; it is Divine.  But it is clothed in the three spiritual garments and your job is to refine those garments.  The more you refine your thought, speech and action, the more they become one with the soul, i.e. one with Heaven.  Righteous people have refined their garments to the extent that they will rise with them!

Every time you withhold your anger, you refine your garment of thought.  Every time you avoid gossiping, you refine your garment of speech.  Every time you give tzedakah, you refine your garment of action.  The more you refine, the greater the chance they will shine upon you in the Afterlife.


The vehicle to self-improvement and character refinement is the Torah.  May you merit the fortitude to work on refining your spiritual garments and rise up fully-clothed in the World to Come!