Wednesday, February 5, 2014

HOLY CLOTHES:  Inside and Out

Holy Clothes!  We may first think of those favorite pair of ripped jeans, or the worn out T-shirt that is "too comfortable" to toss out and too holy to give away.  In the Book of Exodus this week, we read a detailed description of Aaron's and his son's sacral vestments - the holy clothes.  Every year, when we come to this parsha, I am reminded of one of my hockey coaches from when I was about eleven years old.  It was a year I learned a lot of lessons.  The first, probably the hardest, was how to lose.  That's right, that painful lesson of being on a losing team.  However, this was no ordinary losing streak, it was, well, all but one game that season - tough!

The other big lesson was about impressions.  We are  familiar with the common idiom - First impressions are the most lasing.  It was with this in mind, that our coach that year, and for the subsequent year in which we did very well, expected us to wear a tie to every game.  At first hearing this responsibility, most of us wanted to ignore it.  However, we quickly understood the value of the first impression.  While we lost all but one game, we were always taken seriously.  Our coach taught us, "if you dress good, you feel good, and if you feel good, you play good."  

Aaron, and his sons - the priestly line, are instructed in intricate detail how they shall dress to perform there duties.  Now, I could, and I have for Bar and Bat Mitzvah students, made a similar argument as my once coach, saying, "if you dress good you pray good!"  But, I think the immense detail concerning the clothing of the priesets in this week's parsha brings an even more important lesson.  There is something about the impression we make when things are of value.  There is meaning in the way we present our Judaism, our Jewish tradition and our commitment to the community.  Aaron and his sons are presenting, from a Biblical point of view, the role of God in their community.  They are serving as the intermediary.  While this is not our belief structure in Reform Judaism today, there is an important lesson.  Its not about "dressing up" for Temple, it is about the way we present ourselves on behalf of our community.  

Our thirty year history at Temple Bat Yam is a great story.  A group of families providing Jewish education for their children, growing into a large family of TBY, securing a place to call our own and moving from student rabbis to now me, our second rabbi.  We work hard to be open to the wider community, to don our "sacral vestments" and our holy clothes (the way we present ourselves) when we share an interfaith Thanksgiving service in the Valley, open our doors to anyone and when we go out into the community for outreach - teaching about Judaism.  Parashat Tetzaveh is about how we portray ourselves - how we get involved and reach into the wider community in ways that strengthen us and the whole.  
As this Shabbat comes our way, let us all consider the "holy clothes" we put on.  In other words, the way we make first impressions about representing Temple Bat Yam, our community and Judaism.