In Hamlet, the character Polonius proclaims, “Apparel oft proclaims the man” – the only thing to add is that apparel no less proclaims the woman. Indeed, our clothing says a lot about all of us. At times, we wear clothes to be noticed, at other times to blend in. Our clothing indicates our status, the groups with whom we identify, and the delicate balance between belonging and individual uniqueness. In short, through our apparel, we engage in an ongoing game of hide-and-seek.
Purim on the other hand, reminds us that clothing does not only reveal something about us; clothing also covers up and conceals. On Purim, we pretend to be someone we are not. It reminds us that we often hide behind what we show to the world. The flip side of Purim is in fully revealing who we are; a task difficult and fraught with risk.
The day most traditionally associated with standing spiritually “naked,” our truest self, revealed, is Yom Kippur. There is more than a passing connection between these two holidays. “Yom Kippurim? Yom Ke-Purim! The Day of Atonement is a day [in Hebrew, yom] like [ke] Purim”.
At first glance, this seems an odd comparison. Could two Jewish observances be any more different? Yom Kippur is a day of self-denial. We refrain from bodily pleasures. On Purim we indulge ourselves—eating and drinking almost in excess. One is a day for introspection, meditation, and repentance; the other is a time for clowning and having a good time. What conceivably could these two days share?
The answer is that both holidays focus on the masks we wear. On Purim we don masks, a reflection of Esther who hides her true self and Jewish identity. On Yom Kippur, we are unmasked, facing ourselves as we really are, without pretense. We can fool those at work, we can hide who we are from our children, we can lie to our lovers and spouses, but on Yom Kippur our true self is revealed.
Clothing does matter, and what we wear hints to the questions we play hide-and-seek with every day of our lives: What really matters? How do I see the worth of every soul? Am I willing to bear the burdens of others? What do I think I can hide?
Our apparel does proclaim us. The question is–what is it that we wish to have others see?
Happy Purim – Rabbi Adrian M Schell
(Source: Rabbi I.A. Zeplowitz)
Shabbat Zachor – Parashat Tetzaveh
– Deuteronomy 25:17-19
Reading: Ex 29:1-21
(Plaut p.567; Hertz p.344)
Haftarah: Esther 7:1-10, 8:15-17 (Plaut p.1453)
In our weekly Torah portion
The children of Israel are commanded to bring pure olive oil for the ner tamid “a constantly burning light,” above the sanctuary.
Aaron and his sons, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar, are chosen to serve as priests.
God instructs Moses to make special clothes for the priests.
Aaron and his sons are ordained in a seven-day ceremony.
Aaron is commanded to burn incense on an acacia altar every morning and evening.