Clothes Make the Man
We all know the expression, “Clothes make the man.” Is this about creating an external reality via the perceptions of others? Or do the outer garments we wear affect us on an internal level, which then creates a new external reality?
This week’s Torah Portion, Tetzaveh, deals almost exclusively with the elaborate clothing and the intricate and ornate vestments that Aaron, the High Priest, must wear when he enters the Tabernacle to perform the Temple Service. Without this special garb, Aaron cannot perform his service. Interestingly, nothing can serve as a barrier - not even so much as a bandage - between his body and his vestments.
Is this nothing more than “clothes make the High Priest”? And if so, which lesson is G-d teaching us – the external or internal reality?
Some commentators state that the purpose of the exalted garb was for the nation to recognize the unique and spiritual stature of the High Priest. That suggests that it’s about external reality.
But that would be a superficial interpretation.
Putting on the Sandals
There is a phrase that the vestments are for the “splendor and glory” of Aaron, and there is commentary on this phrase that, in my opinion, is key to a truly transformational concept.
“Glory” refers to our G-d-given qualities, our innate strengths and gifts. “Splendor” refers to what we do with them. Put yourself in Aaron’s shoes - or sandals - for a moment. One day, you’re a slave in Egypt; the next, you’re the High Priest serving the entire Jewish nation. How could he have felt worthy and up to the task?
Fake it 'til you Make it
Sometimes, attitude drives behavior. However, positive psychology research validates the truth of Torah wisdom, in that behavior more effectively drives attitude. An oft-repeated idea in Judaism is “fake it ‘til you make it.” A deeper idea is “fake it ‘til you become it.” A deeper idea still, is “fake it ‘til you reveal what is already there.”
For Aaron to assume his role and serve the Jewish people, he needed to feel worthy, understand his inherent royal nature, and the holy vestments were the vehicle to get to that truth. The prohibition against having a barrier between his body and vestments was to teach him that the impediments between him and holiness, between him and G-d, are foreign objects that don’t belong there.
Tapping into Glory
We are all glorious. We all have G-d given qualities, G-d given unique strengths and talents. But unless we know that they are there, we can’t tap into them. Unless we know who we really are, we can’t comprehend our real potential.
Ask yourself where feelings of unworthiness, or the fear that you’re not “up to the task,” are holding you back in your life, whether in your career, relationship, or personal growth.
May we all use the lesson of Tetzaveh to clothe ourselves in new behaviors and new ways of being, to remove barriers and to reveal our “glorious” essence so that we can create the “splendid” life that we are meant to live.