Newsletter       March 1, 2012 - 7 Adar 5772


Dress For The Part   

Dedicated to the memory of Raizel Devorah bat David Shaykin on her Yahrtzeit  

Mordechai sparked Occupy the Palace by sitting before the palace gates in sackcloth and ashes. Achashveirosh silenced the media and chose to ignore the protest. Mordechai stubbornly refused to move and to pause his publicity stunt even for a short meeting with Esther, but the king, in a masterful political maneuver, won a respite from the Occupier. Achashveirosh had Haman dress Mordechai in royal robes and parade him through the streets on the royal horse. Can you imagine Mayor Bloomberg dressing the Occupy Wall Street protestors in tuxedos and gowns and parading them through Manhattan in one of those horrible stretch limousines? There goes OWS! Why did Mordechai agree to dress for and participate in Achashveirosh's ceremony when he wouldn't change his clothes for a short meeting with Esther?

Mordechai wanted the royal treatment; only if it came all the way from the top. He won his point when Achashveirosh conceded that the man who was pushed by the king into wearing sackcloth and ashes deserved to wear royal robes. Someone who belongs in royal robes cannot be so easily killed. As long as Mordechai dressed himself in the fancy couture of nobility, he could easily end up in sackcloth whenever the king chose to demote him. Once publicly dressed and paraded by the king in royal robes, Mordechai's position was secure no matter how dressed. There's a difference between wearing fancy clothes because I aspire to a higher position and being dressed in those clothes by the king. The former wants to belong. The latter is being invited to live on a higher level.

When a Kohen Gadol (High Priest) dresses in the magnificent clothes described in this week's portion, he can, as do many young boys who dress up in a Kohen Gadol costume on Purim, dress himself, look in the mirror and see his lofty position. He can see himself in an honored role, but he is dressing himself in the clothes of that role. He would forfeit the opportunity to be dressed by God in royal robes as Mordechai was dressed by Achashveirosh; invited to rise ever higher and assume, not the role, but the responsibility that comes with such an invitation.

Many Chassidim chose to wear the clothes of Polish nobilility on Shabbat as a statement that we, despised and lowly peasantry, are royalty on Shabbat. They dress themselves in a role, something Mordechai rejected. The clothes can be ripped off, their beards and peiot cut off. They can lose their dignity. Some Baalei Teshuvah choose to wear the uniform of those observant from birth because they aspire to live as people they respect. They are dressing for a part in a play. Those who dress to play a role are not being dressed by God; invited to live at a higher level.

"God will have reigned, He will have donned grandeur (Psalms 93:1)." We can read it as, "He will dress us in grandeur." God does not only dress the Kohen Gadol; He dresses all of us with garments of dignity and responsibility. He dresses us in His Tefillin and Tallit. He dresses us in His Mitzvot. He dresses us in His Shabbat. He is not asking us to play a part. He's inviting us to live at a higher level; to live with such dignity that we merit to be dressed in royal robes.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg
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