Tuesday, February 24, 2015

She Went Down To A Tailor's Shop And Dressed In Man's Array ( "Jack A-Roe" - Traditional Folk Song)

Earlier this week, there was a particularly disturbing news story about three teenage British girls (15,15,16) who packed their respective suitcases, went to the airport, boarded a flight to Turkey, and from there planned to make their way across the border into Syria and join ISIS. As the story broke, the parents of these teenagers were interviewed shaking their heads, shocked that their daughters had become radicalized. Their sibling were interviewed and they begged from their sisters to return to England knowing that once they enter Syria and join ISIS they will never be able to leave. Each news story showed the three girls wearing the traditional garb of religious Muslim women including a hijab (traditional scarf head covering). If and when they arrive in Syria and join ISIS; they will add a niqab (face covering) and burka (a full body cloak).  At first we all thought that hijab was an expression an Islamic woman’s extreme religious fervor. By the time the news story finished and we saw the niqab and the burka, we realized that the hijab was actually an expression of moderate religious fervor compared to the other two articles of clothing. Soon after the story broke, we were in a mall and my son and I were walking in front of two woman wearing the entire uniform: head covering, face covering and full body cloak. We were wearing our kippot.  We heard the two woman speaking Arabic. Maybe it’s the times in which we live, maybe it’s my own ignorance, maybe it’s a bias that has developed over the past 15 to 20 years, maybe it’s the images that I see in digital media or print media regarding Islamic fundamentalism, terrorist attacks, and the every increasingly loud call for Jihad; but I held my son’s hand just a little tighter, walked just a little quicker and was just a little bit uncomfortable. I felt this way simple because of the clothing that these woman were wearing.
This Shabbat, we read from Parshah Tetzaveh, and in it we learn about the uniform of the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest. Just like last week’s Parshah was a series of instructions on the way in which a physical space becomes beautified and holy, Parshah Tetzaveh offers a series of instructions on the way in which a certain individual’s physical appearance is beautified, and glorious. From head to toe, we are told that each item of the Kohen Gadol’s priestly uniform is made of fine linen, valuable stones, gold, cotton silk turquoise wool to name just a few of the ingredients. Certainly we could understand the Parshah from a superficial perspective but to do so would be to misunderstand a deeper and perhaps more powerful message. We live in a society where “clothes make the man”. Make no mistake, clothing also make the woman. Clothing defines who and what we are, and sometimes it defines our beliefs and even the depth and fervor of that belief. However Parshah Tetzaveh is teaches us something radically different. Instead of clothing making us look sharper, slimmer, better proportioned, what if clothes could express our intelligence, our emotional health, our sense of decency, the holiness that exists within our soul and the degree to which that holiness is expressed. What would such clothes look like? Such clothes would have to express the degree to which we have permitted God into our lives. Such clothes would have to express the holy magnificence of God’s presence within our lives.
            The Torah is very clear as to the reason for such highly decorative, highly ornate clothing. V’Kidashti et Ohel Mo’Ed v’Et Ha’Mizbeach V’Et Aharon v’Et Banav Akadesh L’Chahen LiI shall sanctify the Tent of Meeting and the Altar; and Aaron and his sons shall I sanctify to minister to Me (Ex. 29:44). God’s presence will make the Tent of the Meeting holy. In other words, God’s presence will make a particular space holy.  Aaron and his son’s, serving on behalf of the people must achieve a higher degree of holiness compared to the rest of the people since Aaron and his sons work on behalf of the people directly dealing with God. This higher level of holiness must exist both inside and outside. Any inconsistency renders his the Kohen Gadol impure. If the clothes become physically dirty, then he is momentarily impure. If his heart wanders, if his mind is elsewhere, if he has not completely given of himself to the process and the service to God on our behalf, then he is momentarily impure as well.
            If this was seventy five years ago we would be uncomfortable if we saw young men in brown shirts, tall leather boots and a swastika. If this was twenty years ago we would be uncomfortable if we saw a group of teenagers  with shaved heads, tattoos, and symbols of Aryan Nation on their jackets. Nowadays if we see men and woman, dressed in clothing that is not only the clothing of religious fervor but is clothing that has been co –opted by Muslim extremists that want to bring harm to the world. While clothing always expressed socio-economic status, religious belief, political affiliation and gang affiliation; now the combination has become much more toxic and dangerous to those vulnerable young people being actively recruited in the by a perverse and evil ideology.

Rav Yitz

No comments:

Post a Comment