This week’s Torah portion, Titzaveh, is all about the clothes that the High Priest wore. If you are old enough, you remember that you dressed up at Broadway shows: men wore jacket and tie, and women wore a dress. If you are old enough, you remember that you dressed up for an airplane flight: men wore jacket, and women wore a dress.
Nowadays, you wear jeans and sweatshirt to Broadway shows. Nowadays, you wear jeans and sweatshirt on airplane. Comfort is the key.
I wore a suit to the office for 35 years, and dressed down when courts were closed, meaning jacket and tie. Old-time judges couldn’t hear you if you addressed the judge when you were seated, and old-time judges couldn’t hear you if you were standing and put your hands in the pockets of the pants.
Richard Nadel, the former cantor at Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael, criticized me on one Shabbat when I was wearing jacket and tie, instead a suit. Nadel asked, “Do you wear a jacket and tie instead of suit in court?” I replied, “No.” Nadel said that God is the supreme judge. I was chastened, and ever since that day, I wear a suit, except in the summer; Ahavas Sholom is not air conditioned.
The clothes make the man (or woman). Erasmus (Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus [lived 1466 until 1536]) coined the saying, in Latin, “vestis virum facit,” meaning “clothes make the man.” The Torah says that the High Priest’s vestments were designed to dazzle the Israelites. The High Priest’s vestments were designed to confer dignity upon the High Priests.
I still wear a jacket at Broadway shows, and I still wear a jacket on an airplane. I don’t wear a tie at Broadway shows. I’m old-fashioned (pun intended), and I long for the old ways.