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Does God Care What We Wear

by Chana Klein

Does God watch over what clothes we put on in the morning? Does he really care what we wear? Does God pay attention to how we furnish our houses? Does it make a difference to Him if our rooms are neat?

My client sat across from me.

"Girls go on about a dress, their make-up and how they look." he told me.
"Guys, on the other hand, talk about sports. That makes more sense."
And then he said to me that he could tell from how I dress and look that I do care a lot about getting dressed.
Of course I do," I explained to him. "But not for the reasons you are thinking.
My interest in clothes began because of the study of Torah."

But I did not tell him that before studying Torah, probably unfortunately, I did not notice what I was wearing. When I was 18 years old, I was reprimanded by a boyfriend for what I wore when I showed up for his family gathering. Really, I thought I was dressed up. I thought I looked fine. But when he saw me after the night of that gathering, he asked, "How could you?" He seemed shocked that I would come to a family gathering wearing what I wore. I wore a dress and to me it was my best. To this day, I don't understand what he was so upset about. But we stopped dating because of it. And I went on with my life, got married to someone else, who, by the way, did not care about what dress I wore. I cared for my children and built my career as a teacher.

I was 19 the first time I got married; I was working in the Brooklyn College Library Associates Office for a wonderful woman, Rose Sellers, a"h. who took me in as part of her family. On my first day back in the office after getting married, her secretary conversed with me about marriage.

"You know," she said to me, "when I got married, I didn't know that you were supposed to clean the toilet." She seemed to think that was the epitome of silly.

But as soon as she said that, I silently said to myself, "You are?"

Cleaning the toilet was not something I had ever fathomed.

And then there was the situation with the small brown paper bag left on the hallway floor. My ex picked it up and showed it to me, announcing that he was watching to see when I would pick it up. But after two weeks, he decided to bring it to my attention. Really, I was clueless about the details. I hadn't even noticed that something was on the floor.

I understood that we had to have some furniture in the living room, like a couch and a table. But I did not even think of the fact that it should be comfortable and pleasing to the eye. I just didn't know how it was supposed to look and cared even less. I did not make the time to go shopping. Instead, I gave money to a friend asking her to pick a couch and tables and to have it delivered. She picked a loud red couch with a broad wood frame and heavy plastic covers. Need I say more?

When I was in my 30's I discovered the study of Torah. Each year, I read each parsha with a new set of commentaries, from the 20 volumes of the Meam Loez, to the six volumes of commentaries by Nechama Leibowitz, to the 21 volumes of the Soncino Tanach. Every year a new set of commentaries was purchased and read. I read each volume from cover to cover. Well, I didn't exactly read it. I more like devoured it.

And so came the parshas on the mishkan and how it was supposed to be "furnished" and on the way the Kohain Godol is supposed to be dressed. It is known that the Torah does not waste any words. Yet, there were two and a half parshas devoted to very specific detailed description of how the Kohain Godol (high priest) is to be dressed and to how the Mishkan (Tabernacle) is to be arranged and decorated.

Hozer Biteshuva that I am, (or some would call it Baalat Teshuva), I took each word into my being and internalized different lessons with each parsha and each commentary.

There was very detailed description of the Kohain Godol's clothing including details on eight different garments, from the ephod, to the breastplate, to the blue robe, to the fringed tunic, the embroidered sash, the linen headdress and the gold plate worn over that.

Even though I had difficulty focusing on all those details, the fact that they were there said to me that it is important to God how one dresses and therefore, it is important how I dress.

The detailed description of how the Mishkan, God's house looked, including the ark and poles for carrying it, the cherubim placed above it, the table made of acacia wood and gold, and the special bowls and jars for offering sacrifices and the details that included the size, the material to be used and assembly instructions, also did not hold my attention like other parts of the Torah had.

Yet, to me, this was God's attention to detail, something I did not have in my own life at the time. It said to me that how my own house looks and is arranged is important.

But I didn't know how to pick an outfit or put clothing together. I didn't know how to tell what looked attractive or even appropriate on me. I asked my teenage daughter, who I later realized, also did not know, to go shopping with me and this time it was for me as well as for her. I asked her advice in choosing items of clothing, I asked other teachers in the school where I worked as well. One day during that time, I wore a red blazer that I had just purchased.. I asked the stylish teacher with whom I was having lunch how it looked to her. She told me to return it because it was made of polyester.

So, of course not being a person who does anything half way, I went to a training program for becoming a decorator. I learned about color, graphics and whatever it took to put a room or an outfit together. Then, I worked part time as an accessory designer.

Once I became educated in fashion and decorating, I began noticing that others were lacking in that know-how and really had not known any more than I did before my training about color and design. I figured out later that the people who I was asking for advice really did not know much more than I did. They only believed that they did.

But I did learn. I became a maven. I began to dress meticulously and still do. I even got to the point where I can't think clearly if I don't match perfectly. But I must admit, I still love polyester. That teacher was wrong.

I re-did my furniture in the house and the walls as well. Now I am particular about how my house looks and about everything having a place. I can't tolerate anything being where it does not belong. I love attending to the details of each room and having them blend, accent, and contrast.

So, at the same time that I was changing my view of the world through Torah, I was changing my dress and my furniture and walls.

But it was not because, as my client assumed, I was a "girl" and obsessed with my clothing make-up and other girlie things or with the decoration of my home.

For me, it was a matter of Torah. If God wrote such detail for us to follow then the details are important and I have to pay attention to them.

Not just the details in my house or my clothing closet, But the details in all that I am and all that I do.

God cares about the details.

God does care what we wear.

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