6/7 March 2020, 10/11 Adar 5780

‘It was seeing people wearing shorts and sneakers that drew me to FPS’. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this. In describing the informality (in a good way) of our synagogue, dress is always mentioned. How often visitors might ask ‘What should I wear to your synagogue?’ Clothes matter.  Many still wear suits, ties and the equivalent. But many celebrate being able to wear jeans and to ‘come as you are!’

Do Liberal synagogues mark themselves by having a more ‘relaxed’ dress code? I have certainly seen that at play.

Similarly our attitude to ‘sacred garments’; who wears a tallit or a kippah? Last year someone commented to me that he was surprised to see women wearing trousers with a tallit. I was, I must admit, a bit at a loss for words, I wasn’t sure how to respond to this particular concern. I know how many comments I receive if I am wearing a new dress or an unusual colour (or indeed any colour!). We do look at our prayer leaders, so maybe what they wear does matter. A colleague (male) was asked to dress a little smarter. Another colleague prefers no shoes, not a common look in synagogue prayer.

As with most things, Judaism does speak to attire. This week’s portion holds the sartorial instructions for the priests:

“These are the vestments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a fringed tunic, a headdress, and a sash. They shall make those sacral vestments for your brother Aaron and his sons, for priestly service to Me; they, therefore shall receive the gold, the blue, purple, and crimson yarns and the fine linen.” (Ex. 28:4-5)

Without the formality of Temple sacrifice and priestly leadership, what is the correct garb for us rabbis and lay folk? Is it possible our elaborate Torah mantles and rimonim (silver crowns) have replaced the priestly garments? And does that affect how we behave with our sifrei Torah (Torah scrolls).

This week we will study Tetzaveh and, I hope, have these conversations at Cafe Ivriah starting at 9.45 am. Do join us and wear whatever you like!

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom