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Rabbi's Blog

The Rabbi's thoughts culled from the "word from the Rabbi" in his weekly email

Be a Mentch, regardless of how you're dressed

There is an old expression, “the clothing makes the man (person).” Google attributes this to Mark Twain, regardless, I beg to differ.

Oh yes, on a very basic level, if you dressed like a slob you will be perceived as being a slob, and if you are dressed in a nice suit and tie, clean, neat and perfect, you are associated with success, being organized etc.

That said, I think the person makes the person more than their clothes.

As parents on the relentless journey of raising a family we spend enormous amounts of time and money getting clothing for our children. Clothes that fit properly (and are then outgrown in what seems like minutes) and look good on our children, but still, it is not the clothing that make the man/kid.

When I hear from the teachers at school, that my kid left his lunch at home and his siblings all gladly ponied up something from their lunch box to make him whole, that to me is what a mentch looks like, regardless of what they are wearing. 

When I hear a story about a child of a family that I know that was “sneaking” extra snacks in her lunch to hand to a child from a less affluent family in her class, that to me is a what a mentch looks like, regardless of what they are wearing.

When I hear stories of one of my older kids, reading to their younger sibling, whispering, lets be quiet so mommy can sleep a little longer , that is what a mentch looks like. That’s what cool looks like. So if the shirt is a bit too big or too small, and the pants a bit rumpled, so be it. I will take the former over the latter, any day of the week. 

Of course there are times when being a dressed like mentch is out of place, like when you are shoveling snow, and there are times when being dressed down in the shmates is also out of place like when you are at a business meeting.

Indeed in this week’s Torah portion, where much of the discussion is about the clothing worn by the priests and high priests in the Temple, it is very specific. So much so, it would make a fashion magazine editor blush by its nuance. Now of course, like the “Royals” in England, our Priests are our representatives to Gd so we can’t let them go into the service looking plain and ordinary, so we have strict guidelines how they must dress.

That said, I suspect that while the Torah put rules and regulations on how the priests and high priests were to dress, it put just as large a premium on how they acted and if they were a mentch.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 


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