Each year, we change the Torah covers from the regular blues ones we use throughout the year, to the white ones we dress them in for the new year season. Seeing the Torahs dressed in white is a powerful visual, a reminder that we’re in a different spiritual time zone during these months. This is the time of year when we call up an extra dose of optimism, of hope, of vision — quite an audacious move given the current realities we face. Dressing the Torahs also raises the question of dressing ourselves.
At Adat Shalom, we’ve always prided ourselves on being a “come as you are” kind of place. We don’t stand on ceremony with regard to how we dress and not even a 100-year pandemic is going to change that. But six months sequestered in our homes, wearing t-shirts and sweatpants, no matter the occasion or time of day, is an experience we haven’t had before. And even for our informal community culture, we have to ask ourselves, how does it feel to work in our pajamas all day? Some will say, “it feels great!” and maybe others will say, “it’s getting kind of old.”
The Talmud notes that we might wear something new on Rosh HaShana and on Pesach. I remember being so surprised to read that text and realize that my childhood memories of shopping for something new to wear in September and in April came from such old customs. My point here is not that we should all go out (or online) and shop till we drop, but maybe consider the ways that our external ‘costume’ impacts our internal experience. The prophet Isaiah says, “I will dress myself in the clothing of salvation!” What does that clothing look like? At first, it may feel a little silly getting dressed up for the holiday when we’re only going as far as our own living room, kitchen, or bed room, but those outer garments are one of the ways we practice shifting our internal consciousness. At a time when our appearance on screen is one of the few ways we have to communicate, showing up dressed in something special helps others feel the holiday a little more as well. So, you might choose something special to wear to your zoom screen this holiday season, something that reminds you of a loved one whose strength you’re drawing on now, or something that helps you see past the current moment to a more wide-angle, transcendent view of time.
Some of us will appear in a talit, and Yom Kippur, some will be wearing a kittel, a Jewish shroud. And yes, some will be in their most comfy . . . whatever. Whatever we wear or don’t wear this season, there is one thing we can all agree on wearing: Masks on everybody and stay well!
Rabbi Hazzan Rachel Hersh