Towards Dignity and “Drippiness”
Inspired by Parshat Tetzaveh
The other day, when I was subbing for a section of Reflective Practice: Walking, we started the experience by doing a one-word check-in. One student shared the word, “happy,” another offered the word, “tired,” and still another said, “calm.” Towards the end of the circle, one of the students shared the word, “drippy.”
On that day, before a wonderful walk filled with blue skies and the sounds of bird chirps as well as students rapt in conversations, I learned that the word, drippy, in contemporary teen slang, means “fashionable” or “stylish.”
In this week’s Parshah, Tetzaveh, one verse specifies an instruction: “Make holy wear for Aaron, your brother, for kavod (dignity) and tiferet (adornment).” (Exodus 28:2) In this moment, the audience is called to literally “style” Aaron, the priest, with appropriate clothing.
One might think that spirituality and the holy life has nothing to do with clothing. After all, we often hear the phrase, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.” Surely, one’s behavior is more important than how one looks.
Nonetheless, here, we encounter the notion that clothing matters.
The way we present ourselves and others to the world matters.
The literal fabrics we put on ourselves and others matters.
The text is telling us to think about how to dress- and how to live- with dignity and adornment (dare-I-say drippiness?)
When we think about fashion, We want to get the basics set- dignity- and to also have that something extra- that flair. Let’s focus on that flair- that drippiness factor, as it were.
Life is meant to be lived in color and in colors. Exodus 28:6 specifies that the priestly ephod garment (a kind of apron or religious dress) is to be made “of gold, of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and of fine twisted linen, worked into designs.” (Exodus 28:6)
This week, I was struck by all the colors in the Parsha. Fair or not, I generally tend to expect drab and dull descriptions from ancient texts, and, to be honest, I don’t look to Torah for funky fashion ideas.
The fact that, as we see from the biblical text, the Torah emphasizes dress and fashion and colors causes me to rethink basic assumptions of what premodern texts can offer us in our times. (Who knows- maybe, biblical descriptions of the Ephod will inspire the next big thing and featured at NYC Fashion Week or in Vogue?)
In any event, as I end this Parsha reflection, I want to note how so many folks today create clothing for a cause. In my own community, students master yarn arts to create beautiful, multi-colored garments. Then, they give these garments away to others- bestowing dignity and adornment on their wearers.
As we go forward, let us wear our values on our sleeves. We are what we wear.