What Clothes Does Your Car Wear?

mustang.jpgWhat car do you drive? A Ford or a Saab? A Mercedes or a BMW? A Honda or a Toyota? Does it really matter? What does it say about you if you do drive this kind of car or if you drive another? Are you a sporty kind of person? Are you more conservative, are you rich are you poor, do you have taste? Are you boring and predictable?

Does your car say anything about you? What if you don’t intend for it to say anything? Is that itself a statement about you?

I personally drive a regular car, a Toyota Camry (so what does that say about me? :)). But once I had to rent a car to go to a meeting and they didn’t have the regular kind of car that I had booked. I ended up with a sports car - a Mustang.

I drove up to the building and as I got out of the car, Kevin said to me, “wow, so you’re really into your cars aren’t you?” “I didn’t think I would see a Rabbi who was into sports cars…” It didn’t help that I tried to explain to him that it was only a rental and it was the only one left on the lot. The image had stuck.

The thing is, whether you like it or not, the kind of car that you drive does say a lot about you. When someone meets you for the first time, they are going to see which car you drive, before they see you, let alone get to know you. And based on what kind of car you get out of they will make many assumptions, like whether you are rich or poor, have good taste or not, cool and hip or traditional, etc. etc.

In addition, the car that you drive doesn’t just make an impact on the other person; it makes an impact on you, yourself. When I drove that mustang, it felt different and it made me feel different. I felt more in control, like I could achieve more.

But isn’t that crazy? A hunk of steel and plastic, some rubber and some glass, throw in some paint for good measure. That’s all it was. How do these simple materials have such a hold on me and the person I was meeting? How did they change his perception of me and even my perception of myself?

This reminds me of something that we learn in this week’s portion of Tetzaveh. We read about the clothes of the kohanim – the priests in the temple. There was a special uniform for the regular priests, and then there was a different uniform for the high priest. The Torah even says explicitly that the hats were for respect and splendor.

What is the big deal about some clothes made of some wool, linen and other materials? How can they bring honor and beauty to a human being who can love and think and dream and do acts of goodness - A person who can aspire to reach such great heights?

It is an enigma of life that objects made out of the most physical parts of earth, like the vegetative and the inanimate, can have such an effect on people who are much greater than that.

The clothes of a person, or the car, or the house; although made of thread, sticks and stones can have a powerful impact on the person themselves and those around them. It has the power to lift a person to a way of thinking and being that they wouldn’t necessarily get to on their own.

(For those who are more mystically inclined, the Kabbalah teaches that this is because the lower forms of being in this world actually have sparks that fell form a much higher source - Even higher than the human being. It is only in the revealed reality of this world that vegetation may be lower than us, but in its source, that which grows comes from a higher source than the human being does. Therefore the lower forms of being are able to have an impact on the higher forms – the human.)

As it’s true for the body so it is true for the soul. The garments of the soul are ‘thought’ ‘speech’ and ‘deed’. Even though they are not part of the essence of the soul of the person; the soul of the person being responsible for things like love, intelligence and spirituality, yet it is the garments of the soul that can lead a person to great heights.

It is so interesting that this week, we will be celebrating Purim, the holiday that we have the custom to dress up. With a simple change of clothes, the whole atmosphere in the room changes. When in costume, we are willing to behave in ways that we would never consider when dressed in a regular wardrobe. On Purim we are able to tap into a joy that is not accessible throughout the year, and sometimes the trigger for that happiness is simply a change of attire into a fun costume!

The uniform of the priests in the Temple, was to create an atmosphere of holiness, to help the people focus on serving a higher purpose. The clothes that we wear, both the physical clothes of the body, as well as the spiritual clothes of the soul – our thoughts speech and action, create an atmosphere around us as well.

What atmosphere do we wish to create? What vibe are we aiming for? What message are we trying to impart? What ‘clothes’ do we choose to don?

Our dress, our ornaments, our car and our house, both physical and spiritual, says a lot about us! What do we want it to say?

Shabbat Shalom and a Happy Purim

Rabbi Levi

PS don’t forget to dress up this Purim!