Will the Open-Minded Please Stand Up? Please Stand Up!
I read a very nice story about a non-religious man who bought a silver mezuzah for his rabbi. Upon receiving the beautiful gift, the rabbi realizes there is no klaf inside and asks in bewilderment, “Did the mezuzah come with anything else?”
The man’s response: “Yes, it came with instructions inside. But I was sure you know how to use it, so I threw it out.”
This man, thinking that the mezuzah‘s beautiful silver exterior is what mattered, failed to realize that its true value was hidden inside.
We all truly believe that we are open-minded and nonjudgmental, but are we really? Why is it that when we see a boy wearing jeans or a colored shirt we automatically size him up and pass judgment on him? How is it that a pair of pants or any other item of clothing, tells us so much about the person whom we really don’t know at all.
People’s best answer to this question is that these clothing are associated with non-Jews. I can see where they are coming from, but what about the girls who wear Juicy or Uggs? Why is it that these girls will turn down a shidduch because of jeans, yet they get away scot-free?
On a date in a restaurant with a young lady, I once pointed out a young man who was wearing jeans. “Now what’s wrong with those pants?” I asked her. She replied, “He looks goyish.”
What makes these pants so cursed in our communities? Which leader made these pants so looked down upon? Was it that he didn’t like the fit of his jeans so he made them assur to everyone else?
I grew up in a very open-minded home. As a family we traveled the world and encountered thousands of different people. My siblings and I have worked in many Jewish organizations and have met with countless frum people – most of them special, helpful and giving. We never judged a person by his or hers clothes but by his or her actions alone. That’s what we were taught and I believe that to be the way to live. Passing judgment on someone’s clothes is not only closed-minded but causes you lose out on meeting thousands of wonderful people.
When it comes to shidduchim, the colored or white shirt question has to be one of the funnier ones asked. How does a shirt define one’s yiddishkeit? Does wearing a white shirt give you special learning powers that a colored one doesn’t?
A girl asked me on a date, “Why do you have to wear a colored shirt when the majority of your yeshiva wears only white? Why do you have to be different?” Honestly, I never really thought about it; trust me that when I wake up for minyan and put my hand in my closet, it’s first shirt come, first shirt on.
I asked in return, “Is my davening or learning any different in a colored shirt than my chavrusa‘s davening or learning in a white shirt?” I told this “open-minded” girl that if my rebbe walked into shiur wearing a blue, green or – dare I say it – pink shirt, I’m sure my rebbe‘s shiur would have the same intensity and awesomeness as if he would have walked in wearing a white shirt. Since she surprised me with her question, I was totally winging it and said, “It’s not the shirt or pants that make you what you are, it’s your actions. A shirt doesn’t tell me if you’re sweet or sensitive or generous.”
Now I’m not going to get into the game of dating, that if you wear and act a certain way you are a certain type and you’ll be set up with certain girls. Everyone can play this game, but wouldn’t you want a person who is honest? One who doesn’t feel the pressure of society to conform and can be his own man?
By all means, I’m not saying that people should be walking around in inappropriate clothing, but what’s wrong with a nice ironed colored shirt on a Tuesday? Why can’t we be individuals and dress the way we want without society treating us as outcasts? Or does everyone have to be on the conveyor belt of society?
Well, I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I would rather be on the minority side of the open-minded and judge everyone favorably and solely on their deeds, rather than on the majority side of “open-minded” and judge anyone that looks different than yourself unfavorably.
So I ask again, will the open minded –
Please stand up!
Dear Stand-Up Guy,
Your argument has merit, but perhaps you are taking things a bit too far.
Appropriately, one of the topics addressed in this week’s parsha of Tetzaveh concerns the bigdei Kehuna, the priestly garments. Considerable space, in fact, is allotted to this discussion, which focuses (gasp!) on the external appearance of the Kohanim. Now why would the Torah be stressing external beauty over inner values? Simply put, our outer “skin” reflects our interior workings. When we are immersed in divine service, it is only proper that it be reflected in a dignified manner.
White, as we are aware, represents purity and humility; hence Chassidim tend to wear white shirts, to symbolize their continuous avodas Hashem. Whereas the average chassid (or any of us) don’t necessarily spend all day learning and/or praying, all our doings in this world are meant to fortify us in our duty to the service of Hashem.
Now the white-shirt dress code is not exclusive to the chassidic sect. Take the white-shirted boys in yeshiva, for instance. Aside from exuding a purity of soul, one must concede that the young Torah scholars can better concentrate on their task at hand when there are no colors, stripes or designer labels to distract them.
Does this all mean that the color of your shirt or a preference for jeans make you less of a man? Nonsense!
Do girls/boys in the shidduch parsha sometimes have their priorities skewed? Alas, too often!
But there’s no need to fret if a girl turns you down on account of your jeans; just see it as a sign that she wasn’t meant for you. Every pot has its lid, but you are more likely to find your right fit in your own backyard, so to speak. (Different communities, sects or circles adapt their own manner of acceptable attire.)
Personally, I love white. When it snows, no one’s grass is greener, no one’s lawn more opulent – we all look alike. These Chassidim, they’re definitely onto something.
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