Women love shopping. Just ask their husbands. They’ll tell you. She may have had a stressful day, or have a doom and gloom outlook on life. But a short escape to the nearest mall to buy herself a new sweater, a scarf or any other small accessory, and suddenly life looks a little brighter.

It’s a pretty benign habit – if you’re careful not to overtax your credit card.

So, the other day, with 15 minutes to spare and desperately in need of a break, I headed off to my favorite department store. Within moments, I had skimmed the aisles, spotted my purchase, tried it on, and was standing in line waiting my turn at the checkout counter.

The jacket was the right size, a great fit, just my color (a perfect blend of browns and beige), had a designer label, and was reduced to a price you just couldn’t resist. Add to that the saleslady’s encouraging remarks – “It was made for you” – and the nods of approval from fellow shoppers in adjacent change rooms, and it seemed like a sure win.

Of course, in the back of my mind, I knew that though the jacket fit in size, it didn’t really fit in style. To be honest, it was kind of bulky and uncomfortable for indoor wear. I think I even had a similar one sitting in the back of my closet. But after all, the color was exactly what I was looking for, and didn’t they all acknowledge how well it suited me?

Later I remembered that, in Chassidic philosophy, a person’s thoughts, speech and action are termed the “garments” of his or her soul. Just as we express who we are through the clothes we choose to wear, so does the soul express its longings and wants, capabilities and talents – its unique self – by “clothing” itself in thoughts, spoken words, and actions.

Sometimes, we allow ourselves to choose clothes that fit our style. We act, think and speak compatibly with the true goals of our lives. We carefully select those “garments” that should be incorporated into our wardrobes, and those that should be by-passed.

Other times, though, external factors sidetrack us. It may be social pressures, attractive colors, or an external fit. Whatever the case, we ignore the most important factor – is this really expressing the “me” that I feel comfortable with?

Are the life choices I am making in tune with my inner goals? Do they feel right and comfortable with the person I want to be?

Comes a time when we may need to reassess our life’s purchases, big or small. Then, you may find yourself standing exactly where I was the next time that I had 15 minutes to spare.

This time I was at a different counter. It had a sign above it reading “customer service.” After all, I’ll only shop in stores where returns are gladly accepted.

Responses From Readers:

I just read your article, “Chesed in the Midwest” and cried.

Many, many years ago, my daughter attended public school, and we heard about Camp Lubavitch, and she wanted to attend. To register her for the summer, I went to your father, Rabbi Schochet. It was just before Pesach, and he had never met me before. We were recent immigrants and growing up in Communist regime I had no idea about religion.

When I went to your father, it was the first time in my life someone asked me, “Do you have what to eat for Pesach?” I couldn’t answer him. I just shook my head. No one had ever cared about what I had to eat. I went home all the way crying – it had such an effect on me. That’s your father – such a warm person.

So, my daughter attended the camp, and she loved it so much that the next year she went again. We enjoyed the fresh challah she brought home from camp and I bought candles for her, but that was all. The next year, your sister was her counselor, and they had a heart-to-heart talk. My daughter came home, and somehow she had made arrangements to attend a
Jewish day school.

To make a long story short, eventually we became Shomer Shabbat. Your grandmother, a”h gave me kallah lessons, I married a frum man, and my daughter today is married to a rabbi!

I cried when I read your story, filled with such true emotion. I am so thrilled that your father is healthy and your family is well. So many times I get your articles and read them with great enjoyment. Many times, I wanted to write to you, but didn’t. Today, I couldn’t resist. Thanks for your inspiration.

Mrs. R. (via e-mail)

Shalom! I have cried much and even laughed… thank you for sharing such a precious time in your family’s lives… and for such a wonderfully expressed blessing! “May the one who blesses be blessed”… So be it for you and yours…

G. (via e-mail)

If you would like to share your comments or suggestions, please e-mail Chana Weisberg at weisberg@sympatico.ca 

Chana Weisberg is the author of The Crown of Creation and The Feminine Soul. She is the dean of the Institute of Jewish Studies in Toronto and is a scholar in residence for www.askmoses.com. She is also a columnist for www.chabad.org’s Weekly Magazine. Chana Weisberg lectures regularly on issues relating to women, relationships and mysticism and welcomes your comments or inquiries at: weisberg@sympatico.ca