Wednesday, March 9, 2011

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Rachel Wolff on Pekuday

Shabbat Shalom, everyone!

Have you ever heard the expression, “The Clothes Make the Person?” (Actually some people say “the clothes make the man,” but it holds true for women too). Well, however you say it, my Torah portion is all about it. Pekuday describes in great detail the design of the clothing of the priests, or cohanim.

I was happy to hear that my portion talks about fashion, because that is a topic that I know a lot about.

My idea of a perfect day (that is, a perfect day that is not spent with my family…) is to be at the mall with my friends, to go into “Forever 21” and find a new purple sweater that fits perfectly… and happens to be on sale. And all of this relates to my portion! Who knew that my trips to the mall were part of my Jewish education!

But for me, fashion is more than just about shopping. I also like to design clothes from time to time. I even made a sweater – for a dog – which I’m going to give to my cousin, for their small dog. (Since I love animals so much, maybe someday I’ll design a line of fashion for animals).

The colors that the Kohen wore are described in my portion, and they just happen to be my three favorite colors: blue, purple and red. There was also some gold – and I like that too.

When we say that clothes make the man that also means that clothes can point to a deeper meaning, something important beyond the article of clothing itself.
One interesting part of the high priest’s outfit was there was the plate that he wore over his chest. This breastplate, or Hoshen, had 12 precious stones lined up in rows of four.

Why 12? Each stone represented one of the 12 tribes.

Why different colored jewels? Because each tribe brought something different and unique – each had a special talent or ability.

But why were they all together? They were all together because they were one community. The tribes of Israel were united. And people could see that when they looked at the priest and what he was wearing.

In his own way, the priest was making a “fashion statement.” I do the same thing. Some people wear clothes intended only to draw attention – way over the top clothes, like the kind Lady Gaga wears.

Some people want to make the impression that they are laid back, so they wear sweatpants and a sweatshirt. Of course, if they wear it here at services, they might get the wrong kind of attention.

I try to make different statements, depending on the time and place. For instance, many of the girls in my Hebrew School class wear Ugg boots – and even my teacher!
What do Ugg’s symbolize? The two most important features about Uggs is that they are made in Australia, and they are made from sheepskin. Both things are very significant to Jewish tradition. Some of our great heroes were shepherds, people like Moses, David and Rebecca, and, yes, Rachel. Sheep are a big part of the bible and the lamb also plays a major role in the story of Passover. And Australia is also very important to Jewish tradition and Temple Beth El because our cantor comes from down under!

For my mitzvah project, I created very fashionable baskets of dog toys and treats that were sold at the Temple Rock auction, and also that I will be donating to the PAWS animal shelter. I also made home made dog biskets that I sold to family, neighbors and friends. I know they must of tasted great because my dog Gaucho sure did eat plenty, much more then he should have. The money that I collected from selling the cookies, as well as a portion of the gifts that I receive for my bat mitzvah, will also be donated to PAWS to help them care for abandoned animals.
So you can see, now that I am a bat mitzvah, I’ve learned how it’s possible to turn fun things like wearing clothes and shopping into acts of kindness that can heal the world.

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