From the Rabbi’s Computer

May 11, 2017

Impression Management: Image Consultant Mom and Kids

—Oak Park Temple Messenger—

In the grand scheme of things, what a person wears to services is relatively unimportant. I may be wrong, but I don’t think God keeps a list of the “Ten Best Dressed Congregants.” But what we wear to services, and, in particular, what young people wear is not entirely unimportant either.

During one of our services this summer, we hosted a confirmation class from a visiting church. Before I go any further, it must be said that the great majority of visiting teens are dressed appropriately and come with proper respect and decorum. But not this group. Tight-fitting tank tops and torn denim “short shorts” were the wardrobe of choice. Whether it was intended or not, the message sent to us was, “visiting your temple is no different than hanging out at the local convenience store.”

Clothing, like attitude, can be an important way of preparing for prayer. When we don kepot and tallitim, we are drawing a visible distinction between sacred time and space and the mundane. We heighten our awareness that prayer calls for a qualitative difference in presence and intentionality.

For a sense of what clothing can mean, imagine a funeral where the majority of the men are wearing Bermuda shorts and undershirts and the women are wearing housedresses. The clothing we choose to wear says a great deal about what is going on inside. It may help us prepare for prayer, or it may say to ourselves and others, “this is nothing special.”

The warmth and informality that make our temple community special should not serve as license for a slovenly appearance at services. No, I don’t believe God cares one bit about what we wear, but we ought to.

(Jean M. Wood of River Forest, IL sent this, knowing I would appreciate the situation and the wisdom. From whatever background, the truth makes sense.)