Whether you live for fashion or you couldn’t care less (if you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume that you do probably care about your attire), it’s hard to ignore that this week marked the initiation of Fashion Week. What’s a Jewish woman to make of this non-stop parade of clothes and how can we place ourselves in that sphere without allowing it to consume our existence?
Although Fashion Week is allotted a span of only one week, the Parsha gets to sit in the spotlight every single week. The Torah portion that’s assigned to a specific week gets the same attention as whichever designer is sending his/her models down the runway, placing his/her garments at the mercy of fashion critics everywhere to be criticized to the nth degree. We do the same thing when we read the Parsha, breaking down each word and analyzing why the designer of that sentence would think to place it there and in that manner. After all, an article of clothing is but a mere text on which the designer is an author who imparts his words, his ideas onto the blank slate; both clothing and the Torah are texts to be interpreted, texts which the reader must try to understand.
This past week’s Parsha was Tetzaveh which describes the attire of the Kohen Gadol. Attire of the Kohen Gadol: I mean, can it get any more apropos to Fashion Week? The detail that is attributed to the Kahon Gadol’s garments is astonishing: The hem of this garment was edged with small bells intended to announce the presence of the Kohen Gadol as he walked through the Bais Hamikdash; the engraved, golden forehead plate and the turban; all the garments being hand made from the finest white linen. Of course, no ensemble would be complete without some adornment, and here that position falls upon the Choshen Mishpat; the sister team Dannijo would be proud. It contained four rows of precious stones, each row containing three stones with the names of the Twelve Tribes of Israel upon these twelve stones.
Because Fashion Week continues until the 13th of February, next week’s Parsha comes into play as well: Ki Tisa. Ki Tisa marks the sin of the Egel Hazahav, the Golden Calf. While waiting for Moshe to return down from Har Sinai, Bnei Yisroel fear that he has abandoned them because they miscalculated the amount of time that his stay was supposed to last. Thinking he extended his stay, they feel abandoned and build this idol to worship. Bringing this in context to our time of the year, Fashion Week is imparted with a whole new meaning.
Watching the runway shows, keeping up to date with fashion bloggers, and wishing you could be sitting there front row is completely normal and expected. Where we all have to be cognizant however is turning our passion into our religion. The nation at the foot of the mountain decided to take the fabric they had and become their own designers, which caused Moshe to break the Luchot when he indeed does descend and see their work. That wasn’t just a case of Moshe being a tough fashion critic; that was the case of Moshe seeing a knockoff. Knockoffs, my friends, are in no way acceptable. We were given the highest quality fabric and the patterns to follow in the guise of the Torah. Hashem is our front row fashion critic and He can spot a knockoff, so when you walk down the runway you want to be flaunting couture; you want to be donning the real thing that you can vouch for.
The difference between a Jewish woman and Philip Lim is that like the designer, we are given fabrics and patterns in the guise of the Torah; the Torah is our very own Mood (the go-to fabric store in the city), but we tailor our lifestyle to fit the garment, unlike Lim who adjusts the measurements based on each model. What this means is that we can see a stunning blouse in a store, but if its Achilles’ heel is that it is sheer, we layer it with a liner underneath so as to adhere to the basic guidelines of modesty; sheer blouse, meet the more important fabric of our lives, the Torah.
The fact that both last week’s and this upcoming week’s Torah portions discuss fashion and creativity is, for the lack of a more eloquent way of putting it, simply awesome. If you could take away one lesson from all of this, it’s that I advise staying away from anything involving gold, but that’s just me…