Parashat Vayakhel

Clothes Are The Message

The clothing of our religious leaders communicates our perceptions of our relationships to God and each other.

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Decorum & Dignity

In the early parts of this century, many Rabbis donned clerical robes and stood on platforms high above their congregants--by way of emphasizing the dignity, majesty and 'otherness' of God and of the sacred service.

In our own day, the dominant tone of Jewish worship has moved away from a primary concern with decorum and dignity. Instead, we seek community, warmth and support. The clothing of our religious leaders, and the choreography of our services, reflect that contemporary emphasis on the 'haimish' (homey).

Many rabbis have abandoned formal robes as being too cold, too churchlike. Often, those same rabbis, seeking to foster warmth and community, will leave the isolation of the 'bimah' (raised area at the front of a synagogue) when they deliver their 'drashot' (sermons). Doubtless, the way rabbis and cantors dress will continue to reflect the developing perspectives of future Jewish communities.

How we perceive our relationship to each other, to our traditions, and to our God, are communicated nonverbally. The medium is the message.

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Rabbi Bradley Artson

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson is Vice-President of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles and Dean of its Ziegler School of Rabbinical Studies. He served as a congregational rabbi in Southern California for ten years. Rabbi Artson?is the author of The Bedside Torah and co-author of a children's book, I Have Some Questions about God.