(Older blog from a few years ago, edited) There is an old expression, “the clothing makes the man (person).” Google attributes this to Mark Twain, regardless, I beg to differ.
Oh yes, on a very basic level, if you dressed like a slob you will be perceived as being a slob, and if you are dressed in a nice suit and tie, clean, neat and perfect, you are associated with success, being organized etc. (At best I’d concede that the clothing makes the already good person look better.)
That said, I think the person makes the person more than their clothes.
As parents on the relentless journey of raising a family we spend enormous amounts of time and money getting clothing for our children. Clothes that fit properly (and are then outgrown in what seems like minutes) and look good on our children, but still, it is not the clothing that make the man/kid.
Every morning at my home begins with the daily rush of trying to get out of our house by 7am so we can sit in only moderate traffic vs. heavy traffic. (What is less than 20 miles can often take longer than an hour and change if things don’t go right.) Part of that morning rush is the ongoing battle of getting the kids dressed. The older ones, Thank Gd can do this job on their own (wasn’t sure that day would ever arrive) but the younger ones need some help. (Side bar, why they need to kick and fight you on this is totally beyond me, but I digress.)
Recently, one of our boys, and now copying him is his younger brother, began a new phenomenon; complaints about what he will be wearing. Now, I can’t remember life at 6 or 7, but I am pretty confident that if my mother laid it out for me, it would be sufficient. However, the most recent complaint was that it was “not cool enough.”
I don’t know what cool means to a child, however, apparently peer pressure and the like are starting younger. Then again, when I was a kid there was no such thing as a computer and smart phones – Thank Gd -, so everything is different from what it once was.
But to my point; When I hear from the teachers at school, that my kid left his lunch at home and his siblings all gladly ponied up something from their lunch box to make him whole, that to me is what a mentch looks like. That’s cool. When I hear a story about a child of a family that I tutor that was “sneaking” extra snacks in her lunch to hand to a child from a less affluent family in her class, that to me is a what a mentch looks like. That’s cool.
When I hear stories of one of my older boys, reading to their younger sibling, whispering, lets be quiet so mommy can sleep a little longer (this is at 5am), that is what a mentch looks like. That’s what cool looks like. So if the shirt is a bit tight, and the pants a bit rumpled, so be it. I will take the former over the latter, any day of the week.
Of course there are times when being a dressed like mentch is out of place, like when you are shoveling snow, and there are times when being dressed down in the shmates is also out of place like when you are at a business meeting. (I pulled up to the house the other day to see my kids shoveling snow in a tee shirt…oy.)
Indeed in this week’s Torah portion, where much of the discussion is about the clothing worn by the priests and high priests in the Temple, it is very specific. So much so, it would make a fashion magazine editor blush by its nuance. Now of course, like the “Royals” in England, our Priests are our representatives to Gd so we can’t let them go into the service looking plain and ordinary, so we have strict guidelines how they must dress.
That said, I suspect that while the Torah put rules and regs on how the priests and high priests were to dress, it put just as large a premium on how they acted and if they were a mentch.