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Posted on February 23, 2024 (5784) By Rabbi Label Lam | Series: | Level:

You shall make holy garments for your brother Aaron, for honor and glory. (Shemos 28:2)

What was the very first invention explicitly mentioned in the Torah? I will give a hint! When people ask me what business I am in, I tell them, “The Shmata Business!” Of course, I mean, “U’Shmata B’Kolo” – “And you should listen to His voice!” There is a giant industry known affectionately as the “Shmatta Business”, the world of clothing manufacturing and sales. Now, let’s go back to the origin of that “garment business”.

At the earliest point Adam and Chava were totally without the need for clothing. Like innocent children with no selfish desires or impulses they remained open and vulnerable. It’s hard for us to even imagine.

A supernal holy radiance of Neshama shone through their skin like the glass of a light bulb. The Talmud tells us that a sage was exploring near the Maras HaMakpela where the patriarchs and matriarchs and Adam and Chava are buried and he uncovered the heel of Adam. He described it as being bright like the sun. Now that was just the heel of Adam, and after he is already dead, and after the sin. Now imagine how illuminated was the rest of his being, while he was still alive and prior to sinning with the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Consider how lit up and obviously spiritual he and she must have been. They were truly unmistakably angelic, and G-dly in nature.

When that light was diminished and the clothing of skin became opaque, then they could too easily be mistaken, now, for an animal form. Muscles and reproductive organs are not unique to man alone. The sight of “these” to impure eyes became a trigger to selfish animal instincts conflicting with the noble soul. Adam and Chava took a defensive approach by immediately covering their private parts to shield this new and impure impulse.

However, The Almighty saw that it was not proper for the protagonist of creation to slink shamefacedly throughout history merely covering up while simultaneously revealing his folly and foible.

Why was the fig leaf insufficient for Adam and Chava? Why was The Almighty compelled to make for them more complete outfits? The original and ideal garment of the soul is the human body. Initially, Adam and Chava were perfectly suited for those clothes that both hid and revealed sufficiently the Divine light that was sewn into the heart of humanity. To dignify “Man” again, Hashem upgraded the first human invention and created proper clothing. Now, when a fully dressed person stands before us, we see only two uncovered areas. Only the most uniquely human and G-dly functions are framed by a complete set of clothing; A human face and dexterous hands. Proper clothing is meant to again reveal that which is great, pure, and creative within Mankind.

Tznius, modesty is not just a matter of covering up. It’s a reflection of a true sense of intense inner beauty. “Kol Kavuda Bas Melelch Pnima”, “The entire glory of the daughter of the king is inward!”, Dovid HaMelech tells us in Tehillim. One who detects this has little need for outward validation and recognition from strangers. Like one who is really rich, knows they are and does not feel the need to show off their opulence to the world. Only the nouveau-riche and deeply insecure seek attention for their wealth.

Way back, when someone asked how many hits you got, it meant trouble. The fewer hits we got the better. Nowadays, it means something completely different. One may not know that he or she really exists unless their performance gets thousands and millions of hits. Shlomo HaMelech in Mishlei tells us the real truth. “Matan BaSeiser Yichpeh Af” – “A gift in private quiets anger”. HASHEM is more “impressed”, so to speak, by private actions. The more private something is the more real it is, to the person himself and to HASHEM.

Now, what was the original purpose and intent of clothing? To highlight and frame what is truly holy and G-dly about man and to keep the private, private and special, and to dignify relationships, as the verse explicitly states, “You shall make holy garments for your brother Aaron, for honor and glory”, and thus is the Genesis of the Shmatta business!