You must be the person you have never had the courage to be. Gradually, you will discover that you are that person, but until you can see this clearly, you must pretend and invent.
– Paul Coelho
Who doesn’t have childhood memories of being forced to wear items of clothing that we hated? I still have a visceral memory of an unlined gray wool dress that my mother loved go dress me in, that scratched me with every move of a muscle and felt like sackcloth against my skin. A child’s only defense is to grow out of such clothes as quickly as possible or find a way to make sure the garment gets ruined, regardless of the consequences. Then, as we got older, we would fight with our parents over the clothes that we loved to wear – but that they hated.
As soon our parents stopped telling us what we could or couldn’t wear, society pressured us to “dress for success,” although we weren’t always sure whose idea of success or image we were even dressing for. Part of this cultural view is the oft-stated idiom: “Clothes make the man.” But we bristled at the idea of a shallow society unable to see us for our true selves, and we didn’t want to buy into creating an external reality based on the perceptions of others.
“Tetzaveh,” deals almost exclusively with the elaborate clothing and the intricate and ornate vestments that Aaron, the High Priest, wore when he entered the Tabernacle to perform the Temple Service. Without this regal and distinctive garb, Aaron could not perform his service. I can just hear Aaron’s mother yelling, “Aaron, put your priestly robes on already. And don’t argue with me. Let’s go – God is waiting!”
Is this nothing more than “clothes make the High Priest”? Some commentators state that the vestments were for the Jewish people to recognize the unique and spiritual stature of the High Priest. That view suggests that our teenage angst was justified, and it’s all about other peoples’ perceptions and external reality. But that would be a very superficial interpretation. What if outer garments affect us on an internal level, which in turn can create a new external reality? So which is it – external or internal reality?
To Walk a Mile in Someone’s Sandals
The Torah describes the vestments as being for the “splendor and glory” of Aaron. You may think that these two words mean the same thing, but they don’t. “Glory” refers to our God-given qualities, our inherent strengths, and gifts. “Splendor,” on the other hand, refers to what we do with them. There is a saying that our life is a gift to God, but that what we do with our lives is our gift back to God.
In order to make that remotely meaningful, however, we have to understand the exalted essence of a human being. That’s a challenge at any time, but put yourself in Aaron’s shoes – or sandals – for a moment. One day, he’s a slave in Egypt; the next, he’s the High Priest serving on behalf of the entire Jewish nation. That’s a colossal shift. How could he possibly have felt worthy and up to the task?
Fake It ‘Til You Reveal It
We usually think that attitude drives behavior. That makes sense. After all, we see how our actions flow from our beliefs and thoughts. The Torah tells us, however, that the reverse is just as true, if not more so, and Positive Psychology research, such as Daryl Bem’s “Self-Perception Theory,” explains that behavior does, in fact, more effectively drive attitude. This can be consciously manipulated for good, by engaging in specific practices to shape the belief about one’s self that will then reinforces the positive behavior. We often hear the phrase “fake it ‘til you make it.” Judaism tells us to “fake it ‘til you become it,” and deeper still is: “fake it ‘til you reveal what is already there.”
For Aaron to assume his role and serve the Jewish people, he needed to see himself as being worthy, to understand his inherent royal nature. The holy vestments were external vehicles to get to that inner truth. (Interestingly, nothing could serve as a barrier – not even so much as a bandage – between Aaron’s body and his vestments. This prohibition is meant to teach us that the physical (and emotional) impediments we place between holiness and ourselves, and between God and us, are foreign objects that don’t belong there.)
Tapping into Glory
We are all glorious in that we all have God-given qualities, unique strengths, and talents. But unless we know that they are there, we can’t tap into them. Unless we know who we are, we can’t comprehend our mission and begin to actualize our potential. May we all use the lesson of “Tetzaveh” to clothe ourselves in new behaviors and new ways of being. And when we remove barriers and impediments to Godly connection, we open the way to a new internal reality sourced in our “glorious” essence, thus revealing a new external reality where we can create the “splendorous” life that we are meant to live.
Internalize & Actualize:
- If you could imagine your life as the gift you want to give to God, what would your life look like?
- Are feelings of unworthiness, or the fear that you’re not “up to the task,” holding you back in your life, whether in your career, relationship, or personal growth? List a few examples where you feel this way?
- How can you use the situations above and take a “fake it ‘til you reveal it” approach? List five practical ways you can start “acting” in the way you want to become your new truth.