This week’s Haftorah for the double Torah portion of Netzavim and Vayelech opens (Yeshayahu 61:10):
|I will surely rejoice with Hashem; my soul shall exult with my G-D, for He has attired me with garments of salvation, with a robe of righteousness He has enwrapped me; like a bridegroom, who, priestlike, dons garments of glory, and like a bride, who adorns herself with her jewelry.||ישׂ֧וֹשׂ אָשִׂ֣ישׂ בַּֽיהֹוָ֗ה תָּגֵ֚ל נַפְשִׁי֙ בֵּֽאלֹהַ֔י כִּ֚י הִלְבִּישַׁ֙נִי֙ בִּגְדֵי־יֶ֔שַׁע מְעִ֥יל צְדָקָ֖ה יְעָטָ֑נִי כֶּֽחָתָן֙ יְכַהֵ֣ן פְּאֵ֔ר וְכַכַּלָּ֖ה תַּעְדֶּ֥ה כֵלֶֽיהָ:|
The Radak says that this pasuk is either referring to the words of Yerushalayim or to what the Jews exclaim upon their return from exile. Quoting his father, the Radak says that the name of Hashem in this pasuk refers to His mercy and the name “Elokei,” G-D, refers to strict judgment. Therefore, the pasuk begins with a double language, שוש אשיש, “I will surely rejoice” and furthermore when the attribute of mercy is mentioned both the body and soul are happy, but when the attribute of strict judgment is mentioned the soul rejoices for it is from on High and can accept suffering more than the body. Meaning the first rejoicing, using double language, refers to both the body and soul rejoicing over Hashem’s mercy, while the second rejoicing of the soul is over Hashem’s strict judgement. All this rejoicing is over the process of redemption from exile, which is very promising, but will still come through many trials and tribulations. The Radak goes on to explain that “garments of salvation and a robe of righteousness” are a parable. For clothing is what people dress themselves with, and a robe is what they adorn or cloak themselves with; that is why it says adorn by the cloak. “Exalts himself in splendor” in Hebrew is יכהן פאר, from the word kohen. This refers to the groom enhancing his splendor with nice clothes, just as the kohen who serves Hashem is the head of the nation; therefore, it refers to greatness as a kohen. We also find that the children of Dovid are referred to as kohanim. The Targum Yonasan on that pasuk says kohanim means they were dressed in fancy clothes just like the kohen gadol, the high priest. (Click here for Hebrew text.) We see from here that being all dressed up is dignified, and being adorned with extra clothing is a sign of glory. Just as a king wears his crown jewels and robes, and the royal guards are all dressed up in their uniform, so too the High Priest had eight priestly garments that were bedecked with jewels and fancy layers of clothing. So we see that the more one covers him or herself, the more dignified they are. That is why the pasuk mentions that King Dovid’s children, the princes of the Jewish Kingdom, were all dressed up in fancy clothing, as a kohen gadol would be when serving in the Beis Hamikdash.
Society nowadays would say that it is not the style, it isn’t very uncomfortable to wear too much clothing and to be covered up. They laugh at those that are, and think the royal guards are a joke. The question is: why isn’t today’s “modern society” correct?
It would seem from the Radak’s interpretation of this pasuk that there is an inherent splendor and importance, a glorification of sorts, when fully clothed. It is dignified. That follows that one who walks around uncovered, with less clothes on his or her body, is not only immodest, but lacking a level of dignity and self-respect. Or you can say dressing immodestly is a lack of dignity and self-respect, by definition. This means that the attitude of society today to dress more casually and to wear less is a sign of a lack of self-respect and dignity for oneself. In fact, the problems of anxiety and depression rampant in this world could very well be correlated with this attitude of how to dress. The lack of desire to dress modestly, more put together, and fancy is a sign that people have no self-pride. The way the yeshiva world and especially chassidish men dress should not be looked upon as a uniform, but as a sign of dignity and self-respect.
Hashem, addressing the Jewish people before giving them the Torah on Har Sinai, in the portion of Yisro says “You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests (kohanim) and a holy nation” (Shemos 18:6). The Jewish people, representing the King Of All Kings, as His children, ministers, and dignitaries to the rest of the world, should certainly dress with a feeling of self-respect and honor. My Rosh Yeshiva of blessed memory, HaRav Alter Chanoch Henach Leibowitz zt”l, Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim use to say we should dress elegantly conservative. However, there are situations, times, and places where one may dress more casually, for example when playing sports, or recreational activities like in the pool, in the privacy of your own home, or certain hands-on jobs which are very dirty any sweaty by nature. But in general, one should realize his self-worth, gadlus ha’dam, the greatness of man, and dress modestly and respectively wherever you are.