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Shabbat Parashat Haazinu | 5770

Parashat Hashavuah: White Clothes

Harav Yosef Carmel

The last mishna in Ta’anit tells that on the wonderful days of 15 Av and Yom Kippur, the girls of Yerushalayim used to borrow white clothes so as not to embarrass those who were lacking. They would go in circles in the vineyards and say to the single men who assembled that they should look at them but not focus on beauty. It finishes off with a pasuk about King Shlomo’s crown that he received from his mother on his “wedding day” and “the day of his heart’s happiness,” which hint, on a national level, to the giving of the Torah and the building of the Beit Hamikdash, respectively. We will join the many people who have tried to understand the connection between matchmaking and Yom Kippur and other related topics.

The white clothes of the girls connect to the white clothes that the Kohen Gadol wore when he entered the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur. He must wear white and not the regular “gold clothes” not only to not arouse reminders of the Golden Calf. Rather, there is also a need for humility when encountering the Divine Presence in that most holy place. The idea of the white clothes not embarrassing those who do not have applies to the Kohen Gadol, who is lacking when compared to the Holy One, Blessed Be He. He would not impress Hashem by wearing the most expensive clothing.

Brides wear white as they involve themselves in the building of “a complete and eternal structure” on a personal level. Representing the nation, the Kohen Gadol enters the inner sanctum in white almost like a kalla entering a yichud room. This great affection found expression in the cherubim, which “embraced each other” when relations between Hashem and His nation were going well. The mishna we cited does its part in describing the historical events that highlight the connection between Israel and Hashem in terms of wedding days.

Every Jewish wedding has an element of building a personal mini-Mikdash between the two hearts. But the comparison to the Beit Hamikdash hints that this relationship must also be based on humility and minimizing the centrality of one’s ego. The male-female relationship must also be based on sanctity and purity, modeled on the entry into the Holy of Holies. Chazal knew that with all the involvement in sanctity that we have on Yom Kippur, one must not ignore the strong human tendencies toward illicit relationships, which is a major topic from the Torah reading. If man’s relationship with a woman is based on yetzer (physical desire), the connection with the yotzer (Creator) is compromised.

Today’s media presents relationships as something that is divorced from striving for a proper lifestyle, and the pursuit of gold is advanced before the pursuit of whiteness. May we remember the message of Yom Kippur, when white replaces gold and people look for the proper things for the proper reasons when they look to build a complete and eternal structure.


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