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11/12 December: Parsha Mikketz

Shabbat comes in 3.36pm; goes out 4.45pm

Clothes seem to be significant in the Joseph story.  It seems that whenever things are going downhill, clothes are taken away from Joseph.  When things start to improve, Joseph is given clothes.  Joseph’s brothers take his coat of many colors and dip it into blood to make their father think Joseph was dead.  Mrs. Potifar tears off his clothes and claims that Joseph tried to attack her.  In our parasha, things start to turn around for him.  Instead of clothes being taken from him, Joseph is given new clothes.  Pharaoh presents Joseph with new royal attire, a wife, and a new name.   I can add that interspersed with the Joseph narrative we also get the story of Judah and Tamar — she disguises herself in order to seduce him.

So the question is — what is the Torah trying to teach.   I would argue that the repeating theme of garments make the point: things are not necessarily as they seem. Appearances deceive.  In fact, the Hebrew word for garment, b-g-d, is also the Hebrew word for “betrayal,” as in the confession formula, Ashamnu, bagadnu, “We have been guilty, we have betrayed.”

In fact, we judge people all the time based on how they dress or appoint themselves.   These details can be telling, but they never tell the whole truth.  As Rabbi Meir says in Pirke Avot: Do not look at the vessel, but what is in it; there is a new vessel filled with old wine and an old vessel that does not even contain new wine.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Paul Arberman

December 10, 2015