Counting Our Blessings

For the week ending 4 July 2020 / 12 Tammuz 5780

The Morning Blessings: Blessing Six: Being Jewish The Very Height Of Fashion

by Rabbi Reuven Lauffer
Library Library Library

“Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who clothes the naked.”

The sixth blessing thanks G-d for having given us clothing. Its straightforward understanding is reminding us that, as human beings we have a higher spiritual calling than animals. G-d gives animals the entire physical wherewithal that they need to be able to exist in their natural habitats. They do not require clothing, as the essence of an animal is solely its physicality. Therefore, they do not need anything other than the “fur coats” (or whatever else each animal requires) that were given to them by G-d. Humans, on the other hand, are comprised of both a physical dimension — the body — and a spiritual dimension — the soul.

The Torah relates that when Adam and Eve were created, they were not given clothing by G-d. Our Sages teach that there was no need for clothes because the essence of Adam and Eve was their souls and not their bodies. Their spiritual beings defined who they were, and, in effect, their bodies served as the clothing to their souls. In their reality the body was the physical, less significant part of the person. Therefore, prior to their sinning, when they looked at each other they did not see an unclothed body. Rather, they saw a soul that was incased in a body.

One of the fateful consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin was that the pure and clearly discernable spirituality that shone from within them retreated to an inner, less accessible place. It withdrew to a place that was no longer obvious, as it had once been. With their sin, their whole perspective of the world changed. Adam and Eve, who had been deeply spiritual creations, became intensely physical ones instead. And when they now looked at each other, it was in a completely different way than before. They no longer saw a soul covered by a body. Rather, they saw just the body. A body that was exposed and vulnerable. Due to their sin, the body had now moved to the fore of their consciousness, and by doing so had become their essence. The body had become something that was intensely intimate and that necessitated its being shielded from others. Thus, the first thing that G-d gave Adam and Eve after they sinned was clothing. Clothing that would both protect them from the elements and also protect their very being from being exposed to others.

Our blessing is thanking G-d for returning our dignity to us. By clothing us, G-d is declaring that we are not on the same spiritual level as the animals. We are human beings, who have been created in His image. We are human beings who have been placed here in this world to elevate ourselves, and, by doing so, to reveal even more holiness. Hence, we thank G-d for having lifted us out of the more animalistic aspect of who we are.

But there is another connotation which serves as the next step on our “Stairway to Heaven.” The previous blessing gave thanks to G-d for having given us the ability to see the incredible potential that exists in our lives. The capacity to perform the commandments. But it is not enough just to be aware of them. We must live them as well. It is as if, until this blessing, we are “bare” of that spiritual dimension. Bare of observing the commandments. But now, as we begin to fulfill them, we are clothing ourselves in the most luxurious and magnificent fabric of all.

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