As a child, my mother started shopping for my Passover wardrobe immediately following Purim. The spree began with excursions to Williamsburg, Boro Park, Union Turnpike, including the beloved and defunct Alexander’s and Ohrbach’s. As a child, I actually despised dressing up, and every trip to the fitting room was a nightmare. I hated the poof, the twirl, and the bows as much as the ruffle ankle socks and patent leather shoes. However, it was an unwritten law that a brand-new wardrobe was a “must” for the Passover season!
As you can guess, I grew out of my disgust for fashion and grew into my love for it. Following my childhood direction, I took this “Passover wardrobe renewal” concept theory to the next retail level. If you are styling your wardrobe options for the tropical Passover getaway of a lifetime or coordinating outfits for your Seder at the family table, Passover is more than just matzah. Maybe they should add a line in the Haggadah to include “Pesach, matzah, maror, and clothes” (I am only joking!). Where did this obsession start? How can a holiday based on freedom enslave you with wardrobe selection? Seems a juxtaposition of gashmius vs. ruchnius (spirituality vs. materialism).
It’s a custom amongst chasidim to adorn your wife with new clothes and jewelry for every Yom Tov. I called Rav Moshe Vorhand of The Heichel Moshe Vorhand shul on the Upper West Side in Manhattan to get the scoop and Torah source on this wonderful tradition.
Rav Moshe Vorhand shared with me that the custom to buy new clothing for Yom Tov is stated in the Rambam (Rabbeinu Rav Moshe ben Maimon) Hilchos Yom Tov (chapter 6, halachah 17): “A person is obligated to be happy in them [the days of Yom Tov] and in good spirit together with his children and his wife and grandchildren, etc., as it is written, ‘v’samachta b’chagecha’ etc.”
How does one rejoice? “By giving the children delicacies and buying the women clothing and nice jewelry according to his ability.” Men rejoice by eating meat (steak) and by drinking wine. During such festive occasions he is also obligated to include the poor and indigent as well as those individuals suffering of low spirits in their communities.” The Rambam’s wisdom has great depth that touches each member of the family during the holiday season that is tailor-made to evoke absolute joy.
Fashion has a different twist for the man during this time. It is customary that the leader of the Seder wears a plain white garment, or kittel, while reclining on a pillow. According to the Chabad teaching, the reason for this holiday attire is that the kittel resembles a burial shroud and thus serves to remind one of the futility of vanity and pride in one’s lifetime.
Others interpret this quite differently, as the white garment reminds us of the white garments that the kohen gadol (high priest) would wear when he entered the Holy of Holies while serving in the Beis HaMikdash. On this night of Passover, every Jew who leads the Seder service is considered to be like the kohen gadol’s performance. It can also resemble a groom who declares his Divine love for Hashem for saving us from brutal slavery and starting us in a new path of Torah.
The House of Faith N Fashion’s mission is to always excavate the somewhat frivolous terrain to find the true Torah connection. Before you get dressed with new clothes and jeweled accessories for your Seder in Queens, Brooklyn, Mexico, Spain, Italy, or Israel, meditate on the concept of attire being more than just an outfit to wear. You are going to the Seder table with powerful wisdom from the Torah, Rambam, and many more.
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Tobi Rubinstein is a retired fashion and marketing executive of 35 years who currently produces runway and lifestyle events for NYFW, specializing in Israel’s leading artists and designers. She is the founder of The House of Faith N Fashion, fusing culture and Torah. Tobi was a fashion collaboration and guest expert for ABC, Geraldo Rivera, Huffington Post, Lifetime, NBC, Bravo, and Arise. She hosted her own radio and reality TV series. Tobi is a mother, wife, dog owner, and shoe lover.