Saturday night, June 4, 2016
Many years ago I visited my rabbi in Brooklyn. I was on my way home from the Oyama dojo in Manhattan and did not have a button-downed shirt with me. I entered wearing a T shirt that my parents bought me when they were on one of their Island vacations. He commented on the T shirt and I said, "My parents were on vacation, they bought me a T shirt". He responded with "When my parents were on vacation they sent me a tie to remind me how I was supposed to dress".
I never wore a T shirt again in his presence.
Some might say; Are you afraid of him? Are you so concerned with what other people think of you? What are you worried about, just be yourself!
But that is incorrect. It is a simple matter of respect. In the presence of people that I respect I behave accordingly. Yes I have a right to wear whatever I want but I will not. As the rabbi taught me "eat for yourself, dress for others". It is not a matter of fearing others but of respecting them enough to be sensitive to their feelings.
In the presence of my teachers and elders I speak a little differently, I act a little differently. I personally enjoy a certain style of music but when a rabbi is in my car I will only play music that he would appreciate. I will avoid certain jokes, I will watch myself. It is not fear, it is respect.
Years ago a friend who thought of herself as a therapist/psychologist made the following statement, "You followed in your fathers' footsteps in an attempt to gain his approval".
I mentioned this to my cousin Steven, a doctor of psychology, and of course someone who has known my father and I for our entire lives. He responded with "That is dime store psychology, you were not trying to win your father's approval, you love him and wanted to make him happy. There is a huge difference".
We dress for others. When we enter a house of prayer we dress one way, when we enter a martial arts academy we dress a certain way, each place has its own dress code and code of conduct. We honor this practice. We do not fear it.
The Jewish people lost the kingdom in the year 135. Since then until 1948 we had no government and were led by rabbis. These rabbis were not elected, they emerged. The people followed them out of respect. None of these rabbis had a police force or army yet their world was obeyed to the letter. Even in our own times the word of a great rabbi is law to his followers. They follow his every word, not out of fear, but out of respect.
It is important to know the difference.