Let’s not trivialize this sacred time of year

Elizabeth Hersh is Senior Rabbi at Temple Emanuel (TE), and a blogger on the Jewish Light’s website (stljewishlight.com/chaplain).

Elizabeth Hersh is Senior Rabbi at Temple Emanuel (TE), and a blogger on the Jewish Light’s website (stljewishlight.com/chaplain).

By Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh

[Regarding “High Fashion for the High Holidays” feature in the Sept. 3 Light]

If the Ladue News or Town and Style had run the same feature article we would all be outraged. I appreciate articles helping us to prepare our minds, hearts and souls for the Days of Awe. However, a spread about the High Holidays and fashion screams out to me stereotype

Every year I hear from individuals who walked away from Judaism in part because they felt excluded at this sacred time on our calendar. They expressed feelings that sitting in synagogue was like watching a fashion show rather than being inspired by the rabbi’s words or cantor’s rich voice leading us in prayer. The words of the machzor seemed to pale in comparison to watching the newest styles float by.

I grew up in a modest household. A new outfit was special. I did not necessarily get one every year. Naturally I wanted to look my best when entering into the sanctuary but that was not the focus. I made my own tradition. I always wore the same bracelet that bore my name. It was my private ritual to remove it from its box  each year and slide onto my wrist.

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In Judaism we have the principle of hiddur mitzvah. We enhance a mitzvah with a beautiful challah cover or special kiddish cup. However, the object does not replace the mitzvah.

A mother/daughter fashion show is a special event. But, please, not the focus for this sacred time of year. At Temple Emanuel, I welcome all who thirst for community and prayer to walk through our doors. No dress code required.