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Though the holiday of Purim is long behind us in the calendar year it made an indelible impression upon me and taught me a lesson that I am reminded of even now. In our synagogue on Purim the congregants were dressed up in various costumes and headgear. Some of our old military veterans wore their military uniforms that, amazingly enough, still fit. Other people had outlandish costumes ranging from pirates to that of noble men of far distant periods of history.

I am not a big costume aficionado as far as I personally am concerned. My rabbinic tradition and personal inhibitions limit my choice of costume radically. This last Purim eve I rummage through my collection of ties, many of which are many decades-old, and I found one that I felt was particularly garish and ugly enough for the occasion. It had every bright color of the rainbow on it in a flowery design that certainly would gain attention but not much envy. I do not remember how many years had passed since I last wore this tie, but what I was amazed at is that it was not purchased to be part of a costume for Purim. Rather it was undoubtedly the fashion of the time and I have always tried to be fashionable and current in my dress. Yet I wondered to myself how could it be that I was ever so silly to think that that tie, under any circumstances, would be appropriate to me. But I imagine that since it was the style of the time and other idiots like me were wearing such ties, it was acceptable and even fashionable to display such lack of taste.
This set me to thinking about styles and fashion generally and not only as to how they relate to neckties and clothing. The fashions of dress have changed many many times over the centuries. What was considered the height of fashion even a century ago appears today to be slightly ludicrous and certainly not in tune with our current values and mores? And this tendency to always change styles and fashions is not limited to clothing. Our taste in food has changed enormously. Believe it or not, Eastern European Jews, Sephardic Jews and Western Jews did not eat Chinese oriental foods during the first half of the last century!
What is very troubling to me and what certainly is of major consequence to the present and future Jewish world, is that the styles and fashions of core values have undergone a drastic change. Except for the Orthodox section of the Jewish world, the words, ideas and values of the Torah are of little consequence in today's Jewish world. Instead, ideas and values that are completely opposite and antithetical to traditional Jewish values have evolved in today's world. They are the garish neckties that adorn much of Western society today and have infected and destabilized millions of Jews living in that Western society.
When I sit with my grandchildren and currently great-grandchildren and we are looking at old family albums, they wonder out loud how people wore the style of clothing – men and women – that is portrayed in the pictures in the album. The older ones are polite enough to restrain from any particularly negative comments. However the younger ones giggle hysterically. They cannot imagine anyone so out of touch with true style and fashion wearing such ridiculous outfits and allowing themselves to be photographed while wearing them. I gently pointed out to them that even though their ancestors may have worn clothing that to them seems to be funny and strange, those ancestors bequeathed to us a way of life and a value system that is as vibrant and necessary today for our family to continue as it ever was in previous times.
It is the complete change in style and fashion of values and behavior that saps the ability of the Jewish people to look to the future with strength and confidence. An ever-changing system of values ultimately leads to a society that has no values and cannot really perpetuate itself. The greatness of the Jewish people was that they were a stubborn and steadfast lot and resisted the swirling and ever-changing value systems of the outside world. We always knew who we are and why we are. And that style and fashion guaranteed our survival to this very day.
Shabbat shalom
Berel Wein

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