I’m not one for too much formality. Especially when it comes to religion. It’s the Jewish New Year and that comes with a lot of praying, socializing and synagogue-going. And believe me, the more laid back, the better for me.
And yet, I’m oddly appreciative of a VERY formal tradition that my synagogue refuses to relinquish. And that’s the uber-formal dress required of the Rabbi and “top dogs” of the synagogue . Every week, not just on the New Year, the men who sit on the stage (usually the big shots of the synagogue, i.e., president, VP, etc.) must wear black shoes, matching blazers and morning coats, and black shiny top hats. It’s a German-Jewish tradition that dates back over a hundred and fifty years.
So why do I appreciate this over-the-top grandiosity given my informal preferences?
Maybe it’s that the MEN do it. While the rest of the men of the synagogue wear the typical suit, women get to relish in dressing up for the weekly pilgrimage to synagogue. But, those on the stage can also look really special.
Or maybe it’s that fact that among all the other rituals we partake in on any given Sabbath, we also put care into how we look. It DOES matter what we look like. It’s a sign of self-respect and respect for our community. Wearing nice clothes isn’t just some nice, fun activity. It has value — for men and women.
The Jewish community has held on to many traditions over the centuries. The fact that top hats is also one of them is kinda cool.