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Why the Jacket and Black Hat?

Why the Jacket and Black Hat?



Dear Rabbi Moss,

"Rabbi Moss is the rudest rabbi I ever met!" That's how I felt yesterday. I saw you from a distance walking down aisle 3 in Coles Supermarket. I called out to you, but you didn't hear. I approached you, calling your name repeatedly, and I'm sure that you could hear me. But you totally ignored me. I finally caught up with you and slapped you on the shoulder, only to find out that... it wasn't you at all. It was actually some other Chassidic Jew, wearing the same black velvet Kippa that you wear, the exact same dark wool jacket and pants and business shirt, the same reddish beard and rimless glasses. He looked so similar to you, even you would have been confused. I felt like such a fool.

Then I realized that this must happen to you all the time. All you guys look the same! There must be some Chassidic clothing store that sells only one style. It must be easy to get dressed in the morning. "What should I wear today -- the black jacket or the blue?" How boring! Where's the individuality? Where's the freedom of expression? Do you people have no originality at all?




Dear Max,

Firstly, I must apologize for seeming to ignore you -- even though it wasn't me. I can imagine how offensive that must have been for someone with such impeccable manners as yourself.

As to your claim that Chassidic Jews don't have originality because we dress the same, I must disagree. In fact the opposite is true - it is precisely because we dress the same that we can truly be individuals.

Being an individual means having something unique about you that no one else has. According to you, to be original I need a weird shirt, cool shoes and an unusual haircut. The more unusual, the more you stand out from the crowd. But let me ask you, is that really what makes you different from everyone else? Is that all you can do to be unique -- put on this outfit or that? Couldn't just anyone look the same?

In Jewish tradition, what makes an individual is not the clothing, but the character. When you are a part of a community of people that all dress the same, there is only one way to stand out: you have to be original, not your clothing. The people around you notice you for your character, the way you treat people, your manner of speech. You can't hide behind a superficial individuality based on hairstyle and fashion -- you have to be a real individual.

Max, I'm not telling you to go out and buy a black jacket. But perhaps you should rethink how you look at yourself, and how you are projecting your image to the world around you. If you become sensitized to what really makes you an individual, you'll never again mistake me for someone else next to the frozen chickens in Coles just because we wear the same color scheme.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to
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Discussion (35)
April 25, 2016
Even though I'm not Jewish & I don't follow Judaism, I think wearing the black coat & hat is very cool.

Less is more.

Chabad Jewish fashion style for the win!
February 25, 2016
But dear Rabbi Moss

You are not yet telling us, what is that make you special or just different because just yout clothing? Because in esence all humans, each one is special in his or her unique way. All humans have character and also each one has personality. I do not understad. Whould you explain?
Pittsburgh PA
February 23, 2016
First thoughts
My first thoughts were in line with the reasoning behind the thought that simplicity allows one to rely on his character be noticed, and let's just say that there is a certain amount of justification however creation revieals another side of this line of thought. Look at the flowers, oh the colors and the deversity! And how about the precious colors of gems and such. g d controls and created the univeres not just ours but the entire cosmos and to say that we should all dress alike I think is disrespectful of appreciation. The heart know what it seeks in why it dresses the way it does. Let us not judge one another of how we dress it as to why we do.
B ferfes
February 18, 2016
whether you agree or not, what a superbly great answer
February 17, 2016
I disagree. Hashem has made many different textures, colors, fabrics etc... to use as garments. If one serves G_d with all his heart, mind & soul, and is humble before him, then various, beautiful colors and garments are an extension of that. From that humble stance, one can wear the Beauty that Hashem has provided yet still assert their individuality. When you invite the Divine Light into your thought, speech & being, there is no need to fear wearing bold colors & beatiful, comfortable clothes & shoes.
Peter Herman
March 27, 2015
I have to say reading this letter from the Rabbi to Max cleared a question up for me. I have recently moved to a ha area which is highly populated with a large Jewish Community. I at times feel estranged from the daily hustle and bustle. With so many questions but seemingly no one who seems to be approachable to ask. My Jewish neighbors seem very blinkered on to thier society and culture. Quite often, Infact more often than not Than not there's not so much as a thank you or good morning. I have come to believe that I must stop expecting to engage in friendly activity or the hope of securing friends amongst them. I have read copious amounts on line to try and understand the different aspects of thier lives. Answer the "I wonder why's.".
Your letter beautifully describes why the modest plain clothes are worn. Thank you.
I still wonder do the women, many young feel drab and glum with thier plain attire, do they secretly dream of more. Or is faith enough to secure happiness in the choice.
Christina Green
January 13, 2015
The answer is one of those nuggets of calm wisdom that will stay with and inform me forever. Thank you. I'm agnostic, btw.
Bristol, UK
December 6, 2014
Head coverings
I write a newsblog for an Isaeli news page. We work to support Israel-US and world relations.

Your website is an incredible assembly of accurate, direct and valuable information about Jewish faith, customs and traditions. I will share it with my colleagues and contacts !
Tom Brennan
July 13, 2014
Very wise answer ;-)
Palmira Lopez
August 3, 2013
It's like private/some public schools...students wear the same outfits as not to draw attention or compete...personally the traditional black, long coats and hats add a mystic and gentleman quality...makes a person want to draw close and inquire their unique