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.