She: Great purse. Where from?

Me: Sam, a dear family friend, lost his sister Ruthie a few months ago. Ruthie’s daughter recently delivered shopping bags–full of clothing and accessories to my apartment. Of course, she met with me beforehand to ensure I was the ideal address for this sensitive transition.

She: (uncomfortable pause) Are you kidding?

Me: (unfazed) Ruthie loved that perfect designer piece, marked down fifty percent! I never had the opportunity to meet her, but I feel privileged to honor her memory by sharing with others what they may put to good use. I received the clothing on a Thursday. Already by Friday a close friend of mine received a haute couture suit from the collection—which she gratefully and proudly wore to a bar mitzvah that very Shabbat.

Did you not feel an element of creepiness to your, uh, inheritance?Within that same Shabbat afternoon, I shared with my niece a pair of seemingly new sandals—magnificent and Shabbat wardrobe-worthy—and she, in turn, bestowed upon me her treasured Louis Vuitton satchel! It was like a designer label swap with unusual, spiritual undertones.

She: Did you not feel an element of creepiness to your, uh, inheritance?

Me: I believe it depends on how you choose to look at it. From the perspective of Judaism, the soul is eternal; it is only the body that is mortal, temporary. Perhaps because I never had the opportunity to meet Ruthie in person, it is easier for me to focus on her soul. I know she was a special person who also enjoyed having and sharing beautiful things.

I found it interesting that most of her clothing was exactly my size. And my taste! There were far too many pieces for me to keep in my small apartment, so I chose what I thought would be useful, and the rest I distributed to baffled but grateful friends.

She: And what did they think?

Me: They pretty much share my perspective. Physical life is transient and temporary. If one can take the material and elevate it—to any degree—is that not a privilege? Surely, this endeavor I speak of is a meaningful way of remembering the spiritual qualities of Ruthie—her goodness, her modesty, her “let’s dress well but our souls must shine too” attitude.

She: I get the wardrobe upgrade part, but what do you mean by “elevate”?

Me: So-called fashion is just following a trend of no value, while everlasting and spiritually authentic beauty can—and should—be a vessel for the spiritual. In its own way, Ruthie’s refined manner of dressing also speaks of the eternity of the soul and the value of spirit over material.

She: Were there any moments when you especially felt this?

Me: Recently I wore this great black suit to a wedding, and received dozens of compliments. That evening, as I participated in the heartwarming milestone when a young bride and groom embark upon a new chapter of life together, I marveled at both infinite and intricate in G‑d’s world. And I felt, somehow, that Ruthie was there, celebrating with me, rejoicing. You know, it really wasn’t about the tailoring of the suit so much as the architecture of G‑d’s ultimate plan—placing us in a physical world so that we may continually strive to elevate the material, and ultimately create a dwelling place for Him in every nook and cranny of our world, closets included.

She: We all appreciate being reminded of what’s important in life. But I still cannot understand how you are okay wearing these outfits—once belonging to a person you’ve never met, who also happens to be deceased?

Clothing becomes significant only when utilized for something far greater than the sum of its partsMe: To be honest, the idea of it was strange; but clothing, unlike the soul, is simply fabric. Clothing becomes significant only when utilized for something far greater than the sum of its parts.

She: You’ve always been strange, but in a good way.

Me: Perhaps, but I am also practical. A few weeks later I received a call from a family I have never met. I agreed to receive the twenty bags of clothing which belonged to their mother of blessed memory. I distributed the items accordingly, and appreciated having had the opportunity to pay my respects in the way that I did. I did not seek out either situation. Both found their way toward me in that mysterious and magical manner of Divine Providence.

She: Did it take you a while to sort through and distribute the clothes you received?

Me: Yes, it was a huge job, performed out of a very not-huge apartment. Suffice it to say, when I received yet another call, a few months later, I almost refused—perhaps resisting my address becoming too closely associated with this unique venture. Ultimately, the third call never resulted in any followup from the family, as “there was nothing in Mom’s collection that would be of any use to anyone.” Kind of a message unto itself, don’t you think?

She: It’s like you ran the whole metaphysical gamut within those three encounters.

Me: And in each case, there were mitzvot performed and meaningful lessons learned.

She: Lessons to carry with you in that great purse of yours.

Me: Like you said, strange but in a good way.

She: And—of course—in a G‑d way.