This year as in most, Parashat Tetzaveh occurs in the week before Purim. Purim is the holiday when we dress up and wear masks. Tetzaveh opens with a description of the "sacred clothing" that Aharon the Kohen is to wear while performing the ceremonies of the MIshkan. Coincidence?
Many of the traditional commentaries note the unusual way the parasha begins. V'ata tetzaveh et bnai Yisrael -- "And you, you shall command the children of Israel..." (Exodus 27:20). The words are addressed specifically to Moshe, though the topics that follow are all about the role of Aharon and his sons, the priests. The commentaries imagine some kind of division opening up between Moshe and Aharon. Why weren't these commandments delivered through Aharon?
I think the implication is that Aharon isn't really fit for his role as a sacred vessel yet. He isn't there yet on the inside. (This interpretation makes even more sense if you think that these instructions are being given after Aharon built the Golden Calf, as I discussed in last week's on-line drash.) He has to grow into his role, and it doesn't just come from inside of him. Putting on the uniform of the k'huna, the priesthood, gives him a way of seeing himself. It helps him along.
Purim gets at the same thing. We all dress deliberately as who we are not. We call attention to the gap between how we dress and who we really are. Just as the Jewish girl Hadassah dresses up as Esther, the Persian maiden who is queen.
Like Aharon, Esther has to see herself dressed as the queen before she can become what she needs to be -- the one who rescues her people. Both Esther and Aharon become who they were always supposed to be. But dressing the part is an important step.
Since I started wearing a kippah in public, I am conscious that anything I do reflects on the kippah. I often say that if I cut someone off with my cart in the grocery store, the impression the other person will get as I go by is not just that I'm a jerk, but a Jewish jerk! What I wear keeps me in mind of how I should be acting. The idea is: that keeping-in-mind goes from the kippah into my heart, my soul.
Purim teaches us that there is a difference between a uniform and a costume. Costumes obscure who we are. Or give us an escape from who we are. A uniform affirms and magnifies an important dimension of our true identities, and helps us see ourselves in its light. The vestments of Aharon, the crown of Esther. At the start they may have been costumes, but for both the clothes became a spur that drew them up toward who they were always supposed to be.