As I tread the grounds of a distinguished American college, I find myself warmly beckoned, “Are you Jewish?” It resounds as a moving wake-up call, and I affirm. Yes! “עברי אנכי ואת־יהוה אלהי השמים אני ירא”. Thank you for the well-needed reminder – ראש מגולה or not, I have a duty as well!
Today, hearing the familiar Israeli accents, I responded outwardly with “כבר מנענעתי”! reminding me of the land I’m supposed to yearn for. My admiration for these young men knows no bounds, for they have traversed half the world to heed the sacred call and embrace the duty of “ולקחתם, שתהא לקיחה ביד כל אחד ואחד.” So I always part with “תזכו למצוות”! Just as you are honored to fulfill this particular duty, may God entrust and enable you to fulfill many more.
Yet, amidst my admiration, a silent question persists. In reverence – “עוסק במצוה פטור מן המצוה” – I withhold my question from them.
These men, filled with inner sanctity, should their attire not reflect the same? All too often, their appearance is disheveled and unkempt, contrasting starkly with the stately married Charedi men I observe on Shabbat, who, swathed in long black coats and secured by cloth belts, are the very embodiment of dignity. Why?