Wearing Our Beliefs

There are a number of English expressions in which people describe their inner feelings by describing their external appearances.

For example, “Being comfortable in one’s skin” means exuding confidence and being content with one’s appearance.  The expression “wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve” dates back hundreds of years. It is meant to convey the openness of one’s emotions for the world to see. The inner feelings are plain and visible for review, scrutiny, appreciation and/ or scorn.

What an individual decides to show to the outside world oftentimes says a lot about their personal beliefs and emotions.

The way a society dresses people, also says much about such society’s beliefs.

Nazi Germany Enforced Dress Code

During the Holocaust, the Germans made certain undesirable people wear badges on their outer-garments so the people could be easily identified. Jews were forced to wear yellow stars. Gays wore pink triangles. Jehovah’s Witnesses had purple ones. These symbols were not chosen by the individual as an outward expression of their faith, but by an evil society that chose to mark people for abuse, imprisonment, torture and death.

In the Auschwitz concentration camp complex, prisoners were tattooed by the Nazis beginning in autumn 1941. The numbering system etched into the arms of men, women and children, was used almost exclusively on Jews. The system allowed the Nazis to track and process hundreds of thousands of people who were not killed immediately. The ink relayed the cold reality that these prisoners were not in charge of their bodies anymore. Society no longer recognized their names nor humanity.

The evil of Nazi Germany was not simply that they viewed the “Aryan race” as superior – they viewed others as less than human.  The Nazis marked the clothing and bodies of those Untermensch to relay the Aryan perception of these sub-humans.

auschwitz tattoo

Jews Wearing Tefillin

Jewish tradition is an important component of the Jewish religion. While there are specific laws in Judaism, such as wearing phylacteries/ tefillin, the manner in which some Judaic laws are carried out changes according to custom.  Some people wrap the tefillin around the arm in an outward motion, while others wrap them going towards the body.  Some traditions have the entire name of God appearing on the hand while others only write a portion of the three letter name of God.

When a person wraps the tefillin straps around the fingers, he recites a quote from Hosea 2:19-20: “V’erastich li l’olam; v’erastich li b’tzedek u-v’mishpat u-v’chesed u-v’rachamim; v’erastich li b’emunah; v’yadat et adonai.
And I will betroth you to myself forever; and I will betroth you to myself in righteousness and in justice, in kindness and in mercy; and I will betroth you to myself in faithfulness, and you will know God.”

teffilin
Grandfather, father and two sons wearing tefillin
(photo: First.One.Through)

Just one generation ago, the dominant force in Europe labeled Jews and stole their humanity.  Today, when Jews put on tefillin, they assert themselves and declare their connection to both God and family tradition.


Related First.One.Through

The Touch of the Sound of the Shofar

The Termination Shock of Survivors

The EU’s Choice of Labels: “Made in West Bank” and “Anti-Semite”

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4 thoughts on “Wearing Our Beliefs

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