Time is very short this week, so here's an article I've written for the coming week's Toronto Torah. It's on a theme we've discussed before, such as here: Dress-Up Judaism.
Why dress up for davening?
A young man proposed to his inamorata while unshaven and wearing dirty jeans and a T-shirt, and he was stunned when she rejected his offer. He asked her, "Didn't you say you would take me as I am?"
She replied sadly, "Yes, but I didn't think that you would."
We intuit that G-d will "take us as we are", that prayer should require a proper heart rather than proper garb. The Creator who formed us knows our most intimate thoughts, and from a timeless perch outside of our reality He has already witnessed our weakest moments as well as the fulfillment of our greatest potential, so what would be the purpose of artifice? How could dressing up disguise our failings?
The case of the rejected suitor demonstrates the value of dressing up: Donning special clothing, like the uniform the kohen wore for his service in the Beit haMikdash, is an act of respect. Dressing up shows that we value our meeting with G-d.
Our parshah (Bereishit 33:18) mentions that Yaakov arrived in Shechem shalem – intact, whole, complete. According to Rav Meir Simchah haKohen of Dvinsk, the Torah emphasizes Yaakov's complete state in order to explain a nuance in his conduct.
During Yaakov's travels, he brought a korban nearly every time he arrived in a new location; see Bereishit 28:18, 31:54, 35:1, 35:14, 35:19 and 46:1. However, Yaakov did not bring a korban when he arrived in Succot, despite having just survived his midnight battle with a malach and his meeting with Esav. Why was this trip different?
Rav Meir Simchah explains that Yaakov had not healed fully from his fight when he arrived in Succot. Our patriarch considered himself blemished due to his physical wounds, and unworthy to bring a korban for his Creator. It was only when he arrived in Shechem - the stop after Succot - that he was shalem, and ready to bring a korban.
Certainly, we should never feel that G-d is unapproachable; we are taught that HaShem's mercy is universal, regardless of our material or spiritual wounds and deficiencies. Nonetheless, our goal should be to emulate Yaakov and approach G-d in a state of shleimut, wholeness. G-d may take us as we are, but we should aim to become greater.