The holiday of Purim often coincides with the reading of Parshat Tetzaveh. Since everything in the Torah is by Divine Providence, there must be a connection between the story of Purim (when we dress in costumes) and Parshat Tetzaveh (when we read about the costumes of the kohanim).

Needless to say, there are several passages in the Book of Esther, which relates the Purim story, that concern dress. For example, the heroine, Queen Esther, discovers that her uncle, Mordechai, is sitting at the gates of the king’s palace wearing sackcloth and ashes, the costume of repentance.

"[Upon hearing this news] the queen was exceedingly distressed, and she sent [messengers with] garments to clothe Mordechai, and to take away his sackcloth from him; but he would not accept them." (Esther 4:4)

Why did Esther send him a change of clothes?

Shem miShmuel asks: Why did Esther send him a change of clothes? Did she really think that the reason her uncle was wearing sackcloth was because he had nothing else to wear?

In his answer, Shem miShmuel refers to a sartorial principle that emerges from Parashat Tetzaveh. He notes that the kohanim had to wear special clothes, because their service required that they draw down spiritual light from such a high source that their work demanded secrecy and modesty.

He then observes that the queen’s name—Esther—comes from the same root as hester, meaning "hiddenness/concealment." Esther, Shem miShmuel explains, tapped salvation from a very high and hidden source of G‑dliness, as the spiritual illumination accessed by the kohanim demanded concealment and modesty, so the spiritual illumination that she could bring to bear on the desperate plight of the Jews would also need concealment. Therefore, she sent a change of clothes to Mordechai.

But, Mordechai had other ideas. He preferred his sackcloth for this particular "job."

One who is sick is prepared to take bitter medicine in order to get well, and Mordechai knew that the Jewish people were in a desperate predicament. Of course, he also knew of Esther’s ability to bring down healing from the hidden worlds above. However, he didn’t feel that was the right answer for this particular predicament.

...the only thing that would help the Jews at this point was a collective cry from the depth of their hearts.

The evil power of Haman -— the minister who was plotting against the Jews -— was so great, that the only thing that would help the Jews at this point was a collective cry from the depth of their hearts. No spiritual illumination was going to help now -— only teshuva, returning to G‑d in repentance.

Therefore, Mordechai rejected Esther’s plan to draw down hidden reserves of spiritual illumination. He remained in his simple sackcloth.

And Esther agreed. She dressed herself simply and fasted. She also requested from her uncle to gather all the Jews together and to fast and pray for her, whereupon she would go into the king to request protection for her people.

Only after the Jews did as she asked, did Esther return to her customary, true service of the One Above. She dressed herself in "majesty" (Esther 5:1) as befitting a holy woman who could convey spirituality from the highest worlds Above - and petitioned the king for an audience. She exposed the plot of Haman and saved the Jews from annihilation.

When Esther took on royal garb, so did Mordechai. First, he was dressed in imperial robes by Haman on the king’s orders. And then, after the Jews were saved, the Book of Esther tells us:

"And Mordechai went out from the presence of the king in royal clothes of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a garment of fine linen and purple; and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad. For the Jews there was light, and gladness, and joy, and honor." (Esther 8:15-16)

There’s a "Haman" in every generation...

And so may it be for us. There’s a "Haman" in every generation, an offspring of the seed of Amalek. His role in the divine scheme of things is to induce the Jews of the generation to do teshuva and cry out to the One above. But there’s room to hope that we won’t need him anymore, because the Jews will soon collectively cleave to the One above of their own volition, without any external reminders. At that time, we’ll be able to fulfill the commandment to wipe out the memory of Amalek, build the Temple and welcome the true Jewish Moshiach of the Davidic dynasty.