A simple villager once visited a big city. It was a cold winter day, and the villager had dressed warmly. He wore quite a few layers of clothes – a sweater, a light coat, and an overcoat. He walked along the street, looking at the store displays, amazed at all the wonders of the city. While he walked, he noticed a beautiful white silk shirt in one of the shop displays. It was the most beautiful shirt he had ever laid his eyes upon.

He excitedly entered the store to ask about the beautiful silk shirt. The salesperson brought him one in his size. Just then, another customer entered the store who needed the clerk’s assistance, before the salesperson was able to help the villager put on the shirt.

The villager was impatient to see how the beautiful silk shirt would look on him, so while the salesman was still busy with the other customer, he took the shirt out of its package, took the pins and tissue wrap off, and undid the buttons. However, when he tried to put the shirt on, it seemed much too tight and small and was very hard to get on.

But no matter how much he tried, he could not button the shirt closed. It was just too small.

Finally, the salesman returned. The villager immediately launched into his complaint: “You promised to give me a shirt my size! I tried it on and it doesn’t fit!”

The salesman smiled at the silly man. “Of course it fits you,” replied the salesman. “But before you put the shirt on, you must first take off your coats and sweater!”

We are all like that simple villager. Over time, our pure soul gets covered by layers of sludge and slime – fits of anger, feelings of jealousy and greed, and other bad character traits. If we want to keep levushei deMalka (“clothes of the king”) which are mitzvos, we should first remove the barriers that are between us and Hashem.  If we do not purify ourselves, we will be like the villager, and think that the beautiful “clothes of the King” do not really suit us.

That is what it says in the Shema: “These words shall be on your hearts” – the words of Torah need to be directly on the heart without any barriers.

Source: From this blog, which was adapted from Meshalim Ve-gam Sipurim, p. 19