Once when he concluded his studies with his disciples, he walked along with them. His disciples asked him: "Master, where are you going?" He answered: "To perform a religious duty."
"What is this religious duty, Master?" they asked.
"To wash in the bathhouse," he replied.
"Is that a religious duty, Master?" they asked.
"Yes," he replied, "if the statues of kings, which are erected in theatres and circuses, are scoured and washed by the man who is appointed to look after them, how much more so I, who have been created in the Divine Image?"
Without a doubt, personal hygiene speaks volumes about who we are and Who we serve. As Rabbi Lefin discusses in Cheshbon HaNefesh, someone needs to have only one look at us in whatever state we are in to establish a picture of who we are (or aren't).
But what about another slant on this middah - how do we approach the physical well-being of our bodies? While we may take pains to keep our teeth clean, do we take it a step further and schedule regular appointments to maintain and verify the health of our teeth? Do we take the time to keep the insides of our bodies "clean"? Or do we eat in such a way that we jeopardize the health of our hearts, arteries, and other organs? This is also cleanliness - for as we have all heard, we are what we eat. While the focus of the middah is on the outside of the body, it is inevitable that we should look within as well to ensure that we are truly maintaining our reflection of the Divine Image as best we can. The steps we take on a regular basis to seek wellness care helps our bodies to continue to run "clean", and able to perform mitzvot. For if the inside is not well, the outside will cease to exist - thus, the vehicle for the soul will be no more.
In a similar vein, do we maintain a level of fitness that is vital to healthy living? Do we take steps to include more excercise if we find we have a slowing metabolism or sedentary lifestyle - or do we let our bodies take on some random course? The idea of cleanliness can have so many angles; however, there is no question that our overall weight, diet and activity can affect our outer shell. And depending how we care for that shell, we can give people cause to respect us or view us as irresponsible and careless.
You are created in the image of G-d - b'tzelem Elokim - what are you going to do about it?