Back to this week's parsha| Previous Issues

by Daneal Weiner

Howdy do! I hope everyone is getting into the Purim spirit! Next week ShemaYisrael hopes to have a special Purim site and, b’ezras Hashem, Orchards will have a Purim Edition as well. Last weeks parsha began the instruction of the building of the Mishkan, the portable Sanctuary. This week’s

Parshas Tetsaveh - Zachor
continues with instructions for the Bigdai Kohanim- the garments of the priests, for the inauguration ceremony of Aaron and his descendants as priests, for the daily offering and for the incense offering. What may seem unusually is that this parsha opens with the command for Bnei Yisrael to begin collecting the olive oil which will eventually be used to light the Menorah. The gold has not yet even been melted down and yet the oil is already being collected!?

This question, raised by the Bair Yoseph, he answers quoting the Rambam, Ramban and Rashi and their commentaries on various verses in Torah, the Prophets and Psalms. Basically, this message is everywhere! G-d does not need our services nor our sacrifices! We do!! And that message is again presented with the gathering of the oil and the command to light the Menorah. G-d, Who brought against Egypt a plague of hail with a fire at the core of every stone and Who sent before Bnei Yisrael a pillar of fire to illuminate the night, such a G-d certainly does not need a Menorah! And just as He doesn’t need the Menorah, He doesn’t need the services of the Kohanim, the sacrificial offerings, nor the incense offerings! They are all doors of opportunities (to use a bad metaphor) for spiritual and physical growth and fulfillment for ourselves, our people and our planet! Just what every college graduate I looking for! And the Menorah is commanded to be lit daily, “an eternal decree”. It’s message is always before us.

Since the introduction of Moshe Rabbeinu, his name appears in every parsha but this one. Next week, when Moshe will pray on behalf Bnei Yisrael who have just committed the sin of the golden calf, he’ll say to Hashem, "If You don't forgive them, then blot me out from Your book!” The commentaries say that because of those words H’ took his name out of one parsha. The obvious question, why not take Moshe’s name out of that parsha or out of the following one? The answer is that Moshe’s, yohrtseit, the day of his death, is the 7th of Adar and according to our calendar, it almost always falls out during the week of Parshas Tetsaveh. Just as Moshe's presence was taken form the world at this time, so too his name.

The Vilna Gaon says that Moshe’s physical presence was taken! In spirit, he is right here! Of the 7 forms of gematria, one is called Hidden Gematria. It works by adding the letters which spell the letters of the word LESS the first letters. Meaning, the ‘hidden’ letters. “Moshe” is spelled by the three letters ‘mem, shin and hey’. The letter ‘mem’ is spelled ‘mem, mem’. The letter ‘shin’ is spelled ‘shin, yud, nun’. And the letter ‘hey’ is spelled ‘hey, aleph’. By adding the letters which spell the letters of the word (Moshe’s name in this case) LESS their first letters we end up with (mem)+ (yud + nun) + (aleph) = 40 + (10+50) + 1 = 101. The Vilna Gaon says there are 101 verses in Parshas Tetsaveh! So even though the body, the physical presence of Moshe is gone, don’t think he isn’t around. Next!

Near the end of the fifth chapter of Ethics of the Fathers it states, “Yehudah ben Taimah says, Be brazen as a leopard, light as an eagle, run like a deer and be strong as a lion to do the will of our Father in heaven. He also said, Brazenness earns gehenom and shame earns Gan Eden. May it be the will before You, Hashem, our G-d, G-d of our forefathers, to build the Temple speedily in our day and give us our share in Your Torah. He also said, ....” and it continues on. If you look through all the remaining 6 chapters of the Ethics, you will not find anyone else break into a spontaneous prayer! What spurred Reb Yehudah’s sudden petition?

To answer the second question first, (here it is) How does he say we should be brazen and follow that immediately with brazenness getting us gehenom? The answer is in how we use it. Every strength, G-d gave us can be used for good or for bad. That is our choice. Even brazenness will sanctify Hashem’s name when it is to do witsvos in the face of those who mock them. But as a character trait with out directing it to “do the will of our Father in heaven” then it will do us in. OY!

And why the prayer? The garments of the Kohane Gadol were a tremendous gift from Hashem. Each of the 8 garbs the High Priest wore had the power to atone for a shortcoming of Bnei Yisrael!! The Tsits, the gold head band, had the ability to atone for our brazenness! Realizing the graven nature of the trait and what it could bring, Yehudah ben Taimah couldn’t help but pray for the building of the Temple which will come complete with one High Priest and if you act now, Hashem will throw in one Tsits at no extra charge. A critical ingredient for the well being of all Klal Yisrael, about to be labeled next week as a ‘stiff-necked people’! I’m feeling a little tension already.

I heard an incredible vort from Rav Bulman, shlita. Clothing has always been a means of covering our shame. Adam and Chava, created naked, saw each other only as holy beings for the sake of serving Hashem, each according to their own abilities and purpose. After eating of the tree of good and evil, they could no longer see each other in that same pure light. The evil they ate became part of them. They were embarrassed. They hid and covered themselves with leaves.

Centuries later, Hashem rewards Avraham with the mitsvah of tsitsits, a four cornered garment. For the first time in history clothing now has a different function. The paragraph in the Torah which introduces the tsitsits says , “You will see it and remember all the mitsvos and do them and not turn after your hearts or your eyes, after the things you lust.” A garment had now become the restitution for that which caused it’s institution! Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch describes the strings on the corners like an unfinished garment. We see it and remember that we have to finish the job that it starts.

Again centuries pass and now the High Priests garments bring clothing to an unprecedented level. 28:2, “You [Moshe] will make vestments of sanctity for Aaron, your brother, for glory and splendor.” The clothes themselves are the glory and splendor! The opposite of the shame they originally symbolized. In the Megilla, Chazal extract from hints that Achashvairosh put on the clothing of the High Priest. What was he doing? What was his problem with the Jews in the first place that he wanted them to participate in this feast and fall into disfavor with Hashem? To answer the second question first, what troubled him was the same thing which all tyrants and dictators have had against the Jews for all history. The interests of such ‘leaders’ is only their lusts. Their cravings for power, money and hedonism drive them to do whatever they need to achieve those goals. Kill who they want and take what they want and who they want.

Achashvairosh is nervous about Vashti. There’s a power struggle in the palace. He has to get rid of her but it can’t be through himself because if subjects are loyal to her it will just mean trouble. He ends up eliciting the advice of others to get her killed with blood free hands. In order to find a new queen, Achashvairosh summons every single woman in the empire to have his way with her. But that’s not enough. A year, a YEAR he makes them prepare with baths of oils and perfumes for a few short moments only to disgarding 99.99%! What a bahaimah!

For him and all like him there is only one thorn in their side. Only one thing that ever ‘stands’ in their way. A little house on a stubby mountain which proclaims to all the four corners of the earth, “DO NOT KILL! DO NOT STEAL! DO NOT COVET!” And along with hating that house comes hating the ‘occupants’.

Achashveirosh needs to seduce the Jews without making them suspect. He puts on the Kohane Gadol’s garments as if to say, “See, I respect your culture. We can make it work together. Maybe even an annual parade! We’ll have a Jewish day and everyone will pull their Judaica out, like all these vessels before you, and for the other 364 days it will be business as usual.” That’s the other message! That’s what Achashvairosh really wants. With the garments on he’s also saying, “I’m the honor and the glory now. My definition! My business as usual!” Obligation free! Like the other 23 holy books of the Tanach, Megillas Esther is not just a story of that time. It’s for all time!

Religions have come along, picked up a few token vestments and said, “Now we’re the chosen people. We’re G-d’s new children.” Obligation free! More recently, someone carved liberty, justice and equality into the side of a bell and said, “Now we’re the new society. We're the new culture!” Obligation free! Both of these are swallowing Jews by the millions, r’l. Even more to our detriment and dismay, our own fallen brothers and sisters, from within, they dress themselves and say, “Now I’m the Rabbi! I'm the posek! My definition” Obligation free! Also destroying millions of Jewish souls. H'y!

Achashveirosh, Chazal teach us, also built for himself a replica of King Solomon’s throne. He was announcing himself heir to the Davidic line as well. From every angle his hope was to suck the Jewish people into the abyss of assimilation with a few external ceremonials and lip service to pacify any enduring guilt till it could finally be said, “The Jewish people? Heard about them once.”

What Achashvairosh doesn’t realize, as none of them ever do, is that there is One force that runs the world. And He made a promise to some people 3300+ years ago. And He keeps His word. The final message in the Megillah, also like the 23 other books, our enemies will all fall. That’s good for the ones from without. What about the ones from within?

This weeks is also called parshas Zachor. Zachor means ‘remember’. This week we read the only portion of the Torah that is a Biblical command for us to hear. The portion read is from Sefer Dvarim and it is reiteration of an event that happened back in Parshas B’shalach. Shortly after Bnei Yisrael crossed the Yam Suf they were attacked by the nation of Amaleik. Amaleik was not one of the seven nations inhabiting the land of Canaan, where the Jews were heading, so it can’t be said their attack was a pre-emptive strike. Amaleik is a nation who can not stand any representation of G-d in this world. Their goal is to wipe out G-d’s name, our job is to wipe out them. That is what we read in order to remember.

B’shalach describes the battle with Amaleik saying, (17:11,13-14) “And it happened when Moshe raised his hands Israel was stronger and when he lowered his hands Amaleik was stronger...Yehoshua weakened Amaleik and his people with the sword’s blade. Hashem said to Moshe, ‘Write this as a remembrance in the book and recite it in the ears of Yehoshua, that I shall surely erase the memory of Amaleik from under the heavens.’” In D’varim the episode ends with, (25:19) “You shall wipe out the memory of Amaleik from under the heavens.”

This weeks haftorah reading is about King Shaul’s battle against Amaleik. On the brink of succeeding to destroy every man, woman and child, he let one man survive. The king of Amaleik, Agag. That night Agag raped a woman and she conceived and from this child descended Haman who came the closest in history to destroying all the Jews. Not only Haman but Chazal tell us that the 75,800 men killed in battle of Purim were also descendants of Amaleik.

Rav Wolfson asks; “In Yehoshua’s ear” implies a secret. What’s the secret. Why did Moshe’s hands go up and down? Soon Moshe was going to grab the 2 tablets out of the grip of 70 angels but now he hasn’t the strength to hold his arms up? Why did Yehoshua just weaken Amaleik and not destroy them? Why does G-d say “I” will destroy Amaleik in B’shalach and “You” will in D’varim?

Also, the Haftorah, reading from the Prophets, was instituted at a time when the governing forces forbade our reading the Torah. The section of the Prophets chosen was one with the same message as the parsha it substituted. This weeks haftorah, chosen specially for parshas Zachor- not Tetsaveh- says the opposite! Shaul let an Amaleikite live?! G-d tells the Prophet Shmuel to tell Shaul he is being dethroned for not heeding to the command of Hashem. Shaul’s response to this message is, “I did listen to Hashem! I brought the king of Amaleik and I destroyed Amaleik!” How does Shaul imagine this contradicting behavior is obeying Hashem?

The remarkable answers begin with a Gemorah in Sanhedrin that Haman has descendants learning in Bnei Barak. (Those whom we’ll soon see mentioned in the Hagadah.) Of these descendants was Rav Shmuel bar Shailat. The Gemorah Baba Basra says there was no teacher of children like Rav Shmuel bar Shailat. The introduction to the Midrash on Megillas Esther further elaborates that for every type of soul there is one who leads the pack. Moshe was the head of all prophets. Yehoshua was the head all of the conquerors, King David was the head of all composers...and Rav Shmuel bar Shailat was the head of all teachers.

Purim is a holiday of reversals of fortune. One of these reversals is the fact that Haman wanted to prohibit teaching the children Torah and from him descended the archetypal teacher of Torah. From a verse in Lamentations which says, “Gone from the daughters of Zion is all her splendor,” Chazal say Zion’s splendor is the Shchinah of Hashem and when the children are not learning Torah then the Shchinah leaves. Rav Shmuel bar Shailat extrapolated the if one who enters the Month of Av, the month in which we mourn the destruction of Zion and the Temple’s, should diminish their enjoyment, then one who enters Adar should increase their enjoyment. “Mishenichnas Adar marbim b’simcha!” It's his line!
All can agree, RAv Shmuel bar Shailat was a pretty chashuveh Yid!

Now, Rav Wolfson says, we can see why Yehoshua could only weaken Amaleik and not wipe them out. Deep within the layers of the wickedness of Amaleik lay buried tremendous sparks of holiness. When Moshe saw in the battle that Amaleik was going to be lost with out those sparks being recovered (don’t ask me how) he put down his hands so that Amaleik would survive. Rav Wolfson, in his inimitable fashion, notes that “V’cha’asher yani’ach yado v’gavar Amaleik” = “m’lamed tinokos”. “and when he lowered his hands Amaleik was stronger” = 1076 = “teacher of children”.

Also now we can understand the episode with King Shaul. The monarchy was promised to the descendants of Leah’s son, Yehudah but, as the Alshich learns, Amaleik was to fall only to the descendants of Rachel’s children. Shaul, descendant of Rachel, was made king and commanded to destroy Amaleik. Shaul, through his own wisdom made the calculation that king Agag should be left alive. When Shmuel then rebuked Shaul saying he didn’t listen to Hashem, Shaul responded but he did! Shaul was referring to the ‘big picture’! “I wiped them all out but one for the sake of Rav Shmuel bar Shailat” is what he meant. Shmuel had to impress upon him that albeit true that Hashem wanted one alive, the ‘big picture’ is doing exactly what Hashem wants! Shaul realizes he’s sinned. Obvious question; if Shaul killed Agag, who would have survived?

When G-d told Avraham to offer up Yitschak, Avraham went. In Breishis 22:12, when the angel wants to stop Avraham he says to him, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad nor do anything to him...” That’s two things the angel told him not to do! Avraham wanted so much to fulfill the word of Hashem that even after being told not to kill his son he still wanted to draw a little blood! Some say it was because he made the blessing over slaughtering and he did not want the bracha to have been in vain. G-d managed to stop him from that too. Shaul’s job was indeed to listen to Hashem and to have attempted to kill every Amaleikite, including Agag. Hashem would have stopped him as He stopped Avraham. Shaul is dishonorably discharged and the monarchy goes to David, a descendant of Yehudah.

What was ‘whispered’ into the ears of Yehoshua? That although it needs to be written down in the books to wipe out Amaleik, the head of all conquerors should be told that they in fact need to survive and it is going to be with the discredit of Shaul.

The Arizal says this is a 'sode'- the deepest of ideas, behind the obligation Chazal enacted of drinking on Purim till one doesn’t know the difference between the blessed Mordechai and the cursed Haman. There exists in Haman that which deserves to be blessed. But it is so ‘deep’ within him that if we tried to do it consciously, we’d get it wrong and give blessing to Haman himself, G-d forbid! Only when our consciousness losses touch does are other than conscious get in touch. I’ll drink to that!

The Alshich explains the if Shaul did attempt to kill Agag, that would have brought the reparation of the world to fruition. In such cases, where the state of the world is dependent on one action, then the Yetser Horah- the Evil Inclination focuses all of it’s power on preventing it’s success. This is what occurred by Adam and Chava when they ate from the tree, not waiting till Shabbos when it would have been permissible. So too by the golden calf when all Bnei Yisrael didn’t wait for Moshe to descend Mt. Sinai. And it was the influence in Shaul's mind to lead him to beleive he should let Agag live. So to tie up the remaining loose end, may we soon merit Hashem’s promise that HE will destroy Amaleik, the spiritual strength of Amaleik, removing the yetser horah from our hearts, so that we will have the unhindered opportunity to fulfill OUR command of destroying Amaleik and reestablishing the monarchy and rebuilding the Beis Hamikdash. Bimhayrah biyamainu!

And if our ancestors went through all they did for the sake of Jewish sparks lost to our enemies, then there will certainly be opportunity for our fallen brothers and sisters to do tshuvah and again become an active part of a our holy nation. A nation of Priests. A light unto the world! Representatives of the splendor and glory of Hashem! Hey! An opportunity already!! Have a Shabbot Shalom!

Back to this week's parsha| Previous Issues