Tetzaveh - Purim
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You shall make garments of sanctity for Aaron your brother, for glory and for splendor. (Shemos 28:2)
In this week’s parsha we learn about the clothing of the kohanim and the special clothing of the kohen gadol. The Torah dedicates almost the entire parsha to describe exactly how they are to be made. It is noteworthy that there is another Jewish leader, namely the King, who also wears special clothing, yet not only does the Torah not tell us how they shall be made, the Torah does not even mention that they exist.
In megillas Esther we find much discussion about the clothing of the King. Indeed a significant portion of the Purim miracle occurred when Haman was required to dress Mordechai in the clothing of the King. Moreover, the climax of the megillah is when we read “Mordechai went out before the King dressed in majestic clothing” (Esther 8:15). In contrast to the clothing of the kohanim, the Megillah even describes what the clothing looked like, “royal apparel of blue and white with a large gold crown and a robe of fine linen and purple” (Esther 8:15). What symbolic difference is there between the clothing of the kohen gadol and the clothing of the King?
We begin by noting that that the clothing of the kohanim and kohen gadol are called “begadim”. The Torah says “You shall make bigdei kodesh for Aaron your brother.” On the other hand, the clothing of the King found in the Megillah is called “levush.” We read in the Megillah that Mordechai went out before the king in “levush malchus.” Both “beged” and “levush” are translated as clothing but what is the difference?
The word beged has the same letters as the word “bagad.” Bagad means to sin or rebel. The commentators explain that the reason why beged shares the same letters as bagad is because clothing serves as reminder for the first sin of Man.
The Torah tells us that before Adam and Chavah committed the sin of eating from the tree of knowledge they were naked and were not embarrassed. As a consequence of the sin, the evil inclination entered their souls and caused them to be embarrassed of their nakedness. Hashem made them clothing to cover their embarrassment. Thus, the word beged which is related to both clothing and sin remind us of the sin of man and why we need clothing.
The kohen gadol was the spiritual leader of the Jewish People. His primary function was to provide atonement for the Jewish people. Chazal tell us that not only did the service of the kohen gadol atone but even his clothing provided atonement. Each garment atones for a different sin. We may now understand why his clothing are called begadim. They atone for sins just as the word bagad means to rebel and sin.
On the other hand the primary function of a Jewish King was to maintain the material and economic wellbeing of the nation. His role is not to atone for sin; therefore his dress is not associated with the word beged. Instead, the Megillah has a special word for his garments, “levush.” The Gemarah (Shabbos 77b) teaches that the word levush is an acronym for the words “lo bosh,” translated as “there is no embarrassment.” Clothing covers the body and removes embarrassment. The word levush in contrast to the word beged focuses primarily on the physical function of the clothing whereas the word beged focuses primarily on the spiritual character of the clothing. Therefore, with regard to the King whose responsibility is the economic well being of the people, the word levush is used.
Chazal note that the Torah refers to the holiday of Yom Kippur as Yom HaKippurim. This may be literally translated as “a day that is like Purim.” This statement may imply that Purim is superior to Yom Kippur. How is this so?
Both Yom Kippur and Purim are days of atonement. On Yom Kippur Hashem forgives the sins of the individual through the service of the kohen gadol in the holy of holies. The holiday of Purim similarly provides forgiveness. At the time of the Purim miracle, the Jewish people sinned by participating in and enjoying the feast of King Achashveirosh. The feast was a celebration of the fact that according to the King’s calculations the time for the redemption of the Jewish People had passed and would never come. In essence, by participating in this feast, the Jewish people were celebrating their own demise. The megillah relates that Hashem decreed that the Jewish people be thoroughly annihilated including men women and children. Subsequently, at the behest of Mordechai and Esther they repented, were forgiven and the decree was annulled. Every Year through the Holiday of Purim we relive and re-experience the repentance and forgiveness characteristics of the Purim miracle.
In the musaf prayer of Yom Kippur we read about the joy that accompanied the forgiveness of the Jewish people at the conclusion of the Yom Kippur service, “How majestic was the kohen gadol as he left the holy of holies in peace without injury.” We find a similar expression concerning Mordechai. At the climax of the Purim Miracle the posuk says “Mordechai went out before the King wearing levush malchus.” Chazal tell us that every time it says in the megillah the word King it refers to Hashem who is the King of the Universe. Thus, the aforementioned posuk alludes to Mordechai as going out from before Hashem in great joy wearing “bigdei malchus” similar to how the kohen gadol went out from the beis hamikdash wearing his bigdei kehunah. They both succeeded in attaining atonement for the Jewish People.
Chazal tell us there are two different types of repentance. The first type is when we repent because of fear of Hashem or punishment. The other type is when we repent out of love for Hashem. When one repents because of fear, his deliberate sins are converted into inadvertent sins. Just as one is free from punishment when sinning inadvertently, likewise through repentance he is exempt from punishment for his deliberate sins as well. However, when one repents out of love his deliberate sins are turned into merits.
Homiletically we may suggest that herein lays the difference between Purim and Yom Kippur. On Yom Kippur the atonement is in the form of repentance due to fear. On Purim the repentance is out of love.
The atonement of Yom Kippur comes through the kohen gadol who wears bigdai kehunah. Beged is related to the word rebellion. On Yom Kippur our sins are covered just as clothing covers our flesh. We are not held accountable, yet the sin remains. This is similar to the function of clothing. We are always embarrassed to appear without clothing; however the clothing covers our embarrassment. On Purim, Chazal tell us that due to the miracle the Jewish People repented out of love. The Megillah records how Mordechai went forth wearing “levush malchus.” Levush literally means “there is no embarrassment. Homiletically, we may suggest that because the repentance was out of love, the sin was uprooted entirely. Before Adam and Chavah sinned the Torah describes them as “they were not embarrassed.” There was no sin and therefore nothing to be embarrassed about. The significance of Purim is the ability to repent out of love whereby the sins become non-existent and there is nothing to be embarrassed for. On Purim we all wear “Levush Malchus.”
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5764/2004