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Parshat Tetzaveh (5769)
This week's Torah portion describes the garments used by the Priests (Cohanim) in the Temple and comes before the holiday of Purim.
Therefore this Shabbat we read a special portion about destroying 'Amelek ' (Parshat Zachor') as a preparation for the holiday of Purim when the Jews foiled the plans of Haman; the representative of the anti-Semitic nation Amelek, some 2,500 years ago.
Every creation and certainly every idea in the Torah teaches us how to improve ourselves and the world around us according to G-d's (the manufacturer's) standards.
What is the lesson here? What connection is there between the garments of the Priests and destroying Amelek?
To understand this here is a story based on one that the Lubavitcher Rebbe told to his Chassidim over 45 years ago (HaAzinu 5722) (Ma ShSaper Li HaRebbe pg. 15)
The fourth leader of the Chabad Chassidic movement; the great, holy genius Rebbe Shmuel (Mahar'sh for short) (1834-1882) often took long journeys as did the founder of the Chassidic movement; Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem (a.k.a Baal Shem Tov) some 100 years earlier.
The purpose of these journeys was often mysterious and only revealed much later, but in this case the purpose was clear; to convince the Czar's ministers to take action against a particularly harsh decree against the Jews.
Things did not look good. This decree had been well planned and only a miracle would stop it but the Rebbe did have friends in St. Petersburg and, in addition, he had a special letter stating that he was an "Honorable citizen for all generations" partially in gratitude for the roll that his great-grandfather, Rebbe Sheur Zalman the first leader of Chabad, had in defeating Napoleon.
One of the stops on his journey from Lubavitch to Petersberg was the city Dvinsk where he would have to wait an hour in order to change trains.
Dvinsk was a large, busy city and it just so happened that among many Jews living there were many 'Misnagdim'; ultra religious Jews that hated the Chassidim, especially Chabad Chassidim. The reasons for this hatred were never really clear but mostly it was because the Chassidim were excited about bringing Moshiach and more happy about serving G-d in this world than G-d serving them in heaven.
In any case the misnagdim were intelligent people and as soon as they got wind of the Rebbe's stopover they concocted a foolproof plan to get him arrested.
They went to the train station where he was waiting and, posing as genuinely interested followers approached him and requested, "Rebbe we are thirsty for your wisdom". One spoke while the others nodded their heads in feigned seriousness. "Please, we beg of you say a Mimor so the entire city can learn and do!" (a Mimor is a deep Chassidic discourse often explaining esoteric ideas of Kaballa.)
When, surprisingly, the Rebbe agreed they began step two of their plan; to convince the Rebbe to say his mimor in the Train Station.
"Rebbe, the nearest synagogue is a distance from here; you'll never make it there and back for your train. Why not just say the Mimor right here in the train depot?!"
Again the Rebbe agreed. The misnagdim, overjoyed at their success, began setting up a place for the Rebbe in the Station while others rushed off in different directions to advertise the good news.
In just minutes men came running from near and far to hear the Rebbe speak until, fifteen minutes later the place was over packed with hundreds of Jews and more were coming!
The misnagdim meanwhile made it a point of getting into the thick of the crowd, pushing and shoving wherever possible while subtly breaking or scratching everything in their proximity to cause confusion.
When they felt there was ample evidence that things were out of control and the Rebbe was a disruptive personage they slipped out of the crowd and ran to the local police station for the final stage.
Dvinsk was known for its law and order. This was mainly due to the large army camp there; the presence of thousands of soldiers thirsty for action and blood if necessary made everyone afraid to move. And the police, not to be outdone by the army, were unusually strict and cruel.
Realizing this, the misnagdim entered the police station and began to yell, "There's a revolutionary Rabbi making a riot in the train station! Do something! Go there quick! The whole place is a wreck! We tried to stop him but we almost got killed etc. etc."
The police, who realized this was their golden opportunity to show that they, and not the soldiers, were in control, took clubs and ran out the door like mad dogs in the direction of the train station.
When finally got there they saw it was just as the young men said; packed and in total disorder…. although it was much quieter than they thought it would be, nevertheless the place was in shambles and crowed way over the maximum!
The police captain told his men to follow him as he ran around the to an open side door nearest to where the Rebbe was sitting and prepared to enter. The Rebbe didn't notice them at all. He was swaying slightly, eyes closed, speaking forcefully in Yiddish to a silent crowd deeply engrossed in every word he was saying.
The captain threw his shoulders back, raised his club and began to enter, to arrest the Rebbe! But his feet didn't move. He motioned to his men but they stood like statues gazing transfixed on the holy face of this holy Jew; they were paralyzed with awe. They couldn't understand what was happening; why should a bearded Jews scare them? But it was all they could do to turn and run back to the police station like scared children.
They arrived breathless, ashamed to the bone and unable to answer the questions the chief of police was yelling at them. "What happened? Why are you back here? Where is the revolutionary?"
The captain tried to answer but his replies made no sense. So the chief buckled on his sword, fastened his club and told everyone to follow him.
In moments he arrived at the station and when he saw what was going on; the huge crowd and seemingly political activity he was also enraged. He was about to give the order to his men to enter and disperse the crowd! But something made him stop. He had a better idea; he would make the Rebbe stop talking and start answering questions! He would take the problem by the head!
He walked to the side door, followed by the entire force, told them to wait as he entered and approached the Rebbe. But as he got closer and closer his anger faded until, just as he was about to say something, the Rebbe without opening his eyes or even pausing in his 'Mimor' reached into his pocket, pulled out his letter of honor and handed it to him without even turning to him.
The chief took the letter, unfolded it, read its contents, stood at attention, saluted the Rebbe, handed the paper back to one of those present to give to the Rebbe and left.
Moments later the Rebbe finished his discourse, the train arrived and he continued his journey to Petersburg where he succeeded in negating the decree.
So we see the Rebbe transformed darkness and evil into light and good: if it hadn't been for those misnagdim, hundreds of people would never have heard the Rebbe speak, the entire police force of Dvinsk wouldn't have been influenced by his presence and possibly, without these two merits, he might not have succeed in Petersburg.
This answers our questions. Both the garments of the Priests and the holiday of Purim signify transforming bad to good.
The priestly garments transformed the garments of Adam caused by the sin of the tree of knowledge and the joy and celebration of Purim transforms the misery and death that Haman wanted to bring into the world.
Indeed, the reason the world was created is in order that we reveal the Creator in His creation; or, in other words to transform the world into G-dliness. And the only two times this really happened in a revealed way were in the Holy Temple and in the holiday of Purim.
That is why two of the accomplishments of Moshiach will be to rebuild the Temple and destroy Amelek; the two topics of this week's Torah portions.
But these are not just nice ideas.
It is really and truly our obligation and ability to hasten the process. We can ignore all the evil and darkness in the world as the Rebbe Shmuel did and even by one good deed, word or even thought bring....
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