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Parshat Tetzaveh (5771)

This week's Torah portion discusses the garments worn by the Kohanim (Priests) when they served in the Holy Temple and ends with a description of the 'inner' 'golden' altar used for burning incense in the Temple. (Unlike the much larger 'outer' altar which was coated with brass and used for burning the animal sacrifices).

This, at first glance, makes no sense. This 'inner' alter should have been discussed in last week's portion, Truma, where the other Temple vessels including the 'Outer Altar' were explained not here at the end of the Priestly garments.

Also, this is the only Torah portion (after the birth of Moses) that does not mention Moses' name. Is there any connection?

To understand this here are two stories.

The first is about Rabbi Zusia of Annipoli around 250 years ago (Siporim Noraim pg.159).

One day an old Jew came running into Rabbi Zusia's synagogue and begged from the Rebbe's Chassidim to get him an audience with the master. Usually it would take months to get a private audience with this Holy Tzadik (miracle Jew) but the poor old fellow looked on the verge of a breakdown so after an hour or so he found himself standing before the Rebbe pouring his broken, confused heart out.

He was desperate. A group of some twenty soldiers on their way back home from some sort of victory had decided to descend on his inn to 'refresh' themselves. They ate and drank promising to pay in full for each and every detail to the last penny. But when he asked for money they just laughed pulled out wads of money, waved them in the air, put them back in their pockets and demanded more food and drink until they were satisfied.

But he ran out of whiskey before that happened and the soldiers angrily began tearing his inn to pieces.

First they smashed all the dishes then the tables, and chairs and finally they began joking about doing the same to him and his family as well as burning the place down. There was absolutely no way to stop them; they were all huge barbarians feared by even the police. So he had no choice but to take his family and escape. They fled the inn and found a place to hide but it was only a matter of time till the drunken soldiers would find the hiding place and burn his inn to the ground. He burst out into heartbroken tears and begged for help.

Reb Zusia immediately put on his coat and said, "Let's get to your inn as quickly as possible. We will go in my carriage. We have no time to lose!!"

From a distance the shouting, breaking of glass, and wild laughter from within was frightening but the Rebbe showed no signs of anxiety.

On the contrary, he calmly entered the inn, stood serenely in the midst of the bedlam and sang out in a loud clear voice a verse from the High Holy Day prayers. "U'b'chain Ten Pach'd'chaw HaShemetc." (Therefore put your fear, G-d, on everything You have created).

The soldiers unexplainably stopped what they were doing, became silent and looked at him in astonishment.

When he repeated the verse a second time a bit louder their eyes widened in fear and they began trembling. And when he said it the third time, they all began screaming hysterically and tried frantically to escape the room as though it had burst into flames.

In fact, the rush for the door created such a jam that some broke windows, leapt through and continued running for their lives.

Just at this time their commander, who had been delayed for some reason, appeared in the distance in his carriage and was amazed to see his entire battalion running from the house in all directions waiving their arms and shaking their heads like madmen. When he alighted and tried to stop them not one of them stopped or even so much as looked at him.

Only after firing his pistol several times in the air did he finally get them to stand at attention and try to explain what had happened.

Most of them were so shaken up they couldn't talk and others could only say "Pach… pach…pach" (the first syllable of the word for "fear"), but, at last, one of them came to himself and tried to explain.

When the commander finally heard the entire story he ordered them all to return to the inn, apologize to the Jew, and repay all the damages plus a fine. In addition he handed out severe punishments and got them to swear they would never harm a Jew again. But after all, he was at a total loss to understand what exactly caused his brave soldiers to experience such intense fear.

The answer is…. They experienced truth.

The second story occured some fifty years later (cir.1882) when the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe, theMahara'sh (Rebbe Shmuel), was the leader of the Chabad Chassidim.

The Czar was always either at war or preparing for war with someone and all young men wereconscripted, often by force, to serve for at least fifteen years in the armed forces. This was taken for granted by everyone and for many it was even considered a great honor. But for the observant Jews it meant tragedy; the army was a tool for getting Jews to leave the G-d of their fathers, and join (G-d forbid) the Church.

Our story begins as a young Jew by the name of Chaim-Ber Melamed got a letter from the Russian army to report for induction. He was desperate to get exempted and willing to try anything but his chances looked very slim. He was tall, healthy, and strong as an ox - a perfect candidate for getting killed on the front line. He had only one chance of getting exempted: The Rebbe.

So, early the next morning he hitched up his horse and wagon and headed off to the city of Lubavitch, hoping against all hope that the Rebbe could save him.

Usually the waiting line was for weeks but as soon as he arrived he learned that the Rebbe had ordered that Jewish soldiers should be admitted with no delay.

Just moments later he was standing alone before the Rebbe in his closed room. The Rebbe took one look at him and, before Shalom-Ber could open his mouth, said, "You will not go to the army".

Joyous and with an uplifted heart, he thanked the Rebbe profusely, returned home and sat down to learn Torah in peace, certain that his problems were over. But they weren't.

Alas, just a few days before his scheduled appearance before the induction board, tragedy struck; the Rebbe passed away (13th Tishre 5743).

Chaim Ber was shaken; would the Rebbe's promise still hold true? Without the Rebbe to pray for him would he be inducted? A fate worse than death?!!? Perhaps he should run away, dodge the draft and be a fugitive all his life? But certainly that would be better than … spiritual death in the army!!

But maybe the Rebbe's blessing still was valid? Maybe they wouldn't take him after all.

Confused, scared, unable to think clearly, he just went to the interview and hoped for the best, praying and saying Psalms whenever possible.

He entered the huge building and was walking up the stairs to his medical examination when he felt someone walking closely after him almost on his heels. "Hey!" He turned and yelled out "Why don't you watch….."

It was the Rebbe! The Rebbe Mahara'sh was right behind him!! He burst into a cold sweat, opened his shirt collar, but looked forward, afraid to look behind him and hoped it was just his imagination and kept going up the steps,.

As he got to the doctor's door he turned to look again and sure enough, the Rebbe was still standing there, looking straight at him!

Chiam-Ber turned pale, shaking with fear and at just that moment the office door opened, the doctor looked out, saw him standing there and motioned for him to enter.

But Chiam Ber was paralyzed with awe, trembling and vibrating so uncontrollably he couldn't even utter a word.

The Doctor, on the spot, took out his stethoscope and put it to Chaim Ber's chest. His eyes widened and his jaw fell open in shock! "Young man! Your heart is totally erratic! Get out of here!!"

On the spot the Doctor declared him totally unfit for any sort of military service and told him never to return again. The Rebbe kept his promise in a 'natural' way. (Bait Moshiach magazine #573 pg. 17).

This answers our questions. The structure of Holy Temple and its vessels corresponded to the spiritual, psychological and physical structure of man in his service of the Almighty.

And the inner incense alter corresponds to the inner fear of G-d.

Fear, when unwarranted is destructive and negative emotion. But proper fear can be a very good; for instance, when we experience a situation or a person so awesome and real (like a King or a truly wise or holy man) that the only proper reaction is total self-negation or 'surrender'.

This total elimination of false-ego before a greater 'Truer' reality is called healthy fear, or 'upper' fear.

It says elsewhere (Rashi on Num. 17:11) that the incense was the antidote to death.

Death was caused by false egotism. Adam's eating from the Tree of Knowledge began it; causing man to 'feel' separate from G-d, truth and life. But the incense, representing inner fear, negated this feeling and along with it ….. death. There is nothing better than that!

This is what happened to the soldiers in our first story and the young man in the second; they experienced something so intense and real that it shook them to the essence of their souls, destroyed their false egotism and saved the day.

(Incidentally, this 'fear' is also the way to true and constant joy. As my teacher o.b.m. Rabbi Futerfassonce told me, "Depression comes from trying to make yourself big. And joy comes from trying to make G-d big and forgetting yourself.")

That, possibly explains why the Inner Altar was explained last after all the other vessels and garments; to tell us that this inner fear is the goal and sum total of all personal service of G-d. As King Solomon, the wisest of men, wrote, "After all is said; Fear G-d and do His Commandments for this is the entirety of man." (Ecc. 12:13)

But this is difficult to achieve without a 'Moses' of each generation (and eventually Moshiach), as we saw from our stories and will see in next week's Torah portion when the Jews turned to idolatry because they thought that Moses would not return.

But this is only on the condition that this 'Moses' is taken PERSONALLY.

And that is why Moses' name doesn't appear here; rather G-d refers to him as 'YOU' (in the second person) DIRECTLY in the opening word of our Torah portion.

In other words we must not only learn the teachings of 'tzadikim' like the Lubavitcher Rebbe (see your local Chabad House for details) we must take these words personally.

Then, each deed we do, word we speak or even thought we think can add more blessing and Joy in the world… and even bring the Raising of the Dead with...

Moshiach NOW!

Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.

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