This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Tetzaveh (5764)
This Shabbat the Torah portion deals with the garments worn by the Kohanim (priests) in the Holy Temple and this coming week will be Purim, the holiday celebrating the salvation of the Jews from their enemies some 2,400 years ago.
At first glance it's not hard to see the deeper meaning and connection between them; the Torah portion deals with holy garments and on Purim it is customary to wear funny ones (Aruch Chiam 696:8).
But this itself is not understood. Why did the priests dress so uniquely in the Temple and why the costumes on Purim?
To understand, here is a Purim story.
Shlomowas getting to the age when he should begin looking for a bride. The custom of ultra-orthodox Jews in Jerusalem (Yerushalmis) was to marry young and he was already nineteen. But as much as he tried he just couldn't seem to find anything.
So he was overjoyed when his aunt in Brooklyn called and said she had found the perfect match for him. The girl was attractive, serious, intelligent, the same age as he from a good family and her father was a known Talmudic scholar.
Now the only problem was how to get there. There was the problem of money for tickets and also in those days (1950) it was no easy matter getting permission from the army to leave Israel. But after several months of nerve-wracking efforts he finally was on the ship to America.
The girl was all they said she was. They met several times, found favor in each other's eyes, decided to marry and even made an engagement party but then for some reason, after the party she suddenly broke off the engagement.
Shlomowas heart broken and confused. He was virtually alone in the U.S.A. he couldn't really stay by his aunt and uncle for long. His parents wanted him to come back home but he couldn't bear to return empty-handed. The other alternative was to go to a Yeshiva and continue learning Torah, but he wasn't in the mood for that either.
With a lot of free time on his hands it wasn’t long before he met other young men in the same situation and one of them, another Yershualmi like himself, convinced him to go with him to Cleveland where they could find work. After all it says in Pirke Avot (2:2) "Torah without work will bring to sin"
In Cleveland it wasn't long before he concluded that, as the Talmud teaches: 'When one goes to a city one should do according to their customs".
The first thing to go was the Chassidic garb and payot (earlocks), then his Tzitzit and beard. Soon he found himself skipping the prayers, then neglecting to put on Tefillin and finally, little by little he dropped all the commandments. In the course of a few months he was his own master, earning a lot of money and free as a bird!
Over a year later he went back to Brooklyn to visit his aunt and uncle for Purim dressed in the most modern fashion. Of course he put a Yarmulke on his head so they would think that he was still somewhat observant but still he was surprised at their shock when they saw him. He himself didn't realize how far he had gone.
But he recovered quickly, put on a debonair smile, stepped right in and began talking as though nothing had happened. Exactly the opposite; he tried convincing them that they should explain to his parents that "America is different. Time is money."
After finishing the sumptuous Purim meal the next afternoon he went for a walk. His family lived in the Crown Heights area of Brooklyn so it was no surprise to see a few Lubavitcher Chassidim running in the street. He stopped one of them, said "Happy Purim!! Where are you headed?" "The Lubavitcher Rebbe is speaking." They answered, "Why don't you come?"
A few minutes laterShlomo found himself in a large room, perhaps a Synagogue, together with some two hundred, well-dressed, religious Jews all in good spirits. Several shook his hand wished him "A frailachen Purim!" and even offered him a l'chiam but he declined....he hated vodka. In fact he decided he had had enough, he turned to the door and suddenly the Rebbe began speaking.
"It states in the Talmud that when Moshiach arrives the revelation of G-d will be so great that it will outshine the holiness of all of the Jewish holidays ...except for Purim. The Zohar says that Purim is even higher than Yom HaKipurim; KiPurim is only LIKE (Ki) Purim."
"But can this be?" The Rebbe continued. "How can a drunken festival like Purim be higher than the holiest and solemn Day of Atonement?"
Shlomo's curiosity had been aroused. The question was a good one. The Rebbe paused and continued.
"The reason is, because on Purim the Jews were willing to sacrifice their lives rather than deny their Judaism… M'sirot Nefesh!
"The decree of Haman and Achashverosh was 'To kill, destroy and annihilate all JEWS'. Anyone that declared that he wasn't a Jew would escape. But although the decree hung over their heads for a full year, not one Jew even THOUGHT to do it.
"That's why Purim can erase sins and arouse sinners to repentance that even Yom Kippur cannot; just as G-d forgave the Jews then for eating at the meal of Achashverosh and bowing to Haman.
"That was a nice answer!"Shlomo thought to himself. "This Lubavitcher Rebbe is a pretty smart fellow."
But the Rebbe didn't stop.
"For instance, an observant G-d fearing young man can fool himself by saying, "Torah without work brings to sin" and "When one goes to a city one should do according to their customs" and 'Time is money' until he falls so low that he stops acting like a Jew; no Tefillin, no kosher, no Shabbat! Yom Kippur passed him by and didn't affect him at all. But Purim has the power to stir the essence of his Jewish soul and bring him back to his senses."
Shlomo began to blush. "Could he be talking about me?" He thought to himself... "nahhh, no way!" He concluded. "It's just a coincidence".
The Rebbe continued, "It could be that he even came all the way from Jerusalem where there is a complicated law about places that are 'close but not seen', or 'seen but not close' (Aruch Chiam 688:2). In other words; he is close but he thinks he is not seen, he might even see but he is still far away."
Shlomorealized that the Rebbe meant him! He must have some sort of X-ray vision! But he comforted himself by saying that at least no one in the room knows what the Rebbe is talking about.... and turned to go.
But everyone was staring at him and smiling! "The Rebbe is looking at you!" someone said.
He turned back and the Rebbe was motioning for him to make a l'chiam. Someone gave him a small plastic cup but the Rebbe shook his head 'no' and indicated with his hands he should give him a big one.
Shlomotried to protest, but in vain. They brought him a big cup, filled it with vodka and everyone in the room waited for him to finish it. "Well, that's that!" He thought to himself. But everyone was still smiling and staring at him. The Rebbe was motioning for him to drink a second. He complied and didn't remember what happened afterward.
The next morning he woke up on a bench in the synagogue with a few other sleeping Chassidim strewn about him on the tables. His modern suit was filthy with vomit and his head was pounding.
He staggered back to his aunt and uncle's house, told them only half of the story, took a shower and asked if he could borrow his uncle's Tefillin to pray with.
That morning he prayed 'Shachrit' (Morning prayer) as never before. A few weeks later he returned back to Israel and a few months after that returned to look and act like a Yerushalmi but with a completely different heart; Judaism was dear. Today he is happily married with children and grandchildren of his own.
This answers our questions. Garments began to be worn after the sin of Adam as a covering of shame.
But in the Temple they became TRANSFORMED to something holy; G-dliness began to be revealed in external things.
So also in Purim, the evil of Haman became TRANSFORMED into joy and festivity.
But Purim was much deeper. When the Torah was given and the Temple was built G-d did it all. But on Purim, for the first time in history, the Jews aroused their inner essence and gained the power to transform themselves and the entire world around them. Evil began to become transformed to good.
That's why we wear costumes, to show that when one contacts his essence he can become the boss over his garments; his personality (something like what happened toShlomo by the Rebbe) and change the world around him.
And that will be the job of Moshiach; to bring ALL the Jews in contact with their Jewish essence. Then we will transform (or destroy) all the evil of the world. As the Rebbe said "Every Jew has a little gentile inside, if we defeat that little gentile inside we can defeat the big one outside."
Then the third Temple will spread the revelation of Purim; the essence of G-d and the essence of the Jewish souls, over the entire world and all mankind will feel Light, Joy, Happiness and Splendor (Esther 8:16)!
Happy PURIM with Moshiach NOW!!!
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