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Parshat Tetzaveh (5765)
This week we learn about the priestly garments.
Garments originated from the shame that Adam and his wife felt after the sin of the Tree of Knowledge (Genesis 3:9) when they brought death into the world.
That is why G-d commanded that these priestly Garments be worn in the Holy Temple; to negate death and sin and transform it to the Joy and pride of serving the Living G-d.
But today we have neither the Holy Temple nor the holy garments. So what does all this mean to us?
Also in the end of this week's section we learn about the 'Inner Alter' in the tabernacle which was coated with gold and used only for burning incense.
Why didn't G-d teach us this when He taught us about all the other Temple vessels in last week's section?
Here is a story found in the book 'Rabbim HayShiv M'avon' by Rabbi Ahron D. Halperin (Book1 pg. 193) that might help us to understand.
The Chassidic movement, begun by the Baal Shem Tov some three hundred years ago, preached the omnipresence of G-d, the importance of serving Him with joy and the essential holiness of every Jew. But it met with much baseless opposition by 'Misnagidim' as they called themselves; religious Jews that couldn't stand such ideas. And Rabbi Yaakov Greenburg from Borough Park was from a long line of such misnagidim.
So he felt a bit incongruous entering the room of the Lubavitcher Rebbe; the foremost of the Chassidic leaders, for a private audience.
It was the result of a strange series of events.
Years earlier he had accompanied his ailing father-in-law, who lived in Israel, to Houston Texas where he had to be hospitalized in for heart problems and the only Kosher Jewish facility there was the Chabad House run by Rabbi Shimon Lazarof which gave them royal treatment (all Jews are princes).
Thank G-d, his father-in-law recovered. He thanked Rabbi Lazarof profusely for the wonderful hospitality and before returning to Israel he asked his son-in-law, Rabbi Greenberg, to please visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe, leader of the Chabad Chassidim in New York, and thank him personally for the wonderful Chabad house.
But when rabbi Greenberg discovered that he would have to wait several months for an audience he decided to suffice with just writing a letter of thanks to the Rebbe highly praising the Houston Chabad House and leave it at that.
Several years later his father-in-law again became ill but this time succumbed to his disease and passed away. Yaakov and his wife took the first flight to Israel for the funeral and when they returned one week later, waiting in their mail box was a letter from his wife's father written and mailed just hours before his passing.
They opened it with trembling hands. There was nothing unusual except for the last line; he repeated his request to his son-in-law to personally visit and thank the Rebbe for the hospitality of three years earlier.
Rabbi Greenburg had no choice. He went to the Rebbe's headquarters early the next morning and when the Rebbe's secretaries heard the story of the dying man's letter they set a private audience with the Rebbe later that very week.
When the date arrived Rabbi Greenberg went into the Rebbe's office thinking that he would be out in a minute or so; after all. the Rebbe was a very busy man. In fact maybe he wouldn't have to speak at all; the Rebbe's secretary insisted that he write his request on a piece of paper and hand it to the Rebbe upon entering.
But he was in for a surprise.
First of all, just entering the Rebbe's room and seeing his holy face was overwhelming.
Then, when he handed him his note the Rebbe immediately responded, "You wrote me three years ago and caused me great pleasure to know that the Chabad House in Huston treated you and your father-in-law so well. Thank you. The reason that I didn't reply was because I was waiting for you to come here as your father-in-law requested; especially because there is a commandment to honor your wife's father and I thought you would fulfill what he requested.
Rabbi Greenberg was speechless. But he recovered sufficiently to say. "I finally am here. My father-in-law, of blessed memory, passed away less than a month ago."
The Rebbe, without changing his tone, continued on a strange note.
"In Hebrew, the word for heart is LeB and it has the numerical value of thirty two (L=30 B=2) like the number of stings on the Tzitzis (woolen strings attached to four cornered garments). The inner connection is what is written regarding Tzitzis, 'You will see them and remember all the commandments of G-d' (Num.15:39).
"Namely, just as the heart must, G-d forbid, never stop beating even for one second so a Jew must never allow even one moment to pass when he doesn't remember G-d. No matter what situation he is in; day or night, awake or even asleep. Therefore we Chassidim have a custom to wear Tzitzis (talit katan) even at night."
The Rebbe then paused, smiled broadly and said.
"Your father-in-law was in the hospital in Houston where there are truly expert doctors. But there are great doctors in other places as well. In fact the greatest doctor of them all is found everywhere. He is G-d Almighty and not only is He the true healer that gives all the doctors the ability to heal but He can heal when human doctors can not.
"For instance, even when there is what they call 'Cardiac Arrest'; when the heart ceases to beat and no doctor can help, G-d can and will help.
"And even if you will say that this is 'raising the dead'… so what? That doesn't bother me at all. We say three times a day in our prayers that "You Raise the Dead and are bountiful to save."
The Rebbe then thanked him for coming, shook his hand, blessed him and they parted.
Rabbi Greenberg was moved to his very soul by the meeting; he never even dreamed there could be such an awesome Jew. But what the Rebbe said about Tzitzis and doctors left him with a vague, confused feeling; it was clear that the Rebbe was getting at something but he had no idea what it was.
Three years later Rabbi Greenburg was in Hong Kong for business purposes. He met someone in a hotel lobby and was in the middle of a sentence about the weather in New York when a sudden, massive pain in his chest knocked the wind out of him. It was as though someone hit him in the chest with a sledgehammer. He winced in pain.
He heard strange beeping sounds and opened his eyes slowly. Small lights were blinking, doctors were looking down at him and his wife was crying. He had been unconscious in intensive care for two days and she had been flown in from New York. His heart had stopped.
"It's called total cardiac arrest." The doctor said. "You didn't respond to any treatment, it was truly a miracle it started beating again. G-d Himself must have healed you, like the dead coming back to life!"
He told his wife to call the Rebbe's office from her hotel room, report what happened and ask for a blessing. Within a few hours she received a reply by fax:
"I prayed for your husband at the grave of my father-in-law for a complete and speedy recovery. Certainly your husband remembers what I told him when we spoke about the importance of wearing Tzitzit even at night."
When he explained the answer to his wife she yelled at him for not heeding the Rebbe three years ago; from that moment he began to wear tzizis at night and also became a Chassid.
He had a brief remission of heart pain some years later, but he realized that the previous night he had forgotten to wear his tzitzis.
Rabbi Greenberg told this story at a Chassidic gathering in Miami Beach Florida in 1981 at which point he publicly announced that he had broken the family chain of Misnagdim and had become a fervent Chassid of the Rebbe.
This answers our questions. True there are no priestly garments today but the book "Tanya" explains (chapter 4) that all the commandments of the Torah are called 'Garments'; Holy Garments that envelop us in the will of G-d.
And these holy garments, just as those in the Temple, also negate the shame and death caused by the sin of Adam and heal the entire world.
Just as the Tzitzis did to Rabbi Greenburg.
But these holy garments are only the 'outer covering' of Judaism. The inside is Love; Love of G-d, love of the Torah and most important …. Love of every Jew.
This is signified by the inner 'golden' alter used for incense; or 'Ketoret' which means 'attachment' in Hebrew found in the end of our weekly Torah portion.
This is the Rebbe; unlimited love of the Jewish people to awaken their deep hidden 'attachment' to G-d, Torah and the Jewish people.
And this is exactly the job of Moshiach: to attach all the Jews to Judaism and the entire world to the Creator.
It all depends on us to do all we can…. Every moment; day or night awake and even asleep to bring……..
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