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Parshat Tzav (5765)

Each Jewish Holiday and each section, indeed each word, of the Torah holds a key to the mysteries of life and a window into the infinite.

So this year, when Parshat Tzav comes in same week as Purim it must be because there is a very important similarity between them. But they seem to be the opposite.

The word Tzav ('Mitzva') means to command and to 'connect'; i.e. connect us to the Creator.

On the other hand, the holiday of Purim celebrates the fact that we destroyed the embodiment of the anti-Semitic 'Amelek' of that era: the evil Haman and his followers.

So Tzav and Purim seem to contain opposite messages:

The word Tzav indicates connecting to good while the holiday of Purim celebrates destroying evil!

To understand this here are two stories.

The first is about a holocaust survivor called Oscar Liff. It was Lifshitz before he Americanized it in an attempt to sever from the Jewish people. But one could hardly blame him after what he had been through.

He was born in Warsaw in the late 1920s into a traditionally Jewish family and when the Germans took over Poland he was in his early teens. His parents thought that Germany only wanted more land and that in the end it would be good for everyone. After all, they said, the Germans were a cultured, educated people, if anyone could refine the boorish Poles it would be the Germans.

But Oscar thought differently. He didn't trust them. He didn't like the way they strutted around and their anti-Semitic slogans he had seen. Against the wishes of his parents he joined the Polish underground and fought the Nazi invaders - and in the end that is what saved him.

It wasn't long before his father died from a heart attack. Then, shortly thereafter, one afternoon as he happened to be on the roof of his apartment looking down at the street he saw the Germans escort his sister and brother out of the house into the street with several others and shoot them dead. Minutes later a wagon laden with corpses came to take them away.

Next his mother and other sisters were taken to Auschwitz and finally, in April of 1943, the entire Ghetto was destroyed and all its remaining inhabitants were exterminated.

Now Oscar fought for revenge. True, the Polish themselves were no less Jew haters than the Germans but luckily for him, Oscar didn't look Jewish so the Poles left him alone.

Nevertheless when the Russians invaded Germany Oscar joined their forces and finally 'merited' to be among those that liberated Auschwitz in 1945. But what he saw there would haunt him for the next thirty years.

There were emaciated, inhuman filthy Jewish bodies dead and the alive everywhere, staring insanely at nothing. This is what they got for being Jewish! For a week he wandered the camp day and night searching madly for his mother and sisters and found nothing.

He ran from the army. The war was over, they wouldn't let him kill any more Germans. He crossed border after border until finally he was on a ship to America.

He was alone, no roots, no past, no friends, no family and not much future. Only one passionate desire burned in his heart; to get as far from Judaism as possible, He moved to Los Angeles, changed his name to Leff. Learned to speak English and threw his heart and soul into business every minute of the day. He would forget the past.

But the nights were hell. When he would come home at night and it was still...he would remember.

So every evening he would turn on the T.V. and watch it till he fell asleep. That way he would never have a quiet moment.

Then one evening in 1976 after a hard day at work, just as he was drowsing off in front of the T.V. there appeared before him on the screen an old Rabbi speaking in Yiddish.

At first Oscar couldn't believe his eyes. Who would want to watch a thing like that? His first instinct was to turn it off but he waited a few minutes to see if something would happen. It didn't. The Rabbi just kept talking and an English translation rolled across the screen below him. All the hatred Oscar had for Judaism welled up inside of him again like a flood.

But something stopped him from just turning the channel.

The Rabbi had a unique look about him with unusually deep and powerfully kind eyes. But what could he possible have to say that was so important?

Again he leaned forward to turn it off when suddenly the Rabbi said, "Any Jew after the war that runs from Judaism is giving a prize to Hitler." Oscar stared at the translation as it moved across the screen.

"The Germans tried to destroy the Jewish people and our best revenge to the Germans is to strengthen and continue Judaism."

He sat as though struck by lightning. He didn't remember a word of what that Rabbi said afterwards. Just that those eyes and words woke something deep in his soul.

A telephone number floated across the screen and Oscar wrote it down. When the speech ended he called the number and made an appointment for the next morning. That entire night he didn't sleep; he lay in bed and wept.

The next morning Oscar found the address. It was a Chabad House in Los Angles. There he got a written summary of the speech and spent the entire day just going over that sentence; "One who runs from Judaism gives a prize to Hitler."

The next day he went to the printers and ordered new calling cards with the name Lipshitz then went back to the Chabad house and ordered his first pair of Tefillin since his Bar Mitzva. Then he made a vow to begin being an observant Jew. Oscar had defeated Hitler.

The second story took place just a year or so ago in an exclusive 'leftist' area of Tel-Aviv called Ramat Aviv where Chabad opened a Yeshiva for Israeli Baali Tshuva (Torah academy for late beginners).

The Yeshiva was a success from the first day it opened; young men flocked in from the area and began learning about and practicing real Judaism. This aroused the ire of two fiercely anti-religious political parties; one called "Meretz" and the other "Shinui" and they declared war.

First, the assistant Mayor of Tel Aviv, who was a member of "Meretz", went to the owner of the building that the Yeshiva was in and offered him a free plot of land worth about a million dollars if he would oust the 'Datiim' (religious people) from his premises. It was a pure illegal bribe.

He was so sure of himself that he even bragged to the manager of the Yeshiva, Rabbi Yair Cahana, of his plan. But he didn't know that the manager had a small tape recorder in his pocket and recorded every word.

But after Rabbi Cahana had recorded him and was about to go public with the evidence he had second thoughts. After all it is not the way of Chabad to besmirch and destroy people. But on the other hand what could he do?

He decided to write a letter to the Rebbe via 'Igrot Kodesh' (one of 26 volumes of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's letters).

He made all the necessary preparation, wrote his letter, opened a book and got an amazing answer. The Rebbe wrote to someone that was embroiled in an argument that in such cases it was certainly not worth while to make war but rather friendliness and brotherly love would melt all the opposition like wax!

Sure enough, two days later that assistant Mayor was fired from his post for some infraction of a building ordinance that was discovered in his own house. He flew to Russia to get away from it all. On the plane he met a Chabad Chassid called Rabbi Menachem Shegalov who befriended him and. When they arrived in Russia, he convinced him to spend time including Shabbat in one of the Chabad houses there.

Then came the turn of the much more belligerent and coarse 'Shinui' party to attack. After a few failures they finally decided to use paid goons. They rented a bus, found a bunch of unemployed Russians, provided them with 'Shinui' sweat shirts and anti-religious posters paid them well and sent them to protest before the Yeshiva hoping that the local populace would join them.

But they didn't. In fact people from the area, rather than joining the protest began to argue with the 'protesters' until one of the pupils in the Yeshiva, also a Russian, took a bold step.

He put on one of the 'Shinui' sweat shirts they were handing out and joined them but after a minute or two yelled out in Russian, "My friends it is time to eat!!" They, thinking that this was part of the deal, gladly stopped what they were doing and gladly followed him to...the Yeshiva lunch room!

In no time they were talking and laughing with the pupils and many even agreed to put on Tefillin. So when the real 'Shinui' people arrived they found many of their 'goons' still in the lunch room wearing phylacteries - some for the first time in their lives!

Another defeat for Amelek.

Amelek is a force that motivates people to hate G-d and His people. Haman, Hitler and Arafat are examples of embodiments of this force and one of the main jobs of Moshiach will be to destroy them.

And each Jew has a small Amelek within his personality.

As the Lubavitcher Rebbe commented regarding Israel's strange submission to her enemies after defeating them;

"If Jews do not conquer the small Amelek within, they cannot conquer the big Amelek outside."

But it can only be done when the Jews are connected to G-d - or at least want to be.(That is the purpose of learning Chassidut, especially the books of the Chabad Rebbes). They have to know how good, powerful, infinitely close and infinitely far G-d is in order to destroy the opposition.

And this answers our question: only by means of really wanting to be connected to the Oneness of G-d (Tzav) can we have the power of purpose to really destroy evil (Purim). As Mr. Leff and the boys in the Yeshiva did.

May we all be dancing THIS PURIM with Moshiach who will destroy Amelek, build the holy Temple and gather all the Jews from the entire world. We just have to do all we can to bring...

Moshiach NOW!!

Copyright © 1999-2018 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.

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