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Purim is Wednesday night
This Shabbat we read from two Torah
scrolls. In the first we read the portion of Tetzaveh that
discusses at great length the special clothing that the Kohanim
wore in the Temple. The garments were of such importance that if
any garment was lacking, the Temple service was invalid. As
every aspect of the Temple service is a lesson to each of us, we
will discuss some lessons to be learned from the garments.
first garment mentioned is the Ephod, which was an elaborate
garment that rested upon the Kohen Gadol’s shoulders. Upon the
shoulders were two gemstones that were engraved with the names
of the twelve tribes of Israel. This teaches us that at all
times we have upon our shoulders not only ourselves, but also
the entire Jewish people.
This is true both in our
relation with Hashem and with the rest of the world. Maimonides
teaches that a person should always view the world as an equal
scale. One good act can tip the scale and bring the entire world
into favor in Hashem’s eyes. Similarly, the rest of the world
looks at us as one people. Our acts, for the good and the bad,
reflect upon the entire Jewish people. Thus, each of us carries
the entire twelve tribes upon our shoulders.
tribes were also inscribed on the Choshen Mishpat, the
Breastplate. The Choshen Mishpat had twelve different gemstones,
upon each of which was inscribed the name of one of the tribes.
The inscription of the twelve tribes on the breastplate teaches
that we must always have the entire Jewish people upon our
heart. When we pray, we pray for everyone, when we make a
decision, we concern ourselves with everyone. The Arizal teaches
that every morning, before our prayers, we should say Hareini
Mekabail Alai Mitzvat Asei Shel V’ahavta L’rayacha Kamocha (I
hereby accept upon myself the Mitzvah of loving my neighbor as
myself). By doing so, Hashem accepts our prayers.
teaches that the names Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov and the
words Shivtei Y-h (The tribes of Hashem) were also inscribed
upon the stones. One of the reasons therefore was that it was
necessary that all of the Hebrew letters be on the Breastplate.
When a question of great importance needed to be asked of
Hashem, the Kohen Gadol would look at the breastplate and
prophetically see the answer spelled out in the letters.
there were only twelve stones, the names of the Patriarchs had
to be engraved on the stones together with the tribes. The Baal
Haturim explains that the names of the Patriarchs and the words
Shivtei Y-h were spread out over all of the stones. The
immediate question arises, why? Couldn’t Avraham have his own
The engraving of the Patriarchs on
the stones of the tribes teaches us how we must view our bond
with our forefathers and with our heritage. Were the forefathers
to be on their own stones, and the tribes on theirs, it would
imply that we are detached from our heritage. The forefathers
were carved into our stones, to teach that our heritage must be
inseparably engraved within us.
Gadol wore the Tzitz, a golden plate across his forehead which
was inscribed Holy to Hashem. Interestingly, the engraving was
done in a way that the letters protruded. This was to teach us
that we must not be ashamed of our Judaism, and on the contrary
our sanctity must extend to all around us.
Tzitz comes from the Hebrew Maytzitz, which means gazing. This
is because we should constantly think about being holy to
Hashem. It is also the numerical value of Keitz, which means the
end of days (the time of Moshiach).The prophet teaches that
Moshiach stands behind our wall in peers (maytzitz) through the
cracks. May we pierce the wall and immediately merit his coming.
As this is
the Shabbat before Purim, for the Maftir we take out a second
scroll and read a special portion, Parshat Zachor. Haman was a
descendant of Amalek, and therefore the Shabbat before Purim we
read about the annihilation of Amalek. Parshat Zachor is unique
in that it is the only portion that is a unique Mitzvah listen
to. It is always a Mitzvah to listen to the Torah being read,
but there is a specific Mitzvah to hear the portion of Zachor.
It is desirable that ladies also hear the reading of Parshat
When the Jewish people left Egypt,
after the splitting of the Red Sea, the nation of Amalek came
and attacked them. After a miraculous war, the Jewish people
were commanded that upon settling in Israel they must annihilate
the memory of Amalek. As in every Mitzvah, the destruction of
Amalek parallels a concept in service of Hashem that is relevant
even when the physical Mitzvah doesn’t apply.
Zachor begins “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you
came out of Egypt. He encountered you on the way, and cut down
the weak…” In addition to meaning encountered you, the term
“Karcha” means that he cooled you off. Rashi explains that upon
leaving Egypt the nations of the world feared the Jewish people.
They were “too hot to touch.” After Amalek had attacked them,
although Amalek lost, they were attackable.
spiritual sense, becoming closer to Hashem is a concept of
Exodus. The word Mitzrayim (Egypt) comes from the Hebrew root
Metzarim, which means boundaries and limitations. Going beyond
our boundaries and rising in the service of Hashem is our
personal Exodus from Mitzrayim. However, even after we feel the
joy and excitement of coming closer to Hashem, our negative
inclination tells us to cool down, to take it easy. He tries to
convince us that it suffices to be as good as before. Why
strive? Why the excitement? This is Amalek. This is the root of
all evil. We must completely ignore our negative side and reach
In describing the war with Amalek,
the Torah relates something fascinating. When Moshe raised his
hands, the Jewish people were victorious. When he lowered them,
Amalek prevailed. When dealing with inner evil, particularly
intense evil, we must turn to the our own efforts are
insufficient. We must turn to the Tzaddikim of the generation.
Our efforts combined with their merits and prayers will prevail.
final vanquishing of Amalek will be in the time of Moshiach. May
Hashem grant that through our battling the Amalek within us we
will speedily merit the coming of Moshiach and respite from all
of our enemies.
Wednesday, March 4th, is the fast of
Esther which commemorates the fast that Esther decreed to annul
Haman’s wicked decree to annihilate the Jewish people as
described in the Megillah. It is customary to give three half
dollars to charity on the fast of Esther. This parallels the
half Shekalim which were given in the month of Adar and annuls
the Shekalim Haman wanted use to bribe the king to annihilate
the Jewish people. The fast begins at daybreak and continues
until nightfall. In New York, the fast ends 6:17p.m. Wednesday
night March 4th and Thursday March 5th are Purim.
is the celebration of the salvation of the Jewish people from
annihilation through the efforts of Mordechai and Esther. Purim
has four major Mitzvot. Inclusiveness is integral to all of
them. Haman, when petitioning the King to destroy the Jewish
people, referred to the Jews as a dispersed and divided people.
Through demonstrating unity on Purim, we annul his words. This
year, as the Haman’s of the world are raising their voices,
Jewish unity in the Mitzvot of Purim is critical.
The first of
the four Mitzvot is listening to the Megillah. The Megillah is
read Wednesday night and again Thursday morning. Although we
must hear each word of the Megillah, it is customary to make
noise whenever Haman the wicked or Haman the son of Hamdata is
said. This is to fulfill the Mitzvah of erasing Amalek’s name. A
significant part of the Megillah reading is Pirsumei Nissa,
publicizing the miracle. It is therefore desirable to have as
many people as possible attend the reading.
is Mishloach Manot, sending gifts of food. A minimum of two
kinds of food or drink must be sent to a Jewish friend on Purim.
The custom is to give more than two kinds to many people and
that men send to men and women send to women. By including among
the recipients fellow Jews who are unaccustomed to the Mitzvah
of Mishloach Manot, we share not only joy but also the beauty of
The third is Matanot Laevyonim,
giving charity to at least two poor people on the day of Purim.
Giving money to many poor people is a greater Mitzvah than send
food to many friends. In the same vein, it is a great Mitzvah to
encourage others to participate in Matanot Laevyonim.
is to eat a festive meal on the day of Purim. It is customary to
say L’chayim at this meal. There is a special addition to the
Grace after meals on Purim. The true joy of the festive meal is
when we invite guests and share the joy with others.
teaches us that the survival of the Jewish people is fully in
the hands of Hashem. When we place our faith fully in Him, even
our darkest hour can be transformed into our greatest joy.
this month when mourning was replaced by festivity, may the pain
of the last moments of exile be replaced by the joy of
If anyone would like to donate to
help the poor in honor of Purim, send a check to Chabad of Great
Neck-Matanot Laevyonim at the address below. If you would like
to donate by credit card, please contact my office by phone.
more about Purim please go to my website,
A Project of
Chabad of Great Neck
400 East Shore Rd. Great Neck NY
516 4874554 fax 516 4874807
Alan and Gelareh Philips and their newborn son on the occasion
of his Brit. May he be a shining light to his people and be
imbued with the Shechinah
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