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B”H

Tetzaveh

Shalom and Bracha!

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.

The 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.

The Twelve 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.

The Talmud 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.

Since 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 stone?
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.

The Kohen 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.

The word 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.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Biggs
---

B"H

Parshat Zachor

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 Zachor.

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.

Parshat 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.

In a 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 true self-emancipation.

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.

The 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.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Biggs
---
B"H

Purim!

Shalom and Bracha!
 
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.

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.

The second 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 our heritage.

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.

The fourth 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.

Purim 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.

In this month when mourning was replaced by festivity, may the pain of the last moments of exile be replaced by the joy of redemption.

L’chayim and Purim Sameach!!

Rabbi Biggs
---
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.

To learn more about Purim please go to my website, http://www.chabadgn.com/holidays/purim

A Project of Chabad of Great Neck
400 East Shore Rd. Great Neck NY 11024
516 4874554 fax 516 4874807

Dedicated To 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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