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PARSHAH IN A NUTSHELL: Tetzaveh

Adar 6, 5775 · February 25, 2015
Tetzaveh
Exodus 27:20-30:10

G-d tells Moses to receive from the Children of Israel pure olive oil to feed the “everlasting flame” of the menorah, which Aaron is to kindle each day, “from evening till morning.”

The priestly garments, to be worn by the  Kohanim (priests) while serving in theSanctuary are described. All Kohanim wore: 1) the ketonet — a full length linen tunic; 2)michnasayim — linen breeches; 3) mitznefet ormigba’at — a linen turban;  4) avnet — a long sash wound above the waist.

In addition, the Kohen Gadol (“high priest”) wore: 5) the efod, an apron-like garment made of blue, purple and red-dyed wool, linen and gold thread; 6) the choshen, a breastplate containing  twelve precious stones inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel; 7)me’il — a cloak of blue wool, with gold bells and decorative pomegranates on its hem; 8) thetzitz — a golden plate worn on the foreheadbearing the inscription “Holy to G-d”.

Tetzaveh also includes G-d’s detailed instructions for the seven-day initiation of Aaron and his four sons — Nadav, Avihu,Elazar and Itamar — into the priesthood, and for the making of the Golden Altar on which the ketoret (“incense“) was burned.

This being the Shabbat before Purim, on which we celebrate the foiling of Haman theAmalekite’s plot to destroy the Jewish people, the weekly Parshah is supplemented with the Zachor reading (Deuteronomy 25:17-19) in which we are commanded toremember the evil of Amalek and to eradicate it from the face of the earth.

WEEKLY ALIYOT: Parshat Tetzaveh

Tetzaveh Aliya Summary

General Overview: In last week’s Torah reading, Terumah, we read the details of the construction of the Tabernacle, the sanctuary in the desert. This week’s Parshah,Tetzaveh, we discover the special garments worn by the priests and high priest when serving in the Tabernacle. Following that, we read G‑d’s instructions to Moses regarding the seven-day inauguration for the Tabernacle. The portion concludes with a description of one of the vessels of the Tabernacle–the Incense Altar.

This being the Shabbat before Purim, on which we celebrate the foiling of Haman theAmalekite’s plot to destroy the Jewish people, the weekly Parshah is supplemented with the Zachor reading (Deuteronomy 25:17-19) in which we are commanded toremember the evil of Amalek and to eradicate it from the face of the earth.


First Aliyah: G‑d commands the Jews to use the purest of olive oils for the daily kindling of the Menorah. Moses is instructed to consecrate Aaron and his sons by dressing them in special priestly garments. The Torah describes the making of the High Priest’s ephod— a reversed apron which covered the back — and its precious-stone-studded shoulder straps.


Second Aliyah: We now read about the High Priest’s Choshen Mishpat (“Breastplate of Judgment”). It contained four rows of precious stones, each row containing three stones. Artisans engraved the names of the Twelve Tribes of Israel upon these twelve stones. This cloth breastplate contained a fold wherein the Urim v’Tumim, a parchment on which was written G‑d’s Name, was inserted. The Choshen Misphat was then secured by straps which connected it to the ephod.


Third Aliyah: This aliyah describes the last two of the garments which were exclusive to the High Priest: the me’il and the tzitz. The me’il was a blue robe which was adorned with golden bells and cloth “pomegranates.” The tzitz was a golden band worn on the forehead, which was engraved with the words “Holy to G‑d.” The Torah then describes the four garments worn by both the High Priest and the regular priests: tunics, turbans, sashes and pants.


Fourth Aliyah: This aliyah prescribes the procedure for consecrating Aaron and his sons as priests. Aaron and his sons were brought to the door of the sanctuary, they immersed in a mikvah (ritual pool), and were dressed in the priestly garments. Moses then offered various inaugural sacrifices on their behalf.


Fifth Aliyah: The Torah continues describing the procedure for the offering, and the consumption of the inaugural sacrifices. G‑d commands Moses to repeat this inaugural service for a seven day period, after which the consecration will be complete. Also included in this section is a description of how future High Priests are to be inducted.


Sixth Aliyah: G‑d instructs the Jews to offer two burnt offerings daily for perpetuity; one lamb in the morning and one in the afternoon. G‑d promises to dwell in the Tabernacle.


Seventh Aliyah: This section describes the Incense Altar which stood in the sanctuary. The priests are commanded to burn incense upon this altar twice daily

TORAH STUDIES: Parshat Tetzaveh

Tetzaveh
Adapted by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks; From the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

The Sidra of Tetzaveh concludes with the instructions for making the altar of gold on which incense was to be burned in the Sanctuary. The Torah is relevant to all Jews and all times, but what is the contemporary application of this passage? We have no Temple and no altar. Seemingly these laws have nothing to tell us in the present. The is, however, not so. For there are two kinds of Temple; and one kind cannot be destroyed. This is the Temple within each Jew, where he still performs his service in an inward reflection of the service of the Sanctuary. The Rebbe explains in detail how one of the laws about the altar can be translated into an important principle about the Jewish soul.

1. Altars in Space and in the Soul

In the Mishnah, the volume of Moed (tractate Chagigah) ends1 with the law that the altar of gold2 and the altar of copper3 did not require ritual immersion because they could not become impure. According to Rabbi Eliezer, this was because they were considered like the earth (which can not become ritually unclean). The other Sages, on the other hand, held that it was because they were plated with metal. The metal covering was considered subsidiary to the inner structure (which was made of shittim wood), and this could not become unclean.

Since the Torah is the word of G-d, who is infinite, it is itself infinite. Infinite in time, because it is eternally binding. Infinite in meaning, because every verse has innumerable layers of interpretation and significance. At the literal level (peshat) it contains laws and narratives; at the level of allusion (remez) it points obliquely to the deeper principles of Judaism; homiletically (drush) it outlines the religious ethic of the Jew; and esoterically (sod) it contains the clues to the mysteries of the experience of G-d.

Thus the law about the altars of gold and copper has more than just a literal significance. It has a moral that is relevant to the Jew even when there is no Temple and no altar.

When G-d told Moses to erect a Sanctuary, He said: “And they shall make Me a Sanctuary, and I will dwell in them,” meaning, in the soul of every Jew. Thus, even though the physical Temple is destroyed, the inward Temple which each Jew makes within himself survives, indestructible. And the service which he conducts in the reaches of his soul mirrors in every respect the service of the Temple and Sanctuary. So their laws, which appeared at first sight to have no contemporary application, are in fact precise instructions for the inner life of the Jew.

2. Purification

In the Sanctuary, there were many vessels, of different kinds, each with their own function. The analogy of this in the Jewish soul is its many facets and capacities: Intellect, emotion, will and delight. It may be that in the course of serving G-d, some ulterior motive, some unholy desire, intrudes—perhaps secular, perhaps even contrary to G-d’s will.

This is the equivalent of one of the vessels of the Sanctuary becoming impure. His thoughts have become impure, and he must seek ways of removing the impurity so that they become again worthy of taking part in the service of the inner Sanctuary. For within the Sanctuary, no impurity was allowed.

3. Fire and Sacrifice

There are amongst Jews, men of copper4 and men of gold.5 Those who are rich in spiritual worth are like gold: Their every act is like a precious coin. The poor in spirit are the copper coins of the religious life. But every Jew, however he behaves inwardly or outwardly, preserves intact at the heart of his being an essential desire to do G-d’s will—a spark of faith, sometimes hidden, sometimes fanned into flame. Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch said: “A Jew does not want, nor is he able, to be torn away from G-dliness.” This spark is where the altar of the Jew’s inner Temple is to be found.

On the altar, burnt offerings were brought. They were animals, consumed by a fire from G-d. And this happens within the Jew. The sacrifice is of himself. The animal is his “animal soul,” his egocentric desires. And the fire which consumes them is the fire of the love of G-d Whose undying source is the spark of holiness at the essential core of his soul.

4. Rabbi Eliezer and the Sages

The point of the law quoted from the Mishnah is this: Whether a Jew belongs to the “altars of gold” or is one of the “altars of copper,” as long as he reminds himself that essentially he is an altar where the fire of G-dly love consumes the “animal soul” of his self-centered passions, he cannot become impure. For then he is like the earth. Just as the earth which we tread on is a symbol of humility, so our soul becomes void of any will except the will of G-d, as expressed in the Torah. Thus we say in prayer: “Let my soul be unto all as the dust.”

This is the reasoning of Rabbi Eliezer, who was himself the personification of humility. His greatness was such that it was said that, “if all the sages of Israel were in one scale of the balance, and Eliezer the son of Hyrcanos in the other, he would outweigh them all.”6 Yet he would never concede that he had any merit himself, and the Talmud tells us that “he never said anything which he had not heard from his teachers.”7 Living so inward a life, he naturally saw only the inwardness of other Jews. He saw beyond their superficial differences to the point where each is equal in their essential attachment to G-d and Torah. He saw that the life lived in Torah is the only Jewish reality. And he taught his students, by his self-effacement, that the true exercise of intellect comes only with humility and complete openness to G-d.

The other Sages reasoned differently. They held that this is too difficult for all. Not many can sustain it all the time. They paid attention to the superficial differences amongst Jews. They knew that one occasionally stumbles on the path. Men of gold can become hypnotized by gold. Men of copper can also become over-enamored, by their own, hard-earned, resources. But still—they maintained—the altar of the Jew can never become impure, because it is always covered. The differences between Jews, and their occasional failings, are mere surface coverings. What lies behind is always pure, and so powerful that eventually the covering must become subsidiary to it. The spark will prevail, and the Jew will return to the truth which—inwardly—he never really lost. The truth is that Jewish existence is and can only be a life of Torah and fulfilling the commandments.

The vessels of the inward sanctuary are—as their name implies—receptacles. When they are pure and their service is pure, they are the receptacles of the Divine blessings, physical as well as spiritual, as the Torah tells us:

“If you go according to My statutes and keep My commandments… the earth will give forth its produce and the trees of the field its fruit.”8

(Source: Likkutei Sichot, Vol. III pp. 910-912

CHASSIDIC DIMENSION: Remembering and Obliterating Amalek (Zachor)a

Chassidic Dimension – Volume 3: Zachor
Adar 7, 5775 · February 26, 2015
Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson

 

Remembering and Obliterating Amalek

The “Men of the Great Assembly” ruled that the portion1 “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt… you shall blot out the memory of Amalek” is to be publicly read on the Shabbos that precedes Purim.2

Although the Torah commands us to remember any number of seemingly more important things, including the Exodus,3 the giving of the Torah,4 the day of Shabbos,5 etc., only the remembrance of Amalek is singled out for a public Torah reading. Why is “Remembering what Amalek did to you” of such vital importance?

Amalek, who had just witnessed the numerous miracles G-d performed on behalf of the Jewish people, and who nevertheless went to war against them, represented one who “knows his Creator and is intent on rebelling against Him.”6

In spiritual terms, this means7 that a Jew must ensure that within himself there is no “Amalek,” even on a subtle level.

It is possible that, within our hearts, there resides an “Amalek” who endeavors to get us to — Heaven forbid! — rebel against G-d. When one assiduously remembers the harm that can come from such an “Amalek,” one can rest assured that all such “Amalekian” tendencies will be successfully eradicated.

This is why remembering Amalek is the only remembrance requiring a special Torah reading: Torah is master of the world;8 associating the remembrance of Amalek with a special Torah reading makes possible a degree of remembrance that will eradicate “Amalek” from the person’s soul.9

Although it is difficult to imagine that the crass form of Amalek — “He knows his Creator and is intent on rebelling against Him ” — could exist within a Jew, a more subtle form may be found.

What is this more subtle form of Amalek that we are commanded to guard against?

The more subtle Amalek10 is not all that bothered by a Jew’s knowledge of G-dliness and Torah; on the contrary, Amalek himself is regarded as possessing knowledge of G-d — “He knows his Creator.” What Amalek rebels against is the translation of this knowledge into love and fear of G-d in thought, speech and deed, i.e., leading a life based on Torah and mitzvos.

This subtle Amalek is an even greater rebel than an Amalek who is an ignoramus. K nowing G-d — understanding how one is to feel about Him and behave with respect to Him — and nevertheless rebelling against the translation of this knowledge into feelings and action involves a truly vehement rebellion against G-d.

On an even more subtle level, knowing the Creator and being intent on rebelling against Him does not only mean that one’s knowledge does not lead to any feelings or actions; it also means that one’s knowledge of Torah and G-dliness is not translated into commensurate feelings.

This “refined Amalek” must be eliminated within each of us, for it is quite possible that whatever one’s spiritual station in life, one’s feelings about G-d and his actions relating to Him will not live up to his knowledge of Him.11

This also explains why the battle with Amalek took place soon after the Exodus, before the Jewish people received the Torah; in a spiritual sense, Amalek seeks to deny G-d’s granting of the Torah to us.

By granting us the Torah in this world, G-d demonstrated that the ultimate purpose of Torah is not found in a rarefied heavenly atmosphere, far removed from the world of action; rather, it is the Torah’s impact on our daily conduct that is of primary import.12

Amalek sought to keep the Torah from affecting deeds. Remembering and obliterating Amalek consists of always translating our knowledge of Torah and G-dliness into practical feelings and actions.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXI, pp. 190-196

FOR FRIDAY NIGHT: The Task of Leadership (Tetzaveh)

Adar 7, 5775 · February 26, 2015
The Task of Leadership
By Tali Loewenthal

For the Jewish people, past, present and future are inextricably bonded together. The Torah describes details of the service in the Temple which, although it was destroyed two thousand years ago, remains the inner reality of Jewish consciousness. The Temple is in the past, but it will also be in the future. Hence it teaches us about the present.

Part of the Temple service was the fact that every day the High Priest would enter the sacred hall of the Temple, where the lights of the golden Menorah burned. The Torah describes the special clothes he wore. From this we can learn something about the nature of Jewish leadership.

The High Priest was the spiritual representative of the entire Jewish people. On their behalf he entered the Temple, where the presence of G-d was revealed. The Rabbis tell us that his clothes expressed his bond with all other Jews.

On each shoulder he wore an onyx stone, set in gold. On the stones were engraved the names of the Twelve Tribes, six on each stone. A golden chain, passing from each onyx stone on the shoulder, supported the “Breastplate of Judgment,” worn on the chest of the High Priest. On the Breastplate were twelve different precious stones. Each jewel was engraved with the name of one of the Twelve Tribes.

This means that the High Priest carried with him the names of the Tribes, the totality of the Jewish people. When he entered the Temple this acted as a remembrance before G-d, expressing the plea that G-d should remember His people and look on them with favor.

Was this remembrance only on behalf of those righteous Jews who dedicatedly express the noble traditions of their people? No. The Sages explain that the garments of the High Priest linked him with everyone. Thus another garment he wore was a blue cloak. On its hem there were “pomegranates” made of coloured wool, within which were bells made of gold. When he walked, the bells could be heard, perhaps similar to the way we hear the bells on the crown of the Torah Scroll today.

The Talmud tells us that the “pomegranates” are a symbol for those people who imagine themselves to be completely remote from Judaism. They may think of themselves as in this way, but the Sages state that that “even the emptiest among you are as full of good deeds as a pomegranate is full of seeds”. When the High Priest entered the Holy Sanctuary he carried with him these Jews as well, together with all others, evoking G-d’s blessing for them and arousing in all of them their sense of being joined with G-d.

Through the generations this has been the function of Jewish leadership: to ask G-d for blessing for the Jewish people, and to remind all of us that we have great spiritual power.1

This was the role of Mordechai, during the stirring times commemorated by Purim. Many Jews in the vast Persian empire were deeply assimilated. However, Mordechai was able to arouse them to face the threat posed by Haman and to stand up for being Jewish. They had the chance to escape by converting to Haman’s religion, bowing to him and worshipping him. Mordechai, caring for every single Jew, was able to inspire them all. He made them recognize that, however remote they sometimes may feel, the true inner reality of each person is the portion of G-d within. This recognition triggered the Divine response described in the Scroll of Esther, the miraculous turnabout in which the Jewish people were saved.

PARSHAH PICKS: Prophet and Priest (Tetzaveh)

Adar 6, 5775 · February 25, 2015
General Overview:
In last week’s Torah reading, Terumah, we read the details of the construction of the Tabernacle, the sanctuary in the desert. This week’s Parshah,Tetzaveh, we discover the special garments worn by the priests and high priest when serving in the Tabernacle. Following that, we read G‑d’s instructions to Moses regarding the seven-day inauguration for the Tabernacle. The portion concludes with a description of one of the vessels of the Tabernacle–the Incense Altar.This being the Shabbat before Purim, on which we celebrate the foiling of Haman the Amalekite’s plot to destroy the Jewish people, the weekly Parshah is supplemented with the Zachor reading (Deuteronomy 25:17-19) in which we are commanded to remember the evil of Amalek and to eradicate it from the face of the earth.

This Week’s Features  

By Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
THE PARSHAH

Exodus 27:20–30:10

Aaron, the high priest, is to light the menorah daily with pure olive oil. The priestly garments are described, and G‑d details the seven-day initiation process for Aaron and his sons. Instructions for the building of the golden altar are given.

COLUMNISTS
When Golda Meir famously joked that the Jewish people had managed, after forty years of wandering, to end up in the only country in the Middle East with no oil, she was only partially right…

By Eli Pink
Feelings don’t come automatically. We cannot just turn the happiness switch on, or suddenly feel love. So what do we do when we don’t feel happiness and empathy?

By Michoel Gourarie
Moses learned the Torah from G-d Himself. He wanted to be part of it with all his heart. But he was willing to give it all up for something dearer to him than the Torah—the Jewish people…

By Levi Avtzon
FEATURED VIDEO

Letters and Numbers of Torah – Tetzaveh

Purim usually coincides with the week in which we read the Torah portion of Tetzave. To find the hidden connection between Purim and Tetzave, we examine the five times the word “Purim” is written in the Megillah and ask why three of those five times it is missing the letter vav.

Aaron L. Raskin
Watch Watch (25:00)
Our parshah this week contains a glaring omission. The name of Judaism’s greatest leader, Moses, is not to be found at all in the portion! Tune in and find out where Moses was hiding!

with Benny Rapoport
Watch Watch (5:18)

Life Lessons from Parshat Tetzaveh

The portion of Teztaveh coincides around the birthday and passing of Moses. The special qualities of Moses’ leadership enable us to discover our very own potential.

By Yehoshua B. Gordon
Watch Watch (35:52)
FEATURED AUDIO CLASSES
This week’s Torah portion commands the Kohanim (priests) about their attire to be worn while serving in the tabernacle and temple. The belt that they wore was made of wool and linen. Is this not violating the prohibition of Shatnez, the mixing of wool and linen?

By Moishe New
Download Download   Listen Listen (42:29)
An overview of the weekly Parsha, through the eyes of the many commentators, enriching your understanding of how our great history unfolded.

By Marty Goodman
Download Download   Listen Listen (92:41)

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