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Parashat Tetzaveh

Dedicated Leilui Nishmat Aharon Ben Rachel

Parashat Tetzaveh

Last week’s parasha discussed the Mishkan, and this week’s parashat Tetzaveh discusses the kohanim, with an emphasis on the kohen gadol and his special garments.

Kohanim Forever

At the beginning of the parasha, Hashem said to Moshe: “Now you, bring near to yourself your brother and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel — Aharon, Nadab and Abihu, Elazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aharon — to minister to Me. You shall make vestments of sanctity for Aharon your brother, for glory and splendor. And you shall speak to all the wise-hearted people whom I have invested with a spirit of wisdom, and they shall make the vestments of Aharon, to sanctify him to minister to Me” (28:1).

Hashem selected Aharon, his four sons, and their descendants right up until today to be the kohanim to serve in the Bet Hamikdash.

The Kohen Gadol’s Clothing

The Torah goes to great lengths to meticulously describe every detail of every article of the kohen gadol’s clothing. We must know that the Torah doesn’t waste a single letter, let alone paragraph upon paragraph of information. If the Torah spends so much time discussing the kohen gadol’s clothing, then there must be many important lessons that we have to learn from it.

The passuk says that the vestments were to be made “for glory and splendor.” There’s a contemporary phrase “dress for success.” Clothing has a major impact on us. We expect to see an important person like the president or a king dressed in very proper or royal clothing, and if we don’t, this can lower our respect for that leader. In fact, the Ramban teaches that the kohanim’s garments were intended to honor the kohanim, for they were similar to royal garb. Sforno comments the purpose behind this was so that the tribes of Israel would revere the kohen gadol as the teacher of the nation.

It is true that our clothing can bolster our self-esteem, but there’s a certain amount of ga’ava (haughtiness) that may go along with this attitude. The Torah wants to show us that the kohen gadol’s clothing was not intended to make him haughty or conceited. Rather, it was intended to show the Jewish people that one who serves Hashem must look like royalty, since he is serving the greatest king of all — Hashem!

How can we ever act haughty?

I remember hearing a parable from Rabbi Wachsman about a poor man who is invited to a wedding, but does not even have one suit of his own to wear. So he asks a wealthy friend of his to lend him a suit for the evening. Since he borrowed the suit from a wealthy man, it was a very expensive suit.

Would it be proper for him to then go around bragging and showing off this beautiful suit as if it were his own?

Of course not, because it’s a borrowed suit and he doesn’t even own one suit of his own!”

It is the same with us: We don’t have anything that is truly ours. All of our possessions and talents were just lent to us by Hashem.

Hashem then told Moshe to “designate the men with G-d given talent from among the Jewish people to make these garments.” We must learn from the words, “whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom,” that we can never act arrogantly about the special talents that Hashem gave us.

We have no right to act haughtily regarding our G-d given talents, whether we are very smart, or athletically inclined, or can carry a tune with perfection. As Rabbi Diamond always taught us: “Can we take pride in the fact that we have good kidneys?” So too, we can’t take pride in any other gift that Hashem has given us!

The only Parasha that Moshe Rabbenu is not mentioned in...

This is also the only parasha where Moshe’s name is not mentioned. This is because in next week’s parasha, Ki Tissa, Hashem wanted to destroy B’nei Yisrael for worshiping the golden calf. Moshe said to Hashem: “Erase me from the Torah if you will destroy Am Yisrael!” Because of Moshe’s words, Hashem took his name out of this week’s parasha. The Torah wants to teach us that our words really do mean something, so we must always be very careful of any negative words that we say.

The Tur explains further that an earlier time in history, Moshe was destined to be the Kohen Gadolas well as the leader of the Jewish people. However, when Moshe angered Hashem, he lost his honor to be Kohen Gadol (4:14). Since this parashah deals with the vestments worn by the kohen gadol, Hashem chose not to mention the name of Moshe in this parashah so it would not to be a constant reminder of Moshe’s lost opportunity to become kohen gadol, an honor that was subsequently given to Aharon.

If we “add all of this up,” we can learn some valuable lessons. Even when Hashem punishes someone, we should recognize the mercy within the very act. When Moshe declared his wish to be erased from the Torah, Hashem decided to remove Moshe’s name from only one parashah. Hashem specifically chose the parashah of Tetzaveh, in which the mention of Moshe’s name would have been a cause of pain to him because of the subject of the Kohan Gadol being discussed. Once his name was to be “forced out,” it might as well be in a place that he would not want to be mentioned anyway.

We further see that, despite its inevitability, the omission of Moshe’s name was limited in scope. Moshe’s name was actually mentioned within the number of verses in the parashah, albeit in a “hidden” manner.

When we see things on a small scale, we often do not appreciate the large good. We only feel the immediate pain, but are not equipped with the vision to recognize that Hashem is really doing what is best for us. Even when Hashem must punish us, He does so with the utmost mercy.

The following story that happened over 60 years ago in Argentina is an example of Hashem’s mercy that came through something that on the surface seemed very negative. Baby Marcela was adopted by a Catholic family. At eighteen, she was told that her mother was Jewish and had abandoned her when she was born. All Marcela had left was her mother’s identity card with her name on it: Señora Calypso. Marcela looked for her mother, but was never able to find her.

Marcela married a non-Jewish man at a young age. But after the birth of her son, her husband rejected her. She found herself alone with her baby, Diego, on the streets of Buenos Aires. It’s not surprising that by the age of ten, Diego was already an experienced and successful thief. In the beginning his mother had forbidden him to steal, but when she didn’t have anything to eat, she had no other choice.

After a life of misery in Argentina, Marcela’s Jewish soul prodded her to make aliya with Diego, now nineteen. There she found a job as a cleaning lady, while Diego quickly learned Hebrew and continued his dishonest activities. One evening he decided to rob a villa located in a wealthy neighborhood, but once inside he realized that there were no valuable objects to be found.

He was about to leave the villa when he noticed a briefcase on top of the fridge, which he took. When he opened it at home, he was disappointed to see that it contained old newspapers. Then he noticed an envelope under the newspapers. It contained two hundred dollars and a letter:

“Hello, my dear thief, this briefcase has been waiting for you for a number of years, as you can see from the dates on the newspapers. I hope that the two hundred dollars in this envelope will suit you. In this case, I’m very happy for you.

Diego had a hard time believing this. For the first time in his life, a man was giving him attention. Nobody except for his mother had ever given him attention, and here was a letter written by a man who not only seemed to like being robbed, but also seemed to rejoice in the robber’s gain! He continued reading.

I wanted to present you with the world vision of an observant Jew. One does not need to dirty one’s hands with theft. G-d loves everyone boundlessly, and every day He takes care of them, by providing them with all their needs. You’re probably Jewish yourself, and if you wish, I’m happy to meet with you and tell you more about our faith. Come by whenever you want. I’m not angry. I want to help you stop being a thief.

With all my affection,

Dr. Shraga Avigad.”

Diego knew that he was Jewish, but he had never heard of all these religious concepts. Deep down, he no longer wanted to be a thief. He told his mother the whole story, and they decided to meet this unique doctor together.

The doctor welcomed them inside and said with a big smile, “You’re the thief?! You can’t imagine how happy I am to meet you.” Diego told him of his difficult life, and then Marcelo told her story as well.

The doctor kept quiet and thought for a while. All of a sudden he began whispering, “This can’t be. This can’t be!” He left the room and returned pushing an old woman in a wheelchair.

He said, “Mommy, when you were young you told me about an event which had happened to you, and I’d like Marcelo and Diego to hear it.”

His mother hesitated, then said, “My name is Naomi. I got married very young, but could not have children. After several years of tears and prayers, I finally got pregnant with a little girl. But when I gave birth I barely had time to kiss her before I lost consciousness due to a dangerous virus. I was in a coma for three months. When I woke up, my daughter was gone. They told me that she had died of jaundice. But from what I remember before I blacked out, my baby was perfectly healthy. To this day I’m convinced that the government stole my baby girl.”

“Which government?” Marcela asked.

“That of Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I grew up. At the time, my name was Señora Calypso.” Reeling, Marcela pulled out the old identity card with her mother’s name on it — Señora Calypso — and handed it to Naomi.

“Where did you get this from?!” Naomi asked.

Marcela explained, “I received it from the Argentinian government, when I wanted to know who my mother was. They told me that she had disappeared right after giving birth.” And she burst out into tears in her mother’s arms.

May we all use our clothing to elevate our appearance for the sake of Hashem, and not merely to impress our friends. May we also know that it’s important to always look our best when serving Hashem, just as the kohanim did in the time of the Bet Hamikdash. Let us be aware of our G-d given talents, as they are all gifts from Hashem and we should not act haughtily because we possess them. May we all realize the sensitivity Hashem has for us, even when He punishes us, realize that Hashem only does good and we must always have faith that eventually we’ll see that silver lining! Amen!

Shabbat Shalom!

Discussion Points:

  • What are your talents?

  • Do we take credit for the talents that we have, or recognize that Hashem just “lent” them to us?

  • Can you think of a story of Devine intervention (Hashgacha Peratite) in your life where Hashem showed you the silver linning in the end?

Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack RahmeyLeiluiy Nishmat....

Leiluiy Nishmat....

Eliyahu Ben Rachel Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher

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