Weekly Reading Insights:
Tetzaveh 5780

Overview of the Weekly Reading

To be read on Shabbat Tetzaveh, 11 Adar 5780/March 7, 2080

Torah: Exodus 27:20-30:10; Haftorah: Ezekiel 43:10-27 (details about the altars and kohanim)

Tetzaveh is the 8th Reading out of 11 in Exodus and it contains 5430 letters, in 1412 words, in 101verses.

The Jews are commanded to bring oil for illuminating the constantly burning lamp of the tabernacle. Next are listed the instructions for making the priestly vestments of the priests and high priest. The priests, Aharon and his sons, were consecrated and installed into their holy positions through a series of sacrifices, sprinklings, ritual immersions, and garbing themselves in their priestly clothing. This procedure was repeated seven times along with sanctifying the altar. G-d commanded regarding the continual burnt offering and gave instructions for the building and offerings of the incense altar.

An Essay from
Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, Director of Ascent

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The Talmud - Mishna and Gemara -- was once an oral tradition handed down for generations that defines the Jewish understanding of the Torah - the Five Books of Moses. During the years 200 CE-500 CE it was written down by the Tannaim and Amoraim respectively, great Torah scholars who lived after the Second Temple was destroyed (70 CE). It is not just a compilation of Jewish Law. It is also a collection of wisdom, traditions and stories that have helped preserve Jewish life and culture until today.

In the part of the Talmud called Yoma (page 69a) is a story about the great Greek conqueror Alexander during his conquest of the Middle East while the Second Temple still functioned. When he reached Jerusalem, the Samaritans, a break-off sect of the Jewish people who had made their own temple on Mount Gerizim, tried to convince Alexander to destroy the Jewish Temple. Alexander agreed because previously, when he had sent word to the Jewish High Priest and leader of the time, Shimon the Righteous, demanding that the tribute Jerusalem was paying to Persia, should be paid to him, Rabbi Shimon rejected his request, insisting that their allegiance was to Persia.

When Rabbi Shimon heard about Alexander and the Samaritans, even though there was a siege on Jerusalem, he put on the special eight garments of the High Priest and, with a large entourage, left Jerusalem to meet with Alexander. When Alexander saw the wondrous splendor of Rabbi Shimon, he dismounted and bowed to him. In the end the evil decree was rescinded.

His generals asked him how he, the greatest leader of the world, could bow to a lowly Jew? Alexander answered that in his dreams before each battle he saw Rabbi Shimon dressed in his holy robes, encouraging him with blessings of success. From then on Alexander was a benevolent ruler, leaving the Jews and their culture alone.

One of the questions the Talmud asks about this historical event was how did Rabbi Shimon have the audacity to wear the priestly robes outside of the Temple compound to greet Alexander? One of the laws of the Temple is that it is forbidden to wear these special garments outside of the Temple, in the medina, the countryside. The Talmud answers with the verse, "When there is a time to do for G-d, shame the Torah." The Talmud explains that when a critical time comes where something must be done for G-d's sake to preserve G-d's holy name it is permissible to not follow the Torah's laws (see Rashi on that verse, Tehillim (Psalms) 119:126).

What lesson can we take from this story for our own lives?

In a different place in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 39a) it teaches that G-d is (in a certain sense, like) a priest of the Temple. What He tells us to do, He does himself. And the priestly garments are G-d's garments, which refers to the Torah. How do we know this? The Torah is G-d's garments as it says in the verse from Tehillim (Psalms) 104:2, "You (G-d) enwrap yourself with light as with a garment." What garment is G-d's garment? How do we experience Him? Through the Torah which is written with black fire on white fire (see Rashi, Devarim 23:2). In particular, this Torah that is hinted to as garments is referring to the inner dimension of the Torah and its secrets, Kabbalah and Chassidut, because it is in this inner dimension that you can actually sense G-d's presence.

Up until now, throughout all the centuries of Jewish history, only the gifted few studied the secrets of the Torah in its most sublime expression. But this was only appropriate when the world was moving in an orderly fashion, each aspect in proper proportions. But when there is "A time to do for G-d", when entire systems are in danger of collapsing, then it is appropriate to wear even the garments of the High Priest out in the countryside and not only in the Holy Temple and Jerusalem! When we understand this concept and use it properly, we are able to nullify all the negative decrees that go against serving G-d in the best way. Ultimately, like in the episode with Alexander the Great, we will be able to protect the Holy Temple that exists in the heart of every single Jewish person that not one should be lost or even hurt in any way.
(From Likrat Shabbat according to Collected Talks of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Torat Menachem. Volume 18. Page 232 and onward.)

The Lubavitcher Rebbe asked a visiting businessman how his livelihood was faring. The man was reluctant to take the Rebbe's time for mundane matters. Sensing his hesitation, the Rebbe shared a story that happened during the intermediate days (Chol Hamoed) of Sukkot. Jewish tradition is very specific that the intermediate days of Sukkot and Pesach have a great measure of holiness. To protect the joy and sanctity of the festival. many normally acceptable weekday activities like shaving are forbidden, and others like laundry, ironing and writing are severely discouraged (if you have a question ask your local rabbi).

"One Chol Hamoed day I entered the office of my father-in-law, the Previous Rebbe, and was surprised to see him writing a letter. Glimpsing the letter more closely, I was even more surprised to see that it was about the recipient's employment."
"I asked him how he allowed himself to write a letter on Chol Hamoed on so mundane a matter. My father-in-law replied: 'Zayn gashmiyus iz mayn ruchnius' - his material concern is my spiritual concern."
(Mendel Kalmenson. Seeds of Wisdom. Volume 2. Page 144)

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For last year's essay by Rabbi Leiter on this week's Reading, see the archive.


Specifically, for an overview of the recommended articles in the columns:
Holy Zohar, Holy Ari, Mystic Classics, Chasidic Masters, Contemporary Kabbalists, and more,
click to Tetzaveh

one sample:
Contemporary Kabbalists
Light and Unity

By Rabbi Avraham Brandwein

The concealment of G-d's supervision of His Creation may lead a person to think that there is no law and no judge. This lack of understanding is symbolized by the bitter olive, which must be crushed, smashed and hit in order to release the light buried within.

This crushing is the suffering that precedes the path of Torah, after which a person comes to illumination and he merits to see that all of the concealments were for the sake of good

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