Torah Insights for Shabbat
Parshat Tetzaveh 5758
March 7, 1998
What is the relationship between Parshas Tetzaveh and the upcoming
holiday of Purim? At first blush, this week's subject, the inauguration of the Tabernacle,
seems unconnected to the celebration of Purim. A brief analysis, however, shows that
Parshas Tetzaveh underscores one of the themes of Purim.
People generally respond with greater enthusiasm to new experiences than to routine ones. How many of us have seen the glow of a bar or bas mitzvah on the day they celebrate their obligation to do miztvos? But how many of us continue to perform our responsibilities every day with such joy?
Hashem understands this challenge to human nature, and, in Parshas Tetzaveh, He charges the Jewish people to overcome their listlessness.
THE PARSHAH CONCLUDES with the inauguration of the Mishkan and Hashem's promise to reside amid the Jewish people. But positioned between these two related topics is the command to bring the daily sacrifice. What is the significance of its placement here?
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains that the construction of the Mishkan did not by itself evoke Hashem's Divine Presence among the Jewish nation. That was
only achieved by the daily offering, which reflected the devotion of the people to the ideals of G-d.
The spiritual health of the Jewish people requires more than a formal edifice, more than routine structure; it requires constant acts of heartfelt devotion.
THE HOLIDAY OF PURIM, too, epitomizes the challenge of infusing habitual mitzvos with energy and enthusiasm. The essence of Purim, explains Rav Moshe Shternbach, is the cultivation of passion for serving Hashem. Two customs contribute to this: drinking and masquerading.
On the surface, such behavior seems out of character for the observant Jew. On Purim, though, Hashem motivates us to move beyond our external, often perfunctory, acts of devotion. The Talmud writes that a person should become so inebriated on Purim that he does not know the difference between Haman and Mordechai.
But while one's senses are dulled to this extent, nevertheless, Rav Shternbach writes, his love for Hashem should be so transformative that he can still emotionally distinguish between Haman and Mordechai.
THE CUSTOM OF MASQUERADING reflects a similar ideal--moving from the external to the internal. Too often, we value what is superficial. Wearing a mask hides our identity and forces us to focus not on the external dimension of our personalities but on the internal dimension, our souls, which lie behind the masks.
PURIM IS A TIME to deepen our sense of spirituality. If we feel that our synagogues are places where our prayers ring hollow, we are missing valuable opportunities. We must transform our prayers through song, dance, and a fuller understanding of the dynamics of tefillah. We must take seriously our synagogues' status as miniature Tabernacles.
May we utilize the upcoming holiday of Purim to reinvigorate ourselves with passion toward service of Hashem, and, in this merit, may He dwell once again in our midst.
Rabbi Daniel Cohen
Rabbi Cohen is rabbi of Young Israel of West Hartford in West Hartfort, Connecticut
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