Shabbat Shalom Weekly

Torah Portion:  Tetzevah

February 16, 2019  |  11/Adar Alef/5779

by Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
The Core Purpose
After giving detailed instructions of the procedure for the inauguration of the Mishkan and the bringing of the Korban Tamid, the daily offering, the verses state: “And I will dwell in the midst of Bnei Yisrael, and I will be for them a Lord. And they will know that I am Hashem their Lord who took them out from the Land of Egypt [in order] to dwell in their midst; I am Hashem their Lord (Shmot 29:45-46).”
The verses clearly indicate that the whole purpose of redemption from Egypt and the subsequent giving of the Torah is that the Shechina, God’s presence, should dwell in our midst– that we should live in such a way that our life is filled with the holiness of Godliness.  It is obvious from the verse that the focal point of dwelling of the Shechina is, of course, the Mishkan (and, later, the Beis Ha’Mikdash, the Holy Temple). However, our Sages make it clear that every Jewish home is a Mikdash Me’at, a miniature sanctuary. In Maseches Brachos (6b), the Gemara says that one who gladdens a groom on his wedding day is as if he has rebuilt one of the destroyed places of Jerusalem.
Similarly, the Gemara in Maseches Sotah (17a) says that if a husband and wife live together in a meritorious manner (i.e. living a Torah life together in peace and harmony) the Shechina dwells in their midst.
Inasmuch as achieving a life of holiness and Godliness is the central purpose of our covenant with Hashem, we must expend great effort to ensure that we are in fact achieving that goal.
At the end of the Shema we read, “In order that you remember and uphold all of My mitzvos and you will be holy unto your Lord (Bamidbar 15:40).” We see, then, that the key to achieving this state of holiness is by keeping the mitzvos. Through the study and fulfillment of the Torah, we achieve that purpose and meaning for which we entered into the covenant with Hashem.
It is crucial to always bear in mind, though, the chastising words of the prophet, “And Hashem said, ‘…this nation approaches [Me] with its mouth, and with its lips it honors Me, but its heart it has distanced from Me, and their fear of Me is a matter of rote’ (Yeshaya 29:13).”
In other words, performing the mitzvos by rote — although infinitely preferable to not at all — is not sufficient. Rather, the requirement is “to worship Him with all of your heart and all of your soul (Devarim 11:13).”

Learning Torah and doing mitzvos is not a matter of perfunctory performance of religious rituals; rather it is a matter of engaging in a real and true relationship with the Almighty. There is a verse in Shir Ha’Shirim (3:11) that says, “Go out and see, oh daughters of Tziyon, the king Shlomo (in this context, a reference to Hashem) [adorned] in the crown with which His mother crowned Him on the day of His wedding and on the day of the gladness of His heart.” The Gemara in Maseches Taanis (26b) explains that “the day of his wedding” is referring to the day that Hashem gave us the Torah at Har Sinai. So, we see that the entering into the covenant of Torah between Hashem and the Jewish People was like the relationship that is formed between husband and wife through the bonds of marriage.

A husband must care for and be considerate of his wife, and a wife must also care for and be considerate of her husband. Similarly, if the marriage is to succeed, each one has certain responsibilities and obligations toward the other. Certainly, if the most basic and critical of these concrete actions are not carried out, the marriage is doomed to failure. However, it is just as clear that these obligations must not be carried out merely as a matter of rote; for if they are, what occurs is a nullification of the inner-core of the marriage-relationship, and what is left is merely the empty, outer shell which becomes akin to a business partnership. This “business partnership” may be very beneficial in a practical sense, but a true marriage-relationship it
is not.
So, too, when it comes to our covenant of Torah with Hashem: it is a matter of forging a real relationship with our Creator. As such, it requires complete and ongoing involvement of our deepest emotions. The Zohar says, “The Merciful One desires the [involvement of the] heart.” The goal is to learn Torah and fulfill its mitzvos with an ongoing sense of ecstasy of love that we have for the Creator who constantly showers us with His endless beneficence and constantly provides us with opportunities through His Torah that He has given us to achieve the ultimate reward in Olam Ha’bah, the Next World.
Of course — as in the human marriage relationship – this is something that we spend a lifetime developing and deepening. The main thing in this regard is to try, to whatever extent we can, to avoid slipping into the slumber of complacency and rote. And we must always remember that every level achieved is infinitely precious to the Almighty; more than that, every bit of effort that we put forward – even when we cannot feel any tangible result thereof – is a precious treasure to the Almighty.
Appel’s Parsha Page
by Rabbi Yehuda Appel
Beauty and the Kohanim
The Talmud tells the following story:
The great sage Rabbi Yehoshua was the epitome of wisdom and kindness. Which is why a Roman countess was so stunned when she met him and found that he was so physically unattractive. The countess commented on the tremendous contrast between his inside and outside. In response,
Rabbi Yehoshua suggested that she pour some of her most precious wine into gold containers. She did this, and a few days later discovered (to her horror) that the wine had spoiled.
Rabbi Yehoshua explained that he meant to demonstrate how oftentimes a beautiful external appearance can ruin a more important internal aspect. The countess replied in protest that she knew many handsome men who were also good and wise! Rabbi Yehoshua responded that had these men not been so handsome, they might have been even more wise and kind!
While Rabbi Yehoshua clearly made his point, the issue is, of course, far more complex. For instance, the Torah itself notes the physical beauty of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. Surely the Torah is not telling us of their limited greatness! Moreover, in Jewish mysticism, physical appearance is considered reflective of a deeper spiritual makeup. (The Kabbalists explain further that at the time of the Messiah, a person’s physical appearance will reflect the level of enlightenment that their soul has achieved.)
As with so many other things, beauty is a double-edged sword. In the hands of such lofty individuals as the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, it was a device to help them attract others to learn about God. But in the hands of less erstwhile people, it can be an obstacle, proving a true hindrance to spiritual growth.
For example, if a girl grows up constantly hearing compliments about her beautiful facial features, will she perhaps be a bit less motivated to develop other, inner aspects of her personality?
King Solomon said: “Attractiveness is a lie, and beauty is worthless; but one who fears God is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30). On this, the Vilna Gaon (18th century Lithuania) explains: “Attractiveness is a lie, and beauty is worthless” when there is nothing else, nothing more substantial to back it up. But when “fear of God” is also present, then even the beauty is to be praised!
The issue of beauty is central to this week’s Torah portion, Tetzaveh, which discusses the priestly garments worn in the Holy Temple. The Torah notes that the special clothes of the High Priest were for “glory and majesty,” which Nachmanides says were similar to clothes worn by  a king.
The Sefer HaChinuch explains that the magnificence and beauty of the Temple served to inspire awe in the hearts of all who came, and as such brought them closer to God. In such an environment, anything that was less than “beautiful” would be out of place and detract from the surroundings. This helps explain why Jewish law required that when the priest’s clothing became soiled they could not be laundered and reused — but had to be replaced by new garments.
The Torah also says it is forbidden for a Kohen (priest) who has certain distinctive blemishes to serve in the Holy Temple. Is this because due to his blemish he is less beloved by God?!
Of course not. The reason why a Kohen with a physical imperfection was not allowed to serve in the Temple was because of visitors who may experience a loss of respect for the Temple as a result of being distracted by the blemished Kohen. God Himself does not look at the blemished Kohen with less respect; rather the Torah took into account the imperfect nature of people and realized that it was unrealistic to expect each visitor who came to the Temple to focus only on the soul of the blemished Kohen — even though that is the proper way to look at someone.
Precisely because it was God’s house, everything in the Temple had to be beautiful. The menorah, the ark, and the other vessels in the Temple had to be beautiful. Even the priests themselves had to be of handsome appearance, since they were, so to speak, also “vessels” in God’s Temple.
The beauty of the Temple is perhaps the best possible use of beauty:  to remind us of the genius of the ultimate architect, the Creator.
*  *  *

“What you don’t see with your eyes, don’t invent with your mouth” — Jewish Proverb

*  *  *
The substitute teacher at the local high school was struggling to open a combination lock on the supply cabinet. She had been told the combination, but couldn’t quite remember it.
Finally, she went to the rabbi’s office and asked for help. The rabbi came into the room and began to turn the dial.  After the first two numbers he paused and stared blankly for a moment.
Finally, he looked serenely heavenward and his lips moved silently.
Then he looked back at the lock, and quickly turned to the final number, and opened the lock.
The teacher was amazed. “I’m in awe at your faith, rabbi,” she said.
“It’s really nothing,” he answered. “The number is on a piece of tape on the ceiling.”

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