After discussing the Mishkan in last week’s Parasha, this week’s Parashat Tetzaveh discusses the Kohanim and all aspects of the Kohen Gadol with an emphasis on his special garments. As the Parasha begins (28:1), Hashem says to Moshe: "Now you, bring near to yourself your brother and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel-Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Elazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron-to minister to Me. You shall make vestments of sanctity for Aaron 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 Aaron, to sanctify him to Minister to Me".
Hashem chose only Aaron and his four sons and all their descendants right up until today to be the Kohanim to serve in the Bet Hamikdash. The Torah goes into great lengths to describe in great detail every article of the Kohen Gadol's clothing.
Hashem then tells Moshe to "designate the G-d given talented men 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, because as Rabbi Diamond always taught us: "Can we take pride in the fact that we have good kidneys?" So the same way, we can't take pride in any other gift that Hashem has given us!
We must know that the Torah doesn't waste a single letter, let alone paragraph upon paragraph of information, as in the description of the Kohen's clothing. The Pasuk says that the vestments are to be made "for glory and splendor". The Ramban teaches that these garments were intended to honor the Kohanim, for they were similar to the garb of royalty! Sforno comments the purpose behind this is so the Kohen Gadol will be revered as the teacher of the nation by the tribes whose names are inscribed on his breastplate.
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 the level of that leader in our eyes. In today's society, we have a phrase, ‘dress for success’. 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 clothes of the Kohanim were not intended to make the Kohen Gadol haughty or conceited, but rather are intended to show the Jewish people that one who does the service of Hashem must look like royalty, since he is serving the greatest King of all, Hashem!
I heard Rabbi Wachsman speak a few times last year, and in his speech about haughtiness, he gave this parable: "Imagine a poor man who was 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 ours alone, and we have to thank Hashem every minute for all the gifts that He continues to bestow upon us.
This week we will be preparing to celebrate the great holiday of Purim where we have the custom of dressing up in different costumes but for a totally different reason than discussed in the Parasha. On Purim we were saved from Haman who devised a ruthless plan along with King Achashverosh to kill all the Jews in Persia. Haman picked this month of Adar to draw the lottery in order to destroy the Jews. Haman did a calculation and deduced that Adar was a bad month for the Jews because Moshe died on the 7th of Adar. This week of Purim and Parasha Tetzaveh always falls on Moshe’s Yarzeit and this is also the only Parasha where Moshe’s name is not mentioned.
The reason is because in next week’s Parasha Ki Tise when Hashem wants to destroy B'nei Yisrael for worshiping the golden calf, Moshe says to Hashem:"Erase me from the Torah if you will destroy Am Yisrael!" So Hashem took Moshe's name out of this week’s Parasha because of the words that came out of his mouth. 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 may say.
Rabbi Twersky explains in his book on Rav Levi Yitzhak of Berditschev on Purim, that supernatural miracles, great as they may be, are of only a short duration. The salvation of B'nei Yisrael by the Ten Plagues and the splitting of the Red Sea were open miracles witnessed by that generation only. We do not expect to see those types of open miracles today; however, there are many other hidden miracles that happen to all of us on a daily basis. Megilat Esther tells the story of Purim as a series of hidden miracles that Hashem orchestrated by pulling all the strings behind the scenes.
Every event that occurs in the story of Purim could be seen as a perfectly natural occurrence. A king (Achashverosh) gets drunk and in his drunken rage executes his queen (Vashti). He then chooses a Jewish woman (Esther) through a beauty contest to be his new queen, concealing her true origin. Her uncle (Mordechai), who is in the royal court, discovers a threat to assassinate the king and his new queen and reports this to the king, saving his life. The anti-Semitic prime minister (Haman) extracts a decree from the king to kill all the Jews in his kingdom. The king is then reminded that a Jew who saved his life. The queen turns the king’s wrath against the prime minister, Haman who is executed. Then the queen reveals her true Jewish origin and her uncle is appointed as the new Prime Minister and the Jews are saved! Not until the entire sequence of these events are strung together can one see the guiding hand of Hashem saving the Jewish nation through Divine Intervention.
So for this reason, we too dress up and disguise ourselves in costumes because, as stated above, the story of Purim demonstrates how Hashem is protecting us and performing hidden miracles for us on a daily basis through Hashgacha Peratit: the divine supervision of individuals. As a reminder that Hashem saved us in a hidden way, we too dress up in masks and costumes and hide ourselves. This is also the reason that Hashem's name is not mentioned in the entire Megilah, except for the first word on each page of the text of the Megillah that begins each page with the word ‘Melech’...King, and alludes to Hashem who is the King of all Kings.
Rabbi Frand brings an interesting Gemara (Chulin 139b) and asks, “From where do we see a Torah reference to Haman’s name?” The answer is given in the story in Beresheet (3:11) when Adam ate from the forbidden tree, Hashem said to him...“Hahmin ha’eytz hazeh…” (Did you eat from this tree?). The Hebrew letters of the word ‘Hahmin’ are the same as the Hebrew letters in the name ‘Haman’. This is a type of Gemara that cannot be understood on a superficial level. The Gemara is saying: “Where does the Torah allude to the concept represented by Haman?” The answer is that the essence of Haman lies in the verse “[Did you eat] from this tree?” Rav Bergman explains that Haman was an individual who had everything. Our sages say he was one of the wealthiest people in the world. He was second in command to the King and had all that one could ask out of life — money, power, family — everything! And yet, what did Haman say? As long as he saw “Mordechai, the Jew sitting at the gate of the king” (refusing to bow down to him – (Esther 3:2) Haman said, “all this is worthless to me” (Esther 5:13), Because Haman was lacking one thing, everything else became worthless to him.
Such a person will never be happy. In order for a person to be happy, one must be pleased with his lot in life. Haman represents the opposite of one who is happy with his lot and represents the one who is never happy. He can have money, power and prestige and yet declare it all worthless. The Gemara asks, where do we see this attribute in the Torah — that one can have everything and yet still not be satisfied? The answer is that we find this trait by Adam in the Garden of Eden. Adam had literally everything — spirituality, physical luxury, angels to serve him — everything! He lacked only one thing: access to the Tree of Knowledge. Adam was not satisfied, and he succumbed to the sin that led us down the path to the world as it exists today. Haman personified the same character trait: that of not being satisfied even when one has most everything.
This is a particularly important lesson for us to learn before Purim. The mitzvah of Purim is one of those difficult mitzvot which escapes modern man. The mitzvah is to be happy. One would think the mitzvah of Simcha (to be happy) is an easy mitzvah, but we know from experience that its not so easy. Happiness does not come to us easily. We always have so many things to worry about, that its difficult to be truly happy. What is the ‘key’ to happiness? A person becomes happy by being a “sameach b’chelko” Happy with his lot!
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 its 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 also realize that Hashem is always with us even in our darkest days when we might feel that He is not there, because Hashem is hidden, but He’s pulling the strings and performing miracles for all of us every second of every day! May we also learn the very important lesson of being Happy with what Hashem has blessed us with! Sameach b’chelko! Purim Sameach! Amen!