KOSHER DELIGHT - YOUR JEWISH ONLINE MAGAZINE!
By Rabbi Yonassan Biggs
Shabbat we read from two Torah scrolls. In the first we
read the portion of Tetzaveh which discusses at great
length the special clothing that the Kohanim wore in the
The garments were of such importance that if any garment
was lacking, the
service was invalid. As every aspect of the
service is a lesson to each of us, we will discuss some
lessons to be learned from the garments.
first garment mentioned is the Ephod, which was an
elaborate garment that rested upon the Kohen Gadol’s
shoulders. Upon the shoulders were two gemstones that
were engraved with the names of the twelve tribes of
This teaches us that at all times we have upon our
shoulders not only ourselves, but also the entire Jewish
people. This is true both in our relation with Hashem
and with the rest of the world. Maimonides teaches that
a person should always view the world as an equal scale.
One good act can tip the scale and bring the entire
world into favor in Hashem’s eyes. Similarly, the rest
of the world looks at us as one people. Our acts, for
the good and the bad, reflect upon the entire Jewish
people. Thus, each of us carries the entire twelve
tribes upon our shoulders.
Twelve tribes were also inscribed on the Choshen Mishpat,
the Breastplate. The Choshen Mishpat had twelve
different gemstones, upon each of which was inscribed
the name of one of the tribes. The inscription of the
twelve tribes on the breastplate teaches that we must
always have the entire Jewish people upon our heart.
When we pray, we pray for everyone, when we make a
decision, we concern ourselves with everyone. The Arizal
teaches that every morning, before our prayers, we
should say Hareini Mekabail Alai Mitzvat Asei Shel
V’ahavta L’rayacha Kamocha (I hereby accept upon myself
the Mitzvah of loving my neighbor as myself). By doing
so, Hashem accepts our prayers.
Talmud teaches that the names Avraham, Yitzchak, and
Yaakov and the words Shivtei Y-h (The tribes of Hashem)
were also inscribed upon the stones. One of the reasons
was that it was necessary that all of the Hebrew letters
be on the Breastplate. When a question of great
importance needed to be asked of Hashem, the Kohen Gadol
would look at the breastplate and prophetically see the
answer spelled out in the letters.
there were only twelve stones, the names of the
Patriarchs had to be engraved on the stones together
with the tribes. The Baal Haturim explains that the
names of the Patriarchs and the words Shivtei Y-h were
spread out over all of the stones. The immediate
question arises, why? Couldn’t Avraham have his own
engraving of the Patriarchs on the stones of the tribes
teaches us how we must view our bond with our
forefathers and with our heritage. Were the forefathers
to be on their own stones, and the tribes on theirs, it
would imply that we are detached from our heritage. The
forefathers were carved into our stones, to teach that
our heritage must be inseparably engraved within us.
Kohen Gadol wore the Tzitz, a golden plate across his
forehead which was inscribed Holy to Hashem.
Interestingly, the engraving was done in a way that the
letters protruded. This was to teach us that we must not
be ashamed of our Judaism, and on the contrary our
sanctity must extend to all around us.
word Tzitz comes from the Hebrew Maytzitz, which means
gazing. This is because we should constantly think about
being holy to Hashem. It is also the numerical value of
Keitz, which means the end of days (the time of
Moshiach).The prophet teaches that Moshiach stands
behind our wall in peers (maytzitz) through the cracks.
May we pierce the wall and immediately merit his coming.
As this is the Shabbat before
Purim, for the Maftir we take out a second scroll and read a
special portion, Parshat Zachor. Haman was a descendant of
Amalek, and therefore the Shabbat before Purim we read about the
annihilation of Amalek. Parshat Zachor is unique in that it is
the only portion that is a unique Mitzvah listen to. It is
always a Mitzvah to listen to the Torah being read, but there is
a specific Mitzvah to hear the portion of Zachor. It is
desirable that ladies also hear the reading of Parshat Zachor.
When the Jewish people left
Egypt, after the splitting of
the Red Sea, the nation of Amalek came
and attacked them. After a miraculous war, the Jewish people
were commanded that upon settling in
Israel they must annihilate the
memory of Amalek. As in every Mitzvah, the destruction of Amalek
parallels a concept in service of Hashem that is relevant even
when the physical Mitzvah doesn’t apply.
Parshat Zachor begins “Remember
what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of
Egypt. He encountered you on
the way, and cut down the weak…” In addition to meaning
encountered you, the term “Karcha” means that he cooled you off.
Rashi explains that upon leaving
Egypt the nations of the world
feared the Jewish people. They were “too hot to touch.” After
Amalek had attacked them, although Amalek lost, they were
In a spiritual sense, becoming
closer to Hashem is a concept of Exodus. The word Mitzrayim (Egypt)
comes from the Hebrew root Metzarim, which means boundaries and
limitations. Going beyond our boundaries and rising in the
service of Hashem is our personal Exodus from Mitzrayim.
However, even after we feel the joy and excitement of coming
closer to Hashem, our negative inclination tells us to cool
down, to take it easy. He tries to convince us that it suffices
to be as good as before. Why strive? Why the excitement? This is
Amalek. This is the root of all evil. We must completely ignore
our negative side and reach true self-emancipation.
In describing the war with Amalek,
the Torah relates something fascinating. When Moshe raised his
hands, the Jewish people were victorious. When he lowered them,
Amalek prevailed. When dealing with inner evil, particularly
intense evil, we must turn to the our own efforts are
insufficient. We must turn to the Tzaddikim of the generation.
Our efforts combined with their merits and prayers will prevail.
The final vanquishing of Amalek
will be in the time of Moshiach. May Hashem grant that through
our battling the Amalek within us we will speedily merit the
coming of Moshiach and respite from all of our enemies.
Biggs is from Chabad of Great Neck, NY. His website is:
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