* Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
1. This week's Torah portion is *Tetzaveh*, the eighth parasha in the book of Exodus.
2. Most of this parasha is focused on a description the garments of the Kohen Gadol or High Priest. The Torah attributes great significance to the magnificent, if not kingly, appearance of the High Priest. There are commentators who say that the garments of the High Priest are represented today by the clothes we wear on Shabbat. On this holy day, we dress in a most respectful and celebratory manner as a means of honoring the majesty of Shabbat.
3. This coming Shabbat precedes Purim and is known as *Shabbat Zachor* (Shabbat of Remembrance). In addition to the regular Torah portion, we read a passage from Deuteronomy that begins with the words: "Remember what Amalek did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt"; and ends with the words: *"Obliterate the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; do not forget."* Immediately following the Exodus, Amalek attacked us. Since the villainous Haman is a descendant of Amalek, reading this passage is a reminder of our perpetual war against evil.
4. Our commentators explain that Amalek is not only an enemy nation, but the enemy that resides within our hearts and minds -- anything that tries to weaken us, interfere with our mission, or cause us to forget who we are and what we are meant to do. It is this confusion and doubt that we are commanded to oblliterate.
5. This Shabbat is followed by a special week: the Fast of Esther on Monday, the celebration of Purim on Tuesday (except for Jerusalem), and the celebration of Shushan Purim in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
Shabbat shalom and have a happy Purim.
Building a palace: It all depends on how you look at the task you are doing.
One of my favorite stories concerning self-motivation is appropriate to the construction of the Mishkan which we are presently reading about in the Torah. The story goes like this:
It was a sweltering day. Three men were working as stonecutters in a rock quarry. Each one wielded a heavy hammer as he shaped the stones.
The first one was asked, "What are you doing?" and he answered. "Me? I am cutting stones." In other words, he described in the simplest terms the nature of his work.
The second was asked the same question and answered: "I'm making a living." That is, he had a goal in mind. He was not just cutting stones but working in order to buy food, clothing, and whatever else he needed to live.
"And what are you doing?" the third one was asked. "Me?" he answered with a gleam in his eye. "I'm building a palace."
Each of the workers gave a correct answer, but only the third one saw the bigger picture, the higher purpose for which he was exerting himself. He understood the importance of each small cut in each stone, just as the builders of the Mishkan appreciated each detail of each mitzvah involved in its construction.
May the many small acts and mitzvot we perform throughout our lives contribute to the building of a palace of goodness, lovingkindness, and closeness to God
And here is one mitzva coming up this week which is from a place (a palace?) full of lovingkindness - and should be kept as such and not be confused with outdoing the neighbors -
Every year I forget to publicize this special Purim story in time for the holiday. So here it is with several days to consider how to apply the lesson that it teaches.
In Megillat Esther, we find the mitzvah of mishloach manot, of "sending portions (of food and drink) from one friend to another." According to the halakha, we only need to send such portions to a single individual. Yet most of us send portions to lots of people, much to the delight of our children who serve as our emissaries, delivering our goodie baskets into the hands of the recipients. However, nearly always these baskets are delivered to friends and close acquaintances alone.
Several years ago, on Purim morning, someone who had not spoken to me or to my husband for several months knocked on our door. The three of us, along with several other people, had worked on a certain project which ended in a general conflict, leaving bitter feelings all around.
And suddenly one of these antagonists was at the door with a giant mishloach manot basket overflowing with sweets. The children began to dance around it and we began to talk to our former adversary. On every Purim since then I am reminded how mishloach manot are not only meant to be sent from one friend to another, but also to turn opponents into friends.
It is said that Yom Hakipurim contains an element of Purim since a literal meaning of kipurim is "like Purim." And so, as this story illustrates, Purim -- like Yom Hakipurim -- is an opportunity to request forgiveness of others and make amends.
It would appear that disagreements and tensions between people could disappear if only they would knock on each other's door, deliver mishloach manot, and wish each other a happy Purim.