TETZAVEH (Exodus, 27:20-30:10)/PURIM — “Galbanum in Spice, so Everything’s Nice!”

Fast of Esther 

Wednesday, March 7, is a fast day. The Fast of Esther commemorates the war of the Jews of the Persian Empire against their enemies that took place on that date.  In keeping with Jewish tradition, the Jews repented and fasted in hope for G-d’s assistance in battling their enemies.  Let us pray that He will continue to watch over us and protect us.

The fast begins Wednesday at dawn, (72 minutes before sunrise.) It ends at dusk, (25-72 minutes after sunset, depending upon local custom.)  For sunrise and sunset times for your community click here.

Purim

Wednesday night and Thursday will be Purim, the most festive day on the Jewish calendar. 

Learn about Purim by reading this brochure.  (Better still, print out copies and give it to your friends!)

“Galbanum in Spice, so Everything’s Nice!”

This week’s Torah Portion continues last week’s topic of the Tabernacle in the desert.  Last week, the Torah spoke about the building itself, as well as the “furniture.”  This week’s Portion focuses primarily on the Priests and some of the Services they were to perform in the Tabernacle.  

The Torah reading concludes with the Mitzvah of Ketores – incense.  The Priest was required to burn incense on a special Altar every morning and every afternoon.  The sweet smell of the incense serves to endear us to our Creator.  In fact, the Talmud tells us that while Moses was in Heaven receiving the Torah, the Angel of Death divulged to him that he could “assuage” G-d’s anger with incense.  (See Deuteronomy, 17:6-15, where Aaron ends a Divine plague by igniting incense.) 

Why was the incense so special and powerful? 

The incense consisted of eleven spices.  Among those spices were “Mor d’ror” – pure myrrh, which our sages consider to be the foremost of all spices, and “Chelbenah” – galbanum.  Galbanum is a foul-smelling material whose negative influence is somehow obscured by the other ingredients.   When the Nation of Israel serves G-d, all must be included.  In the introductory prayers of Yom Kippur, we declare that  “…we permit praying together with sinners.” 

We are not an elitist nation.  Just as the galbanum with its repulsive smell is included in the incense, so too are all Jews, regardless of their level of observance, included in our prayers.

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It is the pure myrrh that brings it all together. 

“…Pure myrrh...”  “Mor d’ror” in Hebrew; “Mor dachi” in Aramaic.  Sound familiar?  The Talmud sees the mention of this spice as allusion to Mordechai, of Purim fame. 

It was Mordechai, with his concern for his entire nation, who appealed to G-d in Heaven to thwart Haman’s evil designs. 

One of the Mitzvahs of Purim is Mishloach Manos, gifts of food to friends.  Another Mitzvah is to send gifts to the poor

The People of Israel have no shortage of enemies from the outside.  Our obligation is to make sure we have none on the inside.  When there is unity among the People of Israel, ALL the People of Israel, we can then call upon G-d for Divine Protection. 

There is no sweeter smell than the holy incense known as “Shalom.”

Have a great Shabbos and a happy Purim.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

 “Hide and Seek”  (2010) 

… when a righteous man like Moses says something, G-d listens.  Moses “cursed” himself, albeit conditionally … Even that request could not go totally unanswered … 

Read more

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 “Heartburn — Full Time!” (2008) 

…Torah study is a full-time job: 

This Book of the Torah is not to leave your mouth.  You shall contemplate it day and night, in order to observe, to do, all that is written in it.  (Joshua, 1:8) 

… Rabbi Yochanan … said that if one recites the Shema every morning and every evening, he has fulfilled the requirement of “This Book of the Torah is not to leave your mouth.  You shall contemplate it day and night.” 

…   How… do we define a few moments of prayer in the morning and then again in the evening as a fulfillment of that verse?  A quick 2-minute Shema twice a day, spending the rest of the day engaged in trivial pursuits, and we call that “contemplating it day and night”?  Who are we trying to fool? … 

Read more.

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  “Clothes FAKE the Man” (2007) 

…How does such an event take place?  How do children of Holocaust survivors participate in a conference whose purpose was to deny the obvious truth?  How could they stand arm-in-arm with people who want to see them dead? 

There are only two possibilities.  They are either wicked, evil, despicable people, or they are out of their minds… 

Read more

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“Light up your Life!” (2006) 

…The Menorah, which remained lit 24/7/365, could only be fueled with oil that was “crushed for lighting.”  Olives were crushed by hand in a mortar until a single drop, totally clear of sediment, came out.  This “custom-made” clear olive oil, crushed for lighting, was the only oil that was acceptable for the Menorah.  (Obviously, they went through a lot of olives!) 

After the first drop came out, the olives were ground in a mill.  The resultant oil, although unfit for the Menorah, was acceptable as an ingredient in meal offerings.  Rashi explains that the Menorah lighting oil could not have any sediment in it.  For the meal offerings, however, this was not a problem. 

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, of Blessed Memory, explains why the Menorah was different from the meal offerings… 

Read more.

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“Tea Leaves and Poison Ivy” (2005) 

Yale University is one of the most prestigious centers of learning in the world.  There is a great deal of knowledge that can be acquired in that historic institution. 

I once tried to read a Yale diploma.  There was a problem.  While I can speak, read, and understand, at various levels of proficiency, English, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Yiddish, I wasn’t prepared for the diploma from “Universitatis Yalensis.”  When it comes to reading or understanding Latin, as the saying goes, “It’s Greek to me!” 

But wait! I noticed an old friend! Was that – yes! It was! – Hebrew! Perhaps I would be able to read something after all. The logo consisted of an open book with Hebrew letters… 

Yale University!  That honored, venerable storehouse of knowledge!  How could people who are so intelligent act so goofy?! … 

Read more.

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“Galbanum in Spice, so Everything’s Nice!” (2004) 

… The Priest was required to burn incense on a special Altar every morning and every afternoon.  The sweet smell of the incense serves to endear us to our Creator.  In fact, the Talmud tells us that while Moses was in Heaven receiving the Torah, the Angel of Death divulged to him that he could “assuage” G-d’s anger with incense.  (See Deuteronomy, 17:6-15, where Aaron ends a Divine plague by igniting incense.) 

Why was the incense so special and powerful?… 

Read more.

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“Dress to Impress” (2003) 

… Why is the Torah putting so much emphasis on clothes?  Does it really matter how the Kohain is dressed?  Doesn’t that seem superficial?  Isn’t it what’s inside, what’s in his heart, that really counts? … 

Read more.

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“Bless Your Heart!”  (2002)

… Wouldn’t it be great to always know the correct answer to your question? 

In the Temple, this was the case.  The High Priest wore a breastplate … embedded with stones that lit up to answer questions. … When the High Priest was asked a question, certain letters lit up.  The High Priest would then determine the answer by figuring out what the letters were spelling. 

How did this lofty and holy work end up in the hands of the “Aaronites?”  What did Aaron do to deserve such honor? … 

Read more.

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 This is the weekly message at www.torahtalk.org.   Copyright © 2000-2011 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (www.Brisrabbi.com)  and chaplain in Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on March 4, 2004 at 7:53 am  Leave a Comment  

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