TETZAVEH (Exodus, 27:20-30:10) / PURIM — “Hide and Seek”

Fast of Esther 

Tomorrow, February 25, is a fast day. The Fast of Esther usually takes place on the day before Purim.  However, this year Purim falls on a Sunday, and we don’t fast on Shabbos (with the exception of Yom Kippur.) Therefore, the fast is scheduled early. The fast 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 Thursday 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

This Saturday night and Sunday will be Purim, the most festive day on the Jewish calendar.  Learn about observing the Mitzvahs of Purim by clicking here.

“Hide and Seek” 

The two Readings coming up at the end of this week have something in common: The Book of Esther is the only book in the Bible that does not mention G-d’s name.  Tetzaveh, this week’s Torah Reading, is the only weekly Torah Portion from Exodus (the birth of Moses) until Deuteronomy (the beginning of Moses’ final sermon) that does not mention the name of Moses. 

The reasons for the deletions are very different.  Moses is left out of Tetzaveh as a bit of a “punishment.”  (More about that later.) 

G-d is not mentioned in the Megillah because all of the miracles of the Purim story are behind-the-scenes “natural” miracles.  All of the events in the Book of Esther are non-supernatural “coincidences” that “happen” to occur.  Events seem to fall into place to save the Jews of Persia from annihilation by Haman and his cronies.  As the saying goes, “coincidence is what G-d does when He wants to be anonymous.” 

At the time of the Exodus from Egypt, G-d chose to clearly and conclusively demonstrate that He is running the show.  He turned nature upside-down by transforming the Nile into blood and the Red Sea into a 12-lane superhighway.  In the Purim story, G-d limited His visibility and allowed His will to be done through politics, intrigue, and military action. 

This type of miracle, the anonymous Divine manipulation of events, seems to be the greater of the two.  Thus, we find in the Talmud that after the Messiah comes, Purim will still be celebrated although other holidays will not!! 

This is an essential thought for us to keep in mind during these trying times.  The Talmud tells us that this month, the Hebrew month of Adar, is an especially auspicious time for G-d to protect us from our enemies.  Purim is the time for us to open our hearts and our prayer books.  It is a time to beg our Creator to influence political and military leaders to bring an end to the violence against our People.  This is the time to ask G-d to once again frustrate the treacherous efforts of the Hamans of the world to destroy us. 

But will our prayers help?  That’s where Moses comes in. 

The Baal Haturim explains that the reason Moses’ name doesn’t appear in Tetzaveh is because of something we’ll read about in NEXT week’s Torah Reading.  After the episode of the Golden Calf, Moses begs G-d to forgive His People for the grave sin they had committed, “… and if not, please erase my name from the Book You have written.”  (Exodus, 32:32) 

Moses felt that he would be remiss in his devotion to his nation if he could not convince G-d to forgive them.  He preferred obscurity over being a central figure in a Torah that excluded the Nation of Israel. 

The Baal Haturim writes that when a righteous man like Moses says something, G-d listens.  Moses “cursed” himself, albeit conditionally, with exclusion from G-d’s Book.  Even that request could not go totally unanswered.  Therefore, the name of Moses was omitted from one section of the Torah.

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I would like to share an observation on Moses’ “banishment” from the section of Tetzaveh: 

The first verse of this supposedly Moses-less Torah Portion says: “You must command the Israelites to bring you olive oil…for the Eternal Light.”  (Exodus, 27:20) 

YOU must…”!?! To whom does the word “YOU” refer?  Obviously, Moses is being addressed here.  Moses is absent in name only. This section of the Torah contains commandments for Moses to fulfill.  His anonymity is only a technicality. 

The same holds true in G-d’s “absence” from the Megillah.  Moses, unnamed as he is, is a major player in this week’s Torah Portion.  Similarly, G-d, although we don’t see Him, is intimately involved in the lives of Esther, Mordecai, and Haman.  In fact, the Talmud (Chullin 139b) points out a link between Esther’s name and G-d’s supposed absence: 

“I will surely hide (in Hebrew, HASTAIR ASTIR – sounds like ESTHER) My face on that day. (Deuteronomy, 31:18)  The Talmud sees this verse as a hint of a future time when G-d will act behind the scenes through Esther.

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G-d is equally involved, sometimes incognito, in your life and in mine. 

Isaiah says in the Haftarah that is read on the Fast of Esther, “Seek G-d where He can be found, call Him when He is near…” (Isaiah, 55:6) 

G-d is ALWAYS in the neighborhood.  True, He’s a bit on the quiet side right now; He’s not splitting any seas at the moment.  But make no mistake, He is right here, waiting to hear from us. 

When G-d decides to hide, it becomes our job to seek. 

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 February 24, 2010 at 7:40 am  Comments (1)  

One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Nice Vort. have a Good Shabbos.

    —Yossie


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