Purim/TETZAVEH (Exodus, 27:20-30:10) – “Who ARE our Friends in Washington?”

Fast of Esther 

Wednesday, March 4, 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.


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!)


“Who ARE our Friends in Washington?”

It is a frightening world in which we live.

A madman in Iran is bent on “L’hashmid laharog ul’abeid – to slay, to destroy, to exterminate…”  (Esther, 3:13) – the total destruction of every man, woman and child of the Jewish faith.  It would be nice if we had a dependable friend in the White House, but very little that we have heard from the Obama Administration provides any assurance that he’s got our back.

This is not the first time a Persian lunatic has threatened our existence.

Who is the person who would dare to do such a thing?” asked King Achashveirosh.

Esther responded, “Ish tzar v’oyeiv – an adversary and an enemy… (Ibid, 7:6-6)

The next words in the verse identify the evil Haman.  But our Sages tell us that Queen Esther was actually referring to the king himself, and only due to the influence of an angel, did she change her mind and say Haman instead.

King Ahasuerus was not an innocent pawn in the Purim story.  He was an enemy of Israel who celebrated the Temple’s destruction by desecrating the holy vessels and vestments at his party.  Even when promising his beloved queen half the world, he included the disclaimer that rebuilding the Temple was not on the table.

Haman was an Amalekite – a descendant of Esau and a member of a nation of sworn enemies of Israel.  But putting all the blame on Haman the Amalekite is a mistake.  After all, he served at the king’s whim.  It was the Persian king who elevated Haman, (Ibid, 3:1) and in the end, it was the Persian king who eliminated Haman. (7:9)

The enemy was Ahasuerus.  You don’t have to be an Amalekite to act like one. 

There is no shortage of Amalek-wannabes in the Middle East, Europe, or Washington. 

(No, I am not comparing Obama to Haman or Amalek or Ahasueros.  However much of his words and actions — and non-actions — evoke nostalgic memories of previous, friendlier Administrations.  I can’t envision ANY previous President treating an Israeli Prime Minister with such disrespect.)

As long as the world engages in the double standard of criticizing Israel for everything and blindly promoting the “Palestinian Cause” we see that Amalek is alive and well.  And, as long as the world is not prepared to take on Iran in a serious and meaningful way, that means that once again, Israel may have to go it alone.

But ARE we alone?

The Talmud asks why Esther invited Haman to her party.  Why didn’t she just tell the king to get rid of Haman, and that would have been the end of it?

One reason given is that Esther didn’t want her brethren to get overconfident:  “We have a sister in the palace.  She’ll take care of everything!”

Once the Jews of the kingdom saw that Esther was socializing with Haman, they feared that she had sold them out.  They saw that they had no “protectzia.” (Israeli slang for “influence.”)   They had no political connections to help them out.

They saw that they had nowhere to turn but to their Father in Heaven.  They saw that they needed to pray their hearts out to the Guardian of Israel to save them from their enemies.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Whom can we rely upon?  Obama?  The UN?  The EU? 

The Israel Defense Forces???

Prime Minister Netanyahu recently stated that “… my supreme responsibility as prime minister of Israel is to ensure that Israel remains the master of its fate.”

I understand the point that he was trying to make, but I wish he had used a different choice of words.

No, Mr. Prime Minister.  Israel is NOT the master of its fate.  The Master of the World is the Master of Israel’s fate. 

By all means, we need to be politically active and Israel needs to be militarily prepared.  And the time may come when Israel may need to decide to take military action, with, or without, American cooperation. 

But we are not the masters of our fate.  We are merely the masters of our DECISIONS.  How those decisions work out is determined by a Power greater than ourselves.

We only have One reliable Protector.  That’s the Protector Who acted behind the scenes in the Purim story, and continues to watch over us to this very day.

In this Purim season let us turn our prayers toward Heaven and pray that our Father will once again save us from the Amalekites in Persia/Iran and all over the world.

Have a great Shabbos and a happy Purim.
Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

To leave a comment about this article, or to read other readers’ comments on this article, scroll down past the archive links.
Articles from the Archives about Purim and about this week’s Torah Portion


“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.


On the surface, they couldn’t be more different.  Yom Kippur is a somber day of fasting, contemplation, and prayer.  Purim is a day of feasting, celebration, and, ok, prayer.  On Yom Kippur, we focus on the spiritual.  On Purim, it seems, we focus on the material.

I must confess that my choice of a title to this article was inaccurate.  Purim is not like Yom Kippur; on the contrary, Yom Kippur is a day that attempts to be like Purim!…

Read more.
This week’s Torah Portion — TETZAVEH 

 “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.


 “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.


  “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.


“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.


“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.


“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.


“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.


“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

 This is the weekly message at www.torahtalk.org.   Copyright © 2000-2015 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.
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 on February 26, 2015 at 9:29 am  Leave a Comment  

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