“The Way of G-d”

Ramchal

“The Way of G-d”

Part 1: “The Fundamental Principles of Reality”

Ch 5: The Different Realms and Their Specific Situations
Paragraph 4

According to what we’d said, everything begins up above and streams down below. But there’s one exception to that which touches on man’s place in all of this. Since G-d wanted man to have free will 1 He enabled him to circumvent this pattern and to initiate actions on his own from down below so as to stream upward 2.

So there are two contradictory thrusts in the universe: the natural state of things going from up above downward starting with the Transcendent Forces 3, and the free-will based one 4 going from down below upward starting with man’s freely made actions 5.

Now, as a rule, we can only control physical things, since we’re physical beings ourselves who do physical things 6. But given that there’s a connection between the upper and lower realms 7, those upper realms are indeed affected when lower realm things are set off, and they thus affect an unexpected stream upward from down below.

Still-and-all we must remember that not all of man’s actions are free, since some of them are decreed upon him based on reward and punishment 8. So, the latter sorts of actions are initiated up above as usual, while the former 9 are initiated down below 10.

Notes:

1. See note 2 to 1:3:1 for a discussion of free will.

2. … as well as downward and sideways.

That is, while everything in the physical world is a passive and powerless recipient of whatever streams down upon it from up above, man alone can actively and freely affect that stream and even have it turn back upon itself so that it streams upwards.

Man is thus a true and very potent anomaly in the universe — as long as he acts out of his free will. If he were to simply accept the stream from above without input, then he too would be a passive recipient of what’s above and would affect nothing in the heavens.

Of course there are things we simply can’t do even if we freely decide to — like fly off into the distance on our own. So it’s important to point out that the freedom of will we have is the freedom to make ethical and mitzvah-related choices — to do particular things that affect others and the world at large, or to refrain from doing them. Everything else is beyond our control.

Understand, though, that man could very well affect things in the material world even when he doesn’t act out of free will, since the laws of physics, chemistry, and the like all come into play despite man’s intentions.

3. This is known philosophically as the “deterministic” system (because it’s the one determined by G-d without man’s input).

4. This is termed the “non-deterministic” system (since it isn’t determined beforehand).

5. We’re thus to see the playing-out of the universe as a great dance within which the Transcendent Forces sometimes lead and we follow; and other times when we lead and the Forces follow.

6. See the end of note 2 above.

7. See 1:5:2.

8. That is, G-d Himself isn’t beholden to our free will; He is above it and can affect changes despite our freely made actions.

See 2:3:4.

9. I.e., man’s freely made actions.

10. See Ma’amar HaIkkurim, “b’Hashgacha” and Sefer Derech Eitz Chaim

Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has translated and commented upon “The Gates of Repentance”, “The Path of the Just”, and “The Duties of the Heart” (Jason Aronson Publishers). His works are available in bookstores and in various locations on the Web.

Aramaic Apocryphon of Daniel

Aramaic Apocryphon of Daniel
The Dead Sea Scrolls fragment formerly known
as the “Son of God document,” “Aramaic Apoca-
lypse,” or “Pseudo-Daniel,” and now officially pub-
lished as “4QapocrDan ar” (4Q246), consists of one
and a half columns of nine lines each. In the pre-
served text a Daniel-like figure explains before
the throne the meaning of a king’s vision: in or
after a period of tribulation, involving the king(s)
of Assyria and Egypt, a figure will appear who
“will be called the Son of God, and whom one will
name Son of the Most High” (4Q246 II 1). A few
lines later we read that “the people of God will
arise” (4Q246 II 4), that “his/its kingdom will be
an eternal kingdom” (4Q246 II 5) and “his/its do-
minion will be an eternal dominion” (4Q246 II 9),
phrases which are also used in Dan 7:27 and Dan
7:14. Due to the incomplete text of column I, the
identity of the figure who will be called “Son of
God” and “Son of the Most High” is not clear.
Scholars have suggested that he is a messianic fig-
ure (whether heavenly or earthly, or collectively
standing for the people of God, or merely a future
Davidic ruler; Collins and Cross), or, on the con-
trary, an adversary royal figure, whether historical,
Seleucid (Seleucidic Empire) or Hasmonean,
or apocalyptic, claiming divine sonship (overview
in Fitzmyer). In the first case, the eternal kingship
and dominion would be that of a messianic Son of
God, like that of the Son of Man in Dan 7:13, and
anticipating the New Testament; but if the one
who is called Son of God is an adversary, then the
eternal kingship of dominion must be of the people
of God, as in Dan 7:27. Such uncertainties make
it difficult to ascertain the relation of 4Q246 to
Daniel and to Luke 1. Collins, who identifies the figure
with an earthly messiah, argues that the text alludes to
Dan 7 and that the Son of God figure may be a
reinterpreta-tion of the “one like a son of man” of Dan 7.
Puech, however, considers the text contemporaneous with
Daniel, towards the end of the reign of Antio-chus IV Epiphanes.
There are several verbal corre-
spondences between 4Q246 and Luke 1:32–35. If
the Son of God in 4Q246 is a messiah, then there
may be a literary relation, direct or indirect, be-
tween Luke and 4Q246. However, if 4Q246 refers
to an adversary historical royal figure, then both
texts, using the phrase “he will be called” would
be using traditional terminology related to the in-
vestiture of kings.
Bibliography:
J. J. Collins,Daniel (Hermeneia; Minneapois 1993) 77–79.
Id.,The Scepter and the Star
(New York 1995) 154–72.
F. M. Cross, “The Structure of the Apocaypse of ‘Son of God’ (4Q246),” in
Emanuel  FS E. Tov (eds.
S. M. Paul et al.; VTSup 94; Leiden/Boston 2003) 151–58.
J. A. Fitzmyer, “The Aramaic ‘Son of God’ Text from
Qumran Cave 4 (4Q246),” in Id.,
The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins
(Grand Rapids, MI 2000) 41–61.
Puech, “246. 4QApocryphe de Daniel ar,”DJD
XXII (Oxford 1996) 165–84.
Eibert Tigchelaar

The Laws of Hearing Parashat Zachor

Sefardi Beit Sefer

On the Shabbat preceding Purim, which is this coming Shabbat, after the opening of the Holy Ark immediately following Shacharit prayers, two Sifrei Torah are removed; in the first one, we read the weekly Parasha (Parashat Tetzaveh) and in the second one we read the portion of “Zachor Et Asher Asa Lecha Amalek” (“Remember what Amalek has done to you”). This Torah portion is referred to as “Parashat Zachor”. (Parashat Zachor can be found at the end of Parashat Ki Tetzeh in the Book of Devarim.)

According to most Poskim, the reading of Parashat Zachor is a Torah obligation. Since the Halacha is well-known that “Mitzvot require intention” (Shulchan Aruch, Chapter 60, Section 4), one must take care while listening to Parashat Zachor to have in mind to fulfill the Torah obligation of remembering the actions of Amalek and obligation to annihilate them. Similarly, the one reading from the Torah…

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Sending Mishloach Manot to a Diabetic

Question: If one sends sweets to one’s friend as Mishloach Manot and the recipient does not partake of these sweets since he is a diabetic and abstains from eating foods containing sugar, has the sender fulfilled his obligation of Mishloach Manot?

Answer: Let us introduce this topic by saying that there is a disagreement among the Poskim regarding whether or not one can send uncooked foods, such as raw meat or chicken, as Mishloach Manot. Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l rules that one does indeed fulfill his obligation in this way since the recipient can cook the meat and it will then be edible. Thus, there is no obligation to send specifically foods that are immediately ready for consumption as Mishloach Manot.

Regarding our question, Hagaon Harav Yosef Cohen zt”l (who was a member of the rabbinical court alongside Maran zt”l) writes that he is unsure regarding this matter, for although we rule that one does indeed fulfill his obligation of Mishloach Manot by sending raw meat, nevertheless, the meat is still worthy for use by the recipient who can cook it and prepare delicacies for the Purim feast with it. However, regarding foods containing sugar which were sent to someone who we know cannot eat them, although the foods are intrinsically worthy to be used as Mishloach Manot, there is nevertheless room to claim that one does not fulfill his obligation of Mishloach Manot by sending them.

Similarly, Hagaon Harav Yehoshua Newirth zt”l (author of the Sefer Shemirat Shabbat Ke’Hilchata) rules that one does not fulfill his obligation with such Mishloach Manot that the recipient cannot partake of, for the entire basis for the Mitzvah of Mishloach Manot is for friends to gladden one another by joyously partaking of the food gifts during the Purim feast; in our scenario, on the other hand, the recipient cannot eat them at all.

Nevertheless, Hagaon Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l is quoted as saying that one does indeed fulfill his obligation with such Mishloach Manot. His proof to this is that if one sends dairy food items to one’s friend as Mishloach Manot, he clearly fulfills his obligation even when he knows that the recipient has eaten meat during his Purim feast which will prevent him from partaking of the foods until past nightfall; even so, there is no doubt that he has fulfilled his obligation. We can deduce from here that anytime one sends food items that are edible, regardless of whether or not that specific recipient can partake of them, one does indeed fulfill his obligation, as long as they are considered food items edible by most people.

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l points out that there is an apparent distinction between these two cases, for whereas regarding dairy food items, the recipient will eventually be able to partake of them (it is just a matter of time) and he thus feels joy upon receiving such food gifts and camaraderie is indeed increased, regarding Mishloach Manot containing foods that the recipient will never be able to eat, this is not the case and there is no great joy felt by the recipient.

Nevertheless, Maran zt”l concludes that since this Mishloach Manot serves as a tribute and symbol of love and friendship in addition to the fact that the recipient’s family members will indeed be able to partake of the sweets and that the prevalent custom is to send different kinds of sweets and goodies as a show of fondness, in our situation, one does indeed fulfill his obligation even if the recipient cannot partake of the foods himself.

However, if there is concern that the recipient may be unhappy to receive such gifts, for instance, sending this type of Mishloach Manot to a youngster who cannot have sweets and by sending this to him, this reminds him of his situation, one should indeed refrain from sending such items to such an individual. One should make an effort to send a Mishloach Manot package befitting the recipient so that he may enjoy it during his Purim feast.

Parshas Tetzaveh

Note: The Shabbos Torah Reading is divided into 7 sections. Each section is called an Aliya [literally: Go up] since for each Aliya, one person “goes up” to make a bracha [blessing] on the Torah Reading.

The following Aliya summary will list the numerous laws detailed in Parshas Mishpatim. A total of 53 Mitzvot are commanded.

1st Aliya: The Parsha opens with the commandment to use pure olive oil in lighting the Menorah. Aharon and his four sons were selected to be the Kohanim. The basic garments of a Kohain consisted of a turban, shirt, pants, and belt. The Kohain Gadol wore four additional garments: the Me’ill – a long outer robe; the Ayphod – a quilted vest or bibbed apron; the Choshen – jeweled breastplate; and the Tzitz – engraved, golden, forehead plate. The quilted vest is described in this Aliya along with the two Shoham stones. These were engraved with the names of the 12 Tribes and set on the shoulders of the Kohain Gadol.

2nd Aliya: The cloth settings for the Shoham stones are described along with the jeweled breastplate. The method of fastening the breastplate to the quilted vest is explained. The breastplate was a quilted garment set with 12 stones, each engraved with the name of a Tribe.

3rd Aliya: The long outer robe is described. The hem of this garment was edged with small bells intended to announce the presence of the Kohain Gadol as he walked through the Bais Hamikdash. (From this the Gemara derives that a husband, prior to entering the door of his own home, out of respect for his wife, should announce his arrival by knocking on the door.) The engraved, golden forehead plate and the Kohain Gadol’s turban are described, along with the four basic garments worn by all Kohanim. All the garments were hand made of the finest white linen. The special vestments of the Kohain Gadol were woven from a special thread spun from five different colored threads, including a thread made of pure gold.

4th, 5th, & 6th Aliyot: The seven day ceremony consecrating the Kohanim into their priestly service is detailed along with the consecration of the Mizbeach – Altar.

7th Aliya: The last vessel to be described is the inner, golden Altar, used to burn the daily incense offering. This offering, as well as the daily preparation for the lighting of the Menorah, could only be performed by the Kohain Gadol. The special mixture of incense called the Kitores, could only be formulated for this purpose. (The renowned biblical archeologist, Vendell Jones, claims to have unearthed a hidden cache containing 600 kilos of the Kitores, buried before the 1st Bais Hamikdash was destroyed.)

Maftir Zachor

This week, in addition to the regular Parsha, we read Parshas Zachor. Parshas Zachor is the 2nd of the four special Shabbosim preceding Pesach when additional portions are read from the Torah. The first special Shabbos was Parshas Shekalim. This week we read Zachor, and in a few weeks we will read Parah and Chodesh. There are set rules which determine when each of these additional Parshios is to be read. Parshas Zachor is always read on the Shabbos before Purim.

On Parshas Zachor, we read the additional Parsha found in Devarim, 25:17. As a nation, we were commanded to destroy the nation of Amalek. This nation came into existence at the same time as we did. Esav’s son Elifaz had a son Amalek. Esav and Elifaz’s legacy to Amalek was an undying hatred against the children of Yakov.

At the time of the exodus from Egypt, Amalek traveled hundreds of miles to ambush the newly freed nation in the hope of destroying them. We, as a nation, did not pose any threat to their sovereignty. They lived to the east of Canaan and were not among the Seven Nations occupying Eretz Yisroel. Nevertheless, their irrational hatred against Hashem and us compelled them to attack a harmless and seemingly defenseless nation. In the aftermath of their attack we were commanded to always remember the evil that is Amalek. It is the reading of this Parsha that is the fulfillment of this Biblical commandment. This mitzvah, according to most authorities, is not restricted by time and must be fulfilled by men and woman.

The Rabbi’s selected the Shabbos before Purim for the fulfillment of this Mitzvah because Haman was a direct descendent of Amalek, and Mordecai was a direct descendent of King Saul. The entire story of Purim is directly linked to this Mitzvah and the missed opportunity of King Saul that we read about in the Haftorah.

Haftorah Zachor
Shmuel I – 15:2

This week’s Haftorah takes place 2,873 years ago. In the year 2883 – 878 b.c.e. King Shaul was sent by G-d to destroy the nation of Amalek. Agag was their king, and it was a singular moment in history when every member of Amalek was in one place at the same time. Shaul, as per Shmuel Hanavi’s instructions, was successful in destroying Amalek. However, as the Haftorah clearly states, Shaul had mercy and allowed the king, Agag, to remain alive, as well as the captured cattle. The commentaries state that in the interim, Agag was able to impregnate a maidservant, from which the nation of Amalek would survive. Hashem told Shmuel that Shaul’s neglect of His command to totally destroy Amalek must result in Shaul loosing the right to be king. Despite Shmuel’s prayers for mercy, Hashem didn’t relent, and Shmuel went to tell Shaul of G-d’s punishment.

The connection to Purim is well documented. Haman is called, “the Agagi”. He was a direct descendent of Agag. In ascertaining Hashem’s mercy and justice, we are forced to acknowledge our limited understanding. The notion of killing men woman and children is thankfully foreign and abhorrent to us. Nevertheless, Shaul was commanded to eradicate the entire nation.

The Haftorah identifies Shaul’s sin in not fulfilling G-d’s commandment as misplaced mercy. Had he known that, 521 years later, his merciful act would result in the potential extermination of the entire Jewish people, Shaul would not have had mercy on Agag and the cattle. It is the responsibility of a king to think beyond the immediate and do what has to be done to guarantee the future of his nation. Being that no single human can ever guarantee the future, he has no choice but to listen to Hashem’s commandments and do as he is told. That insures the future.

The message of Purim is the story of our Haftorah. Hashem works His miracles through the normal passage of time. Actions done today set in motion ripples in time that radiate far into the future.

May today’s celebration of Purim set in motion the redemption of tomorrow!

Parsah TETZAVEH

UNIVERSAL TORAH: TETZAVEH

By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum

Torah Reading: TETZAVEH Exodus 27:20-30:10

LIFE IN THE HOUSE

In last week’s parshah of TERUMAH, the Torah taught us the form and shape of the House of G-d with all its vessels. In this week’s parshah of TETZAVEH, we receive instructions about the daily activities that are to take place in that House. The central core of the parshah is taken up with detailed instructions about the making of the garments of those who are to be the ministering attendants in the House — Aaron and his sons, the priests — and about the sacrifices that were to be offered during their seven-day initiation.

It may help us to grasp the overall structure of TETZAVEH by again using the “sandwich” idea. In this case, the top and bottom of the “sandwich” would be the opening and closing sections of the parshah, which give instructions about the “daily life” in the House. TETZAVEH starts by introducing in its two opening verses (Ex. 27;20-21) the daily lighting of the Menorah candelabrum in the House using the choicest oil — this opening section would be one side of the “sandwich”. Then at the end of TETZAVEH (Ex. 29:38-45; 30:1-10) we come to the other side of the “sandwich”. This consists of the sections dealing with the daily animal sacrifices, meal, oil and wine offerings on the outside Altar, the pleasing fragrance (the incense burned in the House on the golden Incense Altar) and finally (returning to the parshah’s opening theme), the daily lighting of the Menorah.

In the middle of this “sandwich” are two considerably lengthier sections. The first gives instructions in fine detail for the making of the garments of those who are to minister in the House — Aaron and his sons, the priests. The second gives the detailed instructions for what was to be a one-time event in the Wilderness: the 7-day initiation of Aaron and his sons into the priesthood that was to lead up to the permanent induction of the Sanctuary on 1st Nissan. (Because of the central importance of this day in the Torah, we will be returning several times in later parshahs to the description of its events – in PEKUDEY at the end of Exodus as well as in several parshahs in Leviticus and Numbers.)

* * *

THE ATTENDANTS — AARON AND HIS SONS

A basic assumption underlies all sections of our present parshah of TETZAVEH, from beginning to end. The assumption is that the attendants conducting the daily life of the House, about whose daily activities, garments and induction-day we read in such detail, are to be none other than Aaron and his sons.

Throughout our parshah, the entire focus is upon Aaron and his sons, their activities, garments and induction. Indeed it is a fact that the actual name of Moses does not appear anywhere in our parshah from beginning to end, though he is addressed directly in its opening words, VE-ATAH TETZAVEH, “And YOU shall command…” and moreover, he was to be the central actor in the priests’ induction. [It is said that one reason why Moses’ actual name was left out of this week’s parshah is because Moses was later to pray — in next week’s parshah Ex. 32:33 — “blot me out from Your book.”. However, that prayer had already been answered before it was said, since G-d “blotted out” Moses name by not writing it anywhere in this week’s parshah!]

Addressing now the central assumption — that it is to be Aaron and his sons who will play the role of ministers in the House of the dwelling of the Holy Presence:

It must be understood that EIN MUKDAM O ME-UCHAR BATORAH: “There is no ‘before’ and ‘after’ in the Torah”. The reason for the appointment of Aaron and his sons and none other to be the priests ministering in the House does not become apparent in the Torah narrative until next week’s parshah of KI TISA, with the account of the sin of the Golden Calf. Yet even before the reason became manifest, their appointment was already conceived in the mind and will of G-d prior to that event, as we see from this week’s parshah of TETZAVEH.

The first-born of the Children of Israel were originally offered an opportunity to become the ones who would serve as the priests. Indeed at the Giving of the Torah, it was the first-born — the “lads” (Ex. 24:5) — of the Children of Israel who officiated at the sacrifices, as we read in MISHPATIM. However, with the sin of the Golden Calf (told next week in KI TISA), the first-born of the Children of Israel failed the crucial test. From that time on, the Priesthood was given to Aaron and his descendants as an hereditary gift for all time.

* * *

HEREDITARY PRIESTHOOD

In an era when public office in virtually all “advanced” countries is theoretically open to all citizens, the role of an hereditary priesthood, which is at the very center of the Torah’s system of penitence — the Sanctuary and Temple rituals — calls for some explanation.

Much of Genesis is taken up with disputes about who is to serve in the role of the “priest”. Cain struggled with Abel. Ishmael fought against Isaac. Esau fought against Jacob. Reuven was the first-born, but Levi took the initiative, Judah, fourth in line, became the leader, while it was the righteous Joseph (against whom all the brothers struggled) who received a firstborn’s double portion of two-tribes. And then Ephraim took priority over firstborn Menashe.

In Exodus: Levy’s second son, Kehat, took priority over Levy’s firstborn, Gershon. Amram was indeed Kehat’s firstborn, yet while the priesthood went to Amram’s older son, Aaron, the latter was secondary in prophecy to his younger brother, Moses. The firstborn of the Children of Israel had a brief taste of the priesthood at the time of the Giving of the Torah, 50 days after having been saved from the plague that killed all the Egyptian firstborn. However the Israelite firstborn were displaced from their “birth-right” — hereditary priesthood forever — owing to the sin of the Golden Calf.

This raises the question of the nature of the priesthood in Judaism, which is relevant to our parshah of TETZAVEH, all of which is devoted to the daily duties of the priests, their garments and their induction service.

It is true that the tribe of Levi (who did not participate in the sin of the Golden Calf), and the Kohanim are in many respects separate hereditary castes. Nevertheless, it remains the case that the ideal social structure of the Israelites as envisaged in the Torah is remarkably free of the social hierarchies and inequalities that characterize even the most “democratic” societies.

In particular, Israelite society is envisaged as one that should be free of any kind of extensive hierarchical network of full-time religious functionaries who act as intermediaries between the people and G-d, and whose service before their passive congregants takes the place of the individual’s personal relationship with G-d.

This is true, notwithstanding the fact that only the Kohanim (male descendants of Aaron), and members of the tribe of Levy could actually serve in the Temple, and only the Kohanim could perform certain vital ritual functions (such as purification from leprosy). Nevertheless, the Temple itself had a relatively small number of permanent priestly officials who were responsible for the maintenance of the House. The actual sacrificial services in the House were conducted by different priests every day. Each of the 24 contingents of priests into which the Kohanim were divided served for two weeks out of the year and on festivals, spending the rest of their time teaching Torah among the people in the localities where they lived. The only outstanding exception to this rule, besides the small core of permanent Temple staff, was the High Priest, who spent all his time in Jerusalem, most of it in the Temple itself.

It is certainly correct that the Kohanim were an hereditary priestly caste, who received TERUMAH, the first gift from everyone’s crops, as well as portions of meat, wool and various other gifts. This is what they lived off. The purpose of providing the members of this caste with their material needs was to enable them to devote themselves to a higher-than-average level of devotion (as expressed in eating of Terumah and sacrificial portions in ritual purity) and to the study of the Torah. It was the Kohanim who were expected to be able to play the role of the Torah judges (see Deuteronomy 19:17) in cases of disputes. They were also to play the central role in the “diagnosis” and “purification” of leprosy and other maladies (Leviticus Ch. 13ff.)

Nevertheless, it remains true that despite their exclusive role in the Temple sacrificial services and in the purification from leprosy, the Kohanim were not religious intermediaries who in some sense REPLACED the personal connection of the individual with G-d.

The Children of Israel were envisaged as a nation of free, independent small land-owners, each farming his own and sitting under his vine and fig-tree. Only in dire circumstances would one be sold as a slave to another (as instituted in MISHPATIM). Even one who fell into slavery would eventually go free at the end of seven years or in the Jubilee year. In the seventh year, all debts were to be cancelled. Those who had sold their land would get it back in the Jubilee year. The vision was not of a country where most of the wealth is permanently concentrated in the hands of a small elite.

Just as all of the Children of Israel heard the First Commandment, so they were all commanded to serve the One G-d, each through his own prayers and acts of service. The Torah commands that all of the Children of Israel must be holy (Leviticus 19:2). Everyone must strive to go in G-d’s ways. Becoming a Nazirite is considered an excess — the Nazirite must bring a sin-offering! There are no monks in Judaism.

Outside of the Temple itself, Israelite life was intended to be free of an elite of religious functionaries. Although the Kohen and Levy are honored by being called first and second to the public Torah reading, the actual synagogue and its services are run by its members, the majority of them Israelites. The service can only take place if a quorum of 10 Israelites is present. There is no need for an official rabbi as long as somebody present — any Israelite — knows how to lead the service and read from the Torah. The “functionaries” in Israelite society are the “captains of tens”, “captains of fifties”, “captains of hundreds” and “captains of thousands”. These must be “men of valor, G-d-fearing, men of truth, hating gain” (Ex. 18:21) — but they do not have to be Kohanim. In the Torah vision of the Israelite state, membership of the Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court of the state, is not to depend on heredity or wealth but only on Torah wisdom and personal sanctity.

What then is the role of the hereditary Kohanim, whose Temple service, garments and induction are the subject of our parshah of TETZAVEH?

The key concept necessary to understand the role of the Kohen, particularly that of the Kohen Gadol (High Priest), is the concept of KAPARAH — atonement. This and related concepts recur several times in our parshah. The purpose of the precious stones that were attached to the High Priest’s shoulders and bore the names of the tribes of Israel was that they should be “remembered” by G-d with favor. The wearing of the TZITZ, the head-plate inscribed “Holy to HaShem”, was to secure atonement for impurity. The closing verse of our parshah speaks of how the High Priest must annually sprinkle the golden Incense Altar with the blood of the Day of Atonement sin-offering in order to bring about KAPARAH — atonement.

The institution of the priesthood was not intended to replace individual attachment to G-d on the part of each person through his own devotions. While the Kohanim are charged with maintaining the Holy Temple as the central focus of Israelite and indeed world religious life (for “My House is the House of Prayer for all the Nations), their role in the devotional life of the individual is of significance primarily when the individual, independent “citizen” TURNS ASIDE from the path and falls into sin. He is then unable to help himself. If he is liable to bring a sacrifice, he needs a Kohen to offer it for him. If he has what he thinks is a leprous patch on his skin (a sign of a personal deficiency), he needs a Kohen to make the determination and a Kohen to purify him.

The Kohen can play his role as functionary in the Temple services and bringer of ATONEMENT only through standing aside from the rest of the people and demanding more of himself. The Kohanim were distinguished by their unique genetic inheritance as direct male descendants of Aaron, and they protected this inheritance by adhering to higher levels of personal sanctity (such as that a Kohen may not marry a divorcee, etc.).

The rich, colorful ritual garments of the High Priest embody this concept of separateness, sanctity and atonement. So too, the induction of the priests during their Seven Days of Initiation was characterized by separation, sanctity and the atonement accomplished through the offering of the ox sin offering (atoning for the sin of the Golden Calf) and the eating of peace offerings.

Atonement depends upon the priestly garments and the priests’ consumption of sacrificial portions. The original sin of Adam — of which the sin of the Golden Calf was a “repetition” — came about through eating. After Adam and Eve sinned, G-d gave them CLOTHES in order to cover over their nakedness and begin the process of atonement. The priests continue this process of atonement through wearing their unique garments while eating their portion of the sinner’s sacrifice.

The hereditary inheritance of the priesthood — Temple SERVICE — by the sons of Aaron is justified by the fact that Aaron joined himself to the Torah inheritance through his choice of a wife to mother his sons. For “Aaron took Elisheva the daughter of Aminadav, sister of Nachshon as his wife, and she bore him Nadav and Avihu, Elazar and Itamar” (Ex. 6:23). Elisheva’s father, Aminadav, was the Prince of Judah, the tribe to whom Jacob entrusted with guardianship of the Torah, while her brother Nachshon was the first to jump into the Red Sea. Torah knowledge is indispensable for the proper functioning of the priesthood. Without Torah, the priest is helpless — an ignoramus priest needs a Torah scholar to teach him how to make the correct determination in cases of leprosy.

Through the merit of our Torah study, may we see the Holy Temple rebuilt quickly in our times!!!

Shabbat Shalom!!! Happy Purim!!!

Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum

Purim 5775 and the Shemitta Year

Sefardi Beit Sefer

“When Adar Begins, Our Happiness Increases”-Purim 5775 and the Shemitta Year

Today, the 30th of Shevat, is the first day of Rosh Chodesh Adar. This year, Purim (the 14th of Adar) will fall out on a Thursday. As we all know, Purim is celebrated everywhere on the 14th of Adar besides for walled-cities from the times of Yehoshua bin Nun (such as the holy city of Jerusalem) which celebrate Purim on the 15th of Adar which will fall out on a Friday this year.

When Adar Begins, Our Happiness Increases
The Gemara in Masechet Ta’anit (29a) tells us, “Rabbi Yehuda son of Rav Shmuel ben Shilat taught in the name of Rav: Just as when the month of Av begins happiness is diminished, so too, when Adar begins happiness increases. Rav Papa says, therefore, if a Jew has a court case with a non-Jew pending, he should avoid having it…

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