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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Parshat Tetzaveh’

Parshat Tetzaveh: Spiritual refinement in the miluim process

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

B”H

TETZAVEH spotlights the selection, vestments, and inauguration of Aharon and his sons as Israel’s Kohanim (Priests). The extra responsibilities taken on by Aharon’s progeny involve conducting the everyday tasks pertaining to the Temple and serving as spiritual leaders to their nation. The Kohanim have often distinguished themselves within Israel for both a patriotic love for the Hebrew Nation and a passionate zeal on behalf of Torah, the pinnacle of which has frequently been the readiness to forfeit their lives for the sake of G-D’s Name – an exalted level of sacrifice placing one’s love for HaShem above all other considerations.

Upon a superficial reading, however, Aharon appears to have lacked this readiness for ultimate sacrifice. When confronted with the option of either being killed by his own people or helping to construct the Golden Calf, he opted for participation in building the idol. Although Aharon may have been justified in his decision (based on a concern for how Israel’s future would be impacted by the national stain of having killed their High Priest), he did not display an absolute willingness to die rather than compromise G-D’s Truth. Although Aharon was undeniably righteous and had already been Divinely selected to become Israel’s Kohen Gadol, he required the rectification of the miluim process in order to return him and his family to their previous state of kedusha.

While the transgression of the Golden Calf had caused Aharon to feel a sense of distance from HaShem, the miluim was intended to bring him close again through spiritual perfection. The priestly vestments play a central role in this process and great detail is offered in describing them. When the description is finished, the Torah instructs:

“With them you shall dress Aharon your brother and his sons with him; You shall anoint them, and you shall fill their hand, and you shall sanctify them, and they shall be Kohanim to Me.” (SHEMOT 28:41)

Sforno comments on this verse that “You shall anoint them” means to spiritually complete them so that they (the Kohanim) will be worthy of the Divine service. Trust in HaShem is a prerequisite to sincere and passionate service. Perfect trust involves living His Torah without fearful considerations as only good can ultimately result from righteous conduct. This level of complete trust empowers one with the readiness to offer his own life for the sake of HaShem’s honor, as the Shema Yisrael prayer dictates:

“Love HaShem your G-D with all your heart, all your soul and all that you have.”

Our Sages teach on this: “Even if G-D takes your life.” (Brachot 54a)

Mesirut Nefesh (self-sacrifice) is the ultimate expression of trust in HaShem, as it gives birth to the sanctification of His Name, essentially magnifying His Ideal for this world.

Israel was born out of a readiness for sacrifice. It was because Avraham was willing to sanctify G-D’s Name at the expense of his own life in Ur Kasdim that he merited to become the prototype and father of the Hebrew Nation.

When thrown into the furnace by the tyrant Nimrod, Avraham had no guarantee of salvation. He was simply willing to give his life for what he knew to be true. He was rewarded not only with miraculously surviving the flames, but also with becoming the patriarch of the nation elected to express HaShem’s Ideal in every facet of human existence.

The Midrash teaches that as a result of his willingness to sacrifice his life for G-D’s Truth, Avraham merited things in this world which the righteous do not normally merit until the World-to-Come.

“Why did Avraham merit life without pain and without temptation here on earth, what HaShem shall ultimately give to the righteous in the World-to-Come? It is because he sacrificed his life for the glory of heaven in Ur Kasdim. Whoever sacrifices himself in this way is awarded life in this world and long, plentiful, infinite life in the World-to-Come… With Nimrod and the entire generation of the dispersion seated there, Avraham entered and was placed at the center. He descended and said his piece. Nimrod asked him, `If not [idols], then whom shall I worship?’ and Avraham replied, `The Supreme Master, Whose Kingdom exists in heaven and earth, and in the loftiest heavens.’ Nimrod answered, `I shall serve the god of fire, and I shall throw you in. Let the G-D of whom you speak save you from the fiery furnace!’ They immediately bound him and placed him on the ground… G-D’s mercy instantly welled up and He descended from the highest heavens, from the place of His glory, greatness and majesty, of His holy Name, and saved Avraham from that shame and mortification and from that fiery furnace, as it says, `I am the G-D Who took you out.’ (BEREISHIT 15:7)” (Eliyahu Rabbah 5)

The Nation of Israel is currently experiencing a “miluim” process that will ultimately empower us with complete trust in HaShem. Through the honest questions triggered by the challenges confronting our people, Israel is breaking free from our psychological limitations and ascending greater heights of collective responsibility and self-sacrifice. Only through a perfect trust in HaShem and an iron determination to advance the Zionist struggle can we reach the passion and fortitude necessary to overcome the obstacles currently blocking our path and shine our light to the world from the Kingdom of Israel. With Love of Israel,

Rabbi Lord Sacks: The Art Of True Leadership

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Parshat Tetzaveh is, as is well known, the parshah in which for once Moses takes second place, indeed is not mentioned by name at all, while the focus is on his brother Aaron and on the role he came to occupy and personify, that of high priest (the kohen gadol).

There are many conjectures as to why this went to Aaron as opposed to Moses himself, the most obvious being that this was Moses’s punishment for refusing one time too many God’s request that he lead the Israelites.

But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, he will be your spokesman, and you will be his guide” (Exodus 4:13-16).

There is though a deeper message, the principle of the separation of powers, which opposes the concentration of leadership into one person or institution. All human authority needs checks and balances if it is not to become corrupt. In particular, political and religious leadership (keter malchut and keter kehunah) should never be combined. Moses wore the crowns of political and prophetic leadership, Aaron that of priesthood. The division allowed each to be a check on the other.

That is the theory. What is especially interesting is how this works out in terms of personal relationships, in this case between the two brothers, Moses and Aaron. The Torah says relatively little about it, but the hints are fascinating.

Consider, first of all, the passage we’ve just seen from near the beginning of the book of Exodus, when God tells Moses that Aaron is “already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you.” These sound like simple words but they are anything but.

Moses was Aaron’s younger brother, three years his junior. Would it not have been natural for Aaron to be more than a little envious that his younger brother was about to become the leader he himself was not destined to be – all the more so since Moses had not spent his life among his people? He had been, first, an adopted prince of Egypt, and had then taken refuge with Yitro and the Midianites. Relative to Aaron, Moses, his younger brother, was also an outsider. Yet God says, “He will be glad to see you.”

Aaron’s ability to rejoice in his brother’s rise to greatness is particularly striking when set against the entire biblical history of the relationship between brothers thus far. It has been a set of variations on the theme of sibling rivalry: Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers. The psalm says, “How good and pleasant it is for brothers to live together” (Psalms 133:1) – to which, reading Bereishit, we are likely to add, “and how rare.”

But now comes the second test, this time not of Aaron but of Moses. Moses is now being commanded to create a form of leadership he himself will never be able to exercise, that of the priesthood, and the person he must award it to is his elder brother. Can he do so with the same generosity of spirit that his brother showed toward him? Note how the Torah emphasizes God’s insistence that it be Moses who bestows this honor on Aaron.

Three times the word “v’atah – and you,” is used early on in the parshah:

And you command the Israelites [about the oil for the menorah that Aaron and his sons would keep alight]” (27:20).

And you bring Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, near to you …” (28:1).

And you speak to all the wise-hearted people [and command them to make the vestments Aaron and the other priests would wear]” (28:3).

Moses must show the people – and Aaron himself – that he has the humility, the tzimtzum, the power of self-effacement, needed to make space for someone else to share in the leadership of the people, someone whose strengths are not yours, whose role is different from yours, someone who may be more popular, closer to the people, than you are – as in fact Aaron turned out to be.

Lehavdil: In 2005 the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin published an influential book about Abraham Lincoln, entitled Team of Rivals. In it she tells the story of how Lincoln appointed to his cabinet the three men who had opposed him as candidate for the Republican Party’s leadership. William Henry Seward, who had been expected to win, eventually said of him that “his magnanimity is almost superhuman … the President is the best of us.” It takes a special kind of character to make space for those whom one is entitled to see as rivals. Early on, Aaron showed that character in relation to Moses, and now Moses is called on to show it to Aaron.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/the-art-of-true-leadership/2012/02/29/

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