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Parshat Tzav

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"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter Parashat Tzav 16th of Adar II, 5776 | March 26, 2016 Special Purim Edition Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik M



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Parashat Tzav
16th of Adar II, 5776 | March 26, 2016
Special Purim Edition

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Ms. Chevi Garfinkel
Traveling Notes

רוח והצלה יעמוד ליהודים ממקום אחר

Relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from some other place (Esther 4:14)

As I was offered to speak at a Shabbaton in Cincinnati, I mentally noted that I had to prepare for three speeches – Friday night, Shabbat day and Seudat Shlishit. Assuming that I would have enough time to gather my thoughts together before that Shabbat, I didn’t immediately get to work. I instead pushed it off.

After hearing that I would be in Cincinnati for Shabbat, I knew I needed to make a phone call. For nearly a decade, a close friend of mine had constantly badgered me to come visit her in Cincinnati. I had told her in the past that if she would find someone to fly me in to speak, I would gladly spend some time with her. But that idea never came to fruition. We instead stayed miles apart and never saw each other. But now I would finally get the opportunity. Or at least I thought so.

Giving her a call, she was beside herself. “Chevi, I don’t believe you! You are the most talented nudnick I ever met! You picked the one Shabbat when I am not home.” She had to attend a conference and would be unavailable to host me. Now I was stuck. But being the caring woman my friend is, she made alternative arrangements for me. She coordinated that someone would pick me up from the airport and a family would host for me for Shabbat.

But then my father took ill and was admitted into the hospital. When that occurred, I began rotating with my other siblings and staying with him over Shabbat. After some time, Baruch Hashem, he was stabilized. But with the Shabbaton inching closer and my time to prepare narrowing, I was still unsure what I was going to say.

My flight was scheduled to leave Thursday night and land at around eleven-thirty in Cincinnati. My hope was to get a good night’s sleep and prepare my speeches some time during Friday. But then that idea failed. As my flight was delayed, I was now expected to land even later than the already late, yet manageable hour of eleven-thirty. But things didn’t get all too better. My flight was delayed yet again. After two such delays and an exhausting flight, I finally arrived in Cincinnati at one-thirty in the morning.

Fatigued to the nth degree, a sweet girl named Peninah, asked by my friend to pick me up, arrived. Taking a seat in the car, I was not in good shape. Now driving to my host’s house late at night, by the time we pulled into their driveway, I was beyond exhausted. But as things were already not going too well, I wasn’t surprised when I was faced with yet another dilemma. Walking up to the door, it was clear that the lights were off and the door was shut. At that point, I nearly cried in laugher.

Turning to Peninah, I said, “So, what about your house?” “Actually,” she said, “I am not originally from Cincinnati; I am from Cleveland. But I am boarding by this lovely family and it is no problem for you to stay overnight.” As soon as she said that, I let out a slight sigh of relief. There was no way I was going to wake up a family I never met before. And so, we got back into the car.

As we continued driving, Peninah turned to me. “You know, you are handling this very well.” Thinking about everything that had gone wrong, I said, “Well, Baruch Hashem, my father is alive and doing well. He is fully functional and has all of his faculties. I feel a tremendous degree of gratitude towards Hashem. And I know that He is the same G-d that is making all of this happen to me. I am therefore not complaining.” As Peninah took in what I had to say, I continued, “My only concern though is what I am going to say at the Shabbaton. I was hoping to arrive in Cincinnati at a reasonable hour and get good night’s sleep so I could prepare tomorrow, but now I am not sure what tomorrow will bring.”

After finishing these words, Peninah immediately chimed in, “I know exactly what you are going to say at the Shabbaton.” Unsure how she would know what I was going to say when I myself had no idea, I sat there perturbed. “What do you mean?” I asked. “I will tell you when we get to the house.”

Pulling up to her house and walking inside, Peninah looked to me. “Miss Garfinkel, let me tell you something. Two years ago, when I was in 12th grade in Cleveland, you came to speak at a Shabbaton. You spoke Friday night, Shabbat day and Seudat Shlishit. After Shabbat, a number of girls came up to you, myself included, and said, ‘We really liked what you said; it was amazing. The only problem is that it was Shabbat and we couldn’t commit anything to writing. Would it be possible to have a copy of your notes?’ As we said this to you, you let out a smile and said, “I would be more than happy to give you a copy of the notes I brought, but I personally think they will not help you too much. What comes out of my mouth is nowhere near what it says on the paper. Some of my speech may be on the paper, but not completely.”

Telling us this, we remained determined. “Well then, could you at least briefly write down the content of your speeches for us?” Hearing our genuine sincerity and eagerness to hold onto the inspiration, you were tremendously touched and impressed. And so you happily complied with our request. With the help of a couple other girls, you began rewriting your notes as we typed them up.”

As Peninah finished telling me this nice story which happened two years ago in Cleveland, I asked her how it would help me now in Cincinnati. But, little did I know, the story was not over.

“You don’t understand,” continued Peninah, “I enjoyed those lectures so much that I actually took the notes with me to Seminary in Israel. And when I left Israel to come to Cincinnati, I as well took them with me. I have the notes right here with me. Here is your speech.”

And with that, she handed me my beautifully typed up speech with notes for Friday night, Shabbat day and Seudat Shlishit.

As I stood there dumbstruck, my mind began to race. I almost felt like apologizing to Peninah for having to drag the notes around the world. But then I realized that the notes I wrote together with those girls two years earlier was not merely for their benefit; it was for my benefit. Hashem was telling me, “You think you are writing the notes only for them? In two years, you are going to experience some rough patches in life and you will need these notes more than ever. And there will be a girl, Peninah, who will travel from Cleveland to Israel to Cincinnati and carry around those notes for you. “Trust Me,” Hashem was saying, “there is a reason for everything.”

In the words of Ms. Garfinkel, “Whenever we experience Hashgacha Pratis (Divine Providence) in our lives, we must take the moment to reflect. Imagine what would have happened had my friend been at home for Shabbat. She would have picked me up and I never would have met Peninah. And imagine if the plane was not delayed. I would never have had such a conversation with Peninah; she would have simply taken me directly to the home of my host. And imagine if I wouldn’t have told her I didn’t know what I was going to speak about… While I may have prepared for this Shabbaton the day before, Hashem was preparing for this Shabbaton two years in advance.”

Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene
Zeresh and Esther: Demolishing and Building

ארורה זרש...ברוכה אסתר

Accursed be Zeresh… Blessed be Esther (Liturgical poem of Shoshanat Yaakov)

While we are all familiar with the names of Mordechai, Esther, Achashverosh and Haman, there is one particular character who, although less well-known, plays an integral role. Zeresh, the infamous wife of Haman mentioned only four times in the Megillah, quietly stands behind the scenes yet nefariously schemes against the Jewish people. Examining her story in depth, incredible insights into the subtle layers involved in the Purim story are revealed.

After Esther invites Haman to the festive meal she plans to make for Achashverosh, Haman’s good mood and high spirits are deflated as quickly as they came. Seeing Mordechai’s adamant refusal to acknowledge him, Haman returns home frenzied and fuming with anger. Venting his frustration to his advisors and wife, he is advised to put an end to Mordechai. “Prepare gallows fifty cubits high,” suggests his wife, “and hang Mordechai.”

The Midrash expounds that Haman had three hundred and sixty-five advisors, corresponding to the days of the solar calendar, yet his wife was the greatest of them all. The Megillah therefore singles her out as the one to voice her opinion that the way to kill Mordechai is with a method of death no Jew has previously in history been saved from.

Using a fifty cubit beam once part of Noach’s ark and ever since used as a foundation beam in Haman’s home, Zeresh, explains the Midrash, had workers demolish her home in order to remove the beam and ready it for Mordechai. And of course, with the turning series of events and the gallows not being used for Mordechai, but Haman instead, the grand scheme of Zeresh is overturned. It is only then that frightened for her life, Zeresh flees and is eventually reduced to a life of begging and meets her own bitter death of execution.

The Midrash (Mishlei 14:1) commenting on the Pasuk, “חכמת נשים בנתה ביתה ואולת בידה תהרסנו” –“The clever woman builds her home, while the foolish one tears it down with her hands,” explains that the ‘clever woman’ is a reference to Esther, while the ‘foolish woman’ is a reference to Zeresh.

In a similar vein, the liturgical poem Shoshanat Yaakov, sung after the conclusion of the Megillah reading, ends with the stanza, “Cursed is Haman who sought to uproot me; blessed is Mordechai, the Jew. Cursed is Zeresh, the wife of my terrorizer; blessed is Esther who sacrificed everything for me.”

As clearly seen from the contrasts underscored in these two sources, Zeresh and Esther counterbalance one another. Zeresh with her plot to uproot the Jews is offset by Esther’s relentless attempts to spare them from annihilation. What remains vague, however, is why exactly this is the parallel. Why is Esther measured up to Zeresh and not Queen Vashti?

In order to proper evaluate the character of Zeresh it is necessary to consider a cryptic statement made by the Arizal: “Zeresh was like the tail of a snake and the drawn-down leg in the Hebrew letter Kuf (ק).” What does this mean?

When Adam HaRishon, the pinnacle of creation, was infused with life, the Torah states that Hashem blessed him. Simply understood, Adam was to be the realization of blessing in the world. The concept of a blessing, explains Rav Chaim Volozhin, is that one acknowledges G-d as the source of all blessing and the means by which beneficence flows to the world. In this respect, a righteous individual is praised for being the medium through which blessing descends to the world, while a wicked individual is condemned for achieving the opposite. The wicked man, pursuing his malevolent agenda, steers mankind away from reaching fulfillment and only introduces curse to the world.

Chazal teach that Adam and Chava were created together as one unit and only then separated (Eruvin 18a). Fused together in Gan Eden, it was Chava who would bring blessing to Adam and the world at large. This is because a woman through supporting and consolidating her husband and family suffuses holiness and beneficence to her home. R’ Yossi accordingly was wont to refer to his wife as “My home” (Shabbat 118b) in recognition of her prominent role in creating its spiritual infrastructure.

In this sense, a woman can either make or break her home. If she is wise, as Shlomo Hamelech tells us, she will build her home; on the other hand, if she is foolish, she will tear it down and bring ruination to herself and her family. Esther, the epitome of an Eishet Chayil, is forever remembered as a wise woman for she loyally supported her husband, Mordechai, and preserved the lives of Klal Yisrael. Zeresh, on the other hand, did the exact opposite. Besides being unfaithful in her marriage to Haman, her scheme to kill Mordechai in fact provoked her husband’s downfall. The quintessence of a foolish woman, her sadistic ploys literally devastated the lives of her husband and children.

She is for this reason compared to the tail of a snake and the leg of the letter Kuf. As the primordial snake successfully enticed Chava to sin by eating from the Tree of Knowledge in Gan Eden, curse was introduced to the world. What punishment did the snake suffer in consequence? Its legs were cut off (Bereishit Rabbah 20:5). The snake would now have to slither its way around.

The tail of the snake is both the point of consolidation and vulnerability. It is the site with which it can maneuver or be taken advantage of by those seeking to trap it. The same is with the leg of the Kuf. In contrast to the letters spelling אמת (truth) which stand on two legs and are shaped with a supporting bottom, the letters for שקר (falsehood) all come to a sharp point. This is representative of the fact that honesty will endure while falsehood will topple and not last. In this regard, Chazal have coined the phrase, “Falsehood has no legs” (see Shabbat 104a). This is why the snake lost its legs. Cunningly misleading Chavah to sin, it was punished by losing its supportive legs.

Chavah as well, according to one opinion, was fashioned from a tail-like appendage attached to Adam HaRishon when Man was initially created (Eruvin, loc. cit.). As a wife, she too bears a resemblance to the tail in that she can either support her husband or cause him to topple and be led to ruination.

Herein exists the difference between Zeresh and Esther. Zeresh supplanted blessing with curse and instead of supporting her husband, engendered his demise. Esther, on the other hand, lived up to her pristine feminine role and galvanized Mordechai and the Jewish people to salvation.

Such is the unbelievable impact each and every woman can have. Consolidating her family and surroundings, she can choose to follow in the ways of Esther and graciously lead them to a life of blessing and “light and gladness and joy and honor” (Esther 8:16).

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