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March 10, 2017 - 12 Adar, 5777

1463: Tetzaveh

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  1462: Terumah1464: Ki Sisa  

The Divine Chess Game  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  All Together  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

The Divine Chess Game

Imagine a chess game in which the pieces on the board seem to move of their own accord. Pawns, rooks, queens and kings all move in the correctly prescribed manner, yet of their own volition. The chess pieces, we decide, must be puppets with invisible strings or they're magnetized or computerized. Somewhere, somehow, there is a hidden hand pushing the pieces around.

The events we commemorate on Purim are their own kind of chess game. In the Megilla, the record of the story of Purim, one does not see, nor hear any mention of G-d. In fact, G-d's Name is not mentioned in the entire Megilla; the Book of Esther is the only book in the entire Bible entire in which G-d's name never appears. And yet, somehow, someway, after learning about the "chess game" that took place in those days, one must conclude that G-d's hand was controlling the game.

Judaism teaches that G-d supplies the "recovery" before He brings the "illness." In the case of Purim, the beginning of the recovery took place before Haman convinced King Ahasuerus to let him annihilate all the Jews. The King became angry with his wife, got rid of her, and began a search for a new queen.

Enter Esther, a women who had no interest in becoming the new queen, who, in fact, hid herself from the royal messengers and, according to many sages, was even disqualified from participating in the "beauty contest." In addition, Esther did nothing whatsoever to beautify herself once she was placed among the "contestants" in the palace. Add to this the fact that, though Esther's relative, Mordechai, was well-known by all, no one in the palace knew or realized that Esther was Jewish, nor did it ever leak out and enter the King's ears until Esther told him herself.

Esther was already well-placed in the palace and a favorite of the King when Haman's evil plan was signed into action. The Divine recovery had begun its work before the illness had begun.

Throughout the entire course of events, everyone moved as he should have; the King one square at a time, Esther, as she pleased but in accordance with Torah, Mordechai in a straight line. To the untrained eye, it looked like a regular game. Except that chess pieces don't move by themselves.

The story of Purim, with its overt lack of G-d's Name even once in the entire Megilla, was a Divine chess game, par excellence. And the best thing about it was that our side won. Which is why we celebrate with extra joy and mitzvot.

Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Tetzaveh, we read about the garments of the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest. One garment was called the "Meil." It was a turquoise robe that had golden bells and pomegranate shaped balls on its hem. When the Kohen Gadol did the divine Temple service, he had to be wearing the Meil. "Its sound should be heard when he came to the Holies before G-d, and when he exits, and he won't die."

What was the Meil all about? Why was it so important, that if the Kohen Gadol was not wearing it, he would die?

The Meil had two vestments that went over it. In front was the Choshen, the breastplate, representing the righteous amongst the Jewish people. Around the back was the Apron, representing those Jews who had become distant from Jewish life but had found their way back to Torah observance.

The Meil had pomegranates on the bottom. Pomegranates represents those Jews who are not particularly actively engaged in Jewish life. And yet, our sages say about these Jews that "even they are full of mitzvas, like a pomegranate (is filled with seeds. It has bells, because unlike the righteous and the returnees, who find themselves relaxed and comfortable in spiritual holiness, the pomegranate realizes its state and clamors to reach higher. Aside for the bells and pomegranates, it was entirely turquoise, which reminds us of heaven, which represents the unbreakable bond, even the pomegranate has with G-d.

When the Kohen Gadol entered the Holies to perform the Temple service, he was representing every Jew. If he did not, his service was found lacking. Being the spiritual leader of the Jewish people, the Heavenly Court held him to a higher standard. If he chose not to represent even one Jew, even the pomegranate Jew, he would die.

The garments of the Kohen Gadol shows us the value and significance of every Jew, without whom no service could be done in the Temple. The garments also assure us that every Jew is close to G-d. No matter where we feel we are spiritually and religiously, we need only to look up to Heaven - G-d wants you, loves you and welcomes you home.

Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the teachings of the Rebbe, Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.

A Slice of Life

Purim Gifts with a Message
by Rabbi Sholom Avtzon

Each Purim from the time he was a little child, a young boy was asked by his father to deliver two mishloach manot food gifts.

At one house the recipient invited him in, gave him a coin as a "tip," and asked him to please take a Purim food package back to his father. At the second house, something different happened. The recipient thanked him, gave him a candy and closed the door. Each year, the boy got the same response from the two different recipients.

One year after Purim, the boy asked his father, "Can you please explain to me why you specifically give these two people mishloach manot each year?

"Concerning one person, I understand it very well. Everyone knows the two of you are good friends from your childhood years in Communist Russia. However, I have never seen you have anything to do with the other person. In fact, even on the occasions that the two of you are in the same place, you never talk to each other. And when I bring him mishloach manot on Purim, he doesn't send any back."

The father answered, "My dear son, my reasoning is something that is not your concern."

The son did not press his father. He continued to deliver the mishloach manot each Purim.

One year, the son - who was now a young man - went to Russia, to work in one of the summer day camps that Chabad runs throughout the former Soviet Union.

When the camp season was over, he remained there for a while, helping the local Chabad emissary. One day, he went to the governmental offices, and after showing his documents, was given a copy of his father's file. The file included information about his interrogation at the hands of the KGB and a list of the anti-Soviet "crimes" for which he was charged, found guilty and imprisoned.

The young man read the file with tremendous interest. He was so proud of what his father had accomplished as a young man. If only half of the accusations were true, his father had done much to keep Judaism alive in those dark years and to save other Chasidim from interrogation and prison.

However, he was shocked when he read that one of the main informers against his father was the person to whom his father sent mishloach manot each year, though he received none in return.

When the young man finally returned home, he brought with him the file. He waited for the right moment and then presented it to his father.

Looking at the front page, his father knew what it was and asked his son to bring his reading glasses from the dining room.

The son dutifully went to the dining room, and when he returned just a moment later, the entire file was in the sink on fire.

His father asked him to sit down. "I told you years ago that it is not your concern. However, now that you read something that I asked you not to get involved in, I will explain it to you.

"I knew who he was in Russia and it was for that specific reason that I send him mishloach manot each year. You should know, he is not what you read. He was a wonderful person in Russia!

"The KGB arrested him and tried to force him to become an informer. Notwithstanding their brutal and vicious beatings, he steadfastly refused. He would not inform on another Jew.

"However, the government knew that he had a wealth of information. One day when he came home, he noticed the house empty. On the table was a note that his wife and children were arrested.

"He rushed to the police station to try to secure their freedom. The police sent him from desk to desk, from one office to another. Finally he was told the truth: his family was not even in that building, they were being questioned in the infamous interrogation building.

"The distraught man ran over to the interrogation building which he knew well. He was greeted by a smiling official, who said, 'We expected you would come, but you took too long. The interrogation has already begun. But come with me, maybe now that you are here we can interrupt it.'

"My dear son, can you imagine what thoughts enveloped him at that time? They took him to a room where he saw his wife and oldest son tied to the wall, pain and suffering written all over their faces. As soon as he entered a sign was made that the torture should stop momentarily.

"The officer then turned to him and said, 'Your wife and son don't have any valuable information for us to extract. However, you have and you have stubbornly refused to work with us. So now you have a choice, either you start giving us the information we want, or we will resume punishing our enemies.

" 'But instead of punishing you, we will make them suffer. So we will give you two minutes to decide, and then the fun begins. The first thing is tying those twenty pound weights to their hand for ten minutes, then we will tie their hands to the pole that is a foot over their heads....'

The man knew their tactics; he had endured them and had never given over even one name. But to witness his wife and son having to endure the torture was just too much. He knew of too many Jews whose children were killed in front of their eyes because of this. After a few moments of agony and hearing their cries of pain, he broke and succumbed to the pressure. He signaled that he would talk.

"My dear son, I send him mishloach manot every year to assure him that I forgive him with a complete heart. Yes, I suffered years of imprisonment in Communist Russia, but that was before I married your mother and before you were born. I was able to accept that torture, and he did too.

"However, I don't know if I would have been able to withstand seeing your mother or you being beaten because of me. It is possible that I would have also succumbed to that pressure, so I forgive him fully.

"You should also know that he secretly warned us who the authorities were after, giving many individuals time to escape and save themselves. So now you know

From The Weekly Story by Rabbi Avtzon, author of The Rebbeim Biography Series and other books. He can be contacted at:

What's New

Purim Celebrations

Looking for a place to celebrate Purim, masquerade, hear the Megila, fulfill the special mitzvot (commandments) of the day? Your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center is offering all of this and more on Purim - Saturday night March 11 (after Shabbat ends) through Sunday, March 10. Call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center to find out what's happening, or visit

New Emissaries

Mar del Plata, located in Argentina's Buenos Aires Province, is a bustling beach city found on the country's east coast. Rabbi Zalmi and Patsonia Lipinski recently established a new Chabad Center in Mar del Plata, Argentina. Mar del Plata is the seventh-largest city in Argentina and home to an estimated 5,000 Jews.

The Rebbe Writes

Freely translated

Rosh Chodesh Adar II, 5738 [1978]
To All Participants in the Melava Malka
Sponsored by "R.S.B.S.T.N.L.G."
Oceanside, Long Island, N.Y.

Greeting and Blessing:

I was pleased to be informed of the forthcoming annual Melava Malka on Motzoei Shabbos-Kodesh [Saturday night] Parshas Zachor.

And though pressure of duties makes it difficult to send individual messages to all similar events, I do wish to associate myself - by means of this message, with all of you gathered on this occasion - in tribute to the good work of your group in strengthening Yiddishkeit among yourselves and in your region.

As you surely know, Parshas Zachor, which is read on the Shabbos before Purim, contains the commandment to remember what Amalek, the archenemy of our Jewish people, did to our people when they were on their way to receive the Torah at Sinai. Amalek's unprovoked and sneaky attack was calculated to shake their belief in G-d and dampen their enthusiasm for His Torah and Mitzvos [commandments].

Haman, a direct descendant of Amalek, was driven by similar hatred of the Jews, because "their laws were different from those of any other people," as the Megillah [Scroll of Esther] states. Likewise all subsequent Amalakites and Hamans of all ages.

But "Amalek" - in a wider sense - represents all obstacles and hindrances which a Jew encounters on his, or her, way, to receive and observe the Torah and Mitzvos with enthusiasm, and joy in the everyday life. And so Parshas Zachor comes to remind us, and never forget, that "Amale-kites" exist in every generation and in every day and age, and that we must not allow ourselves to be deterred or discouraged by any Amalekite in any shape or form.

If the question be asked, "Why has G-d done thus?" Why should a Jew be confronted with such trials and difficulties? - the answer is that every Jew has been given the necessary powers to overcome all such "Amalekites," and he is expected to use them, in order to demonstrate to himself and others that nothing will deter him, nor dampen his fervor, in the observance of the Torah and Mitzvos in accordance with G-d's Will. And once he recognizes that whatever difficulty he encounters is really a test of his faith in G-d, and resolves firmly to meet the challenge, he will soon see that no "Amalek" of any kind is a match for the Divine powers of the Jewish soul. Indeed, far from being insurmountable obstructions, they turn out to be helpers and catalysts for ever greater achievements, having been instrumental in mobilizing those inner powers which would have otherwise remained dormant.

This is also forcefully brought out in the Megillah, in the example of Mordechai the Jew, who "would not bend his knee nor bow down" before Haman. As a result of this indomitable stance, not only was Haman's power totally broken, but many enemies became friends, as the Megillah tells us that "many of the peoples of the land were turning 'Jewish,' for the fear of Mordechai fell upon them!"

May G-d grant that each and all of you should go from strength to strength in emulating Mordechai the Jew, advancing in all matters of Yiddishkeit [Judaism], Torah and Mitzvos, with joy and gladness of heart, and may you all be blessed with a full measure of "light, joy, gladness, and honor," both in the plain sense as well as in the inner meaning of these terms in accordance with the interpretation of our Sages - "Light - this is the Torah ... honor - this is Tefillin," since the Torah and Mitzvos, though a "must" for their own sake, are the channels and vessels to receive and enjoy G-d's blessings in all needs, materially and spiritually.

Wishing each and all of you a happy Purim, and may the inspiration of it be with you every day throughout the year,

With esteem and blessing,

All Together

What is Mishloach Manot?

Mishloach Manot, also referred to as "shalach manot," is one of the special commandments performed on Purim. Every adult is required to send on Purim during the day at least two ready to eat food items to at least one friend as indicated in the Megila (Scroll of Esther). Even one who is so poor that he is supported from public funds must fulfill the commandment in the minimum manner. it during the day of Purim.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

"...That they should keep the fourteenth day of the month of Adar...and make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions [of food] one to another and gifts [charity] to the poor." These words appear near the end of the Megilla - the Scroll of Esther. We read the Megilla each year on Purim, which will be celebrated this year on Saturday night after Shabbat, March 11 through Sunday at sundown, March 12.

Our Sages have given us an interesting detail to observe concerning the Purim mitzva of mishloach manot - "sending portions one to another." Because of the unusual wording of this mitzva in the Megilla, we are encouraged to actually send, through a messenger, the gift.

Generally, we are taught that if we have the opportunity to perform a mitzva, it is far better for us to do it ourselves than to dispense with it through another person. The mitzva of mishloach manot, however, is unique in this matter.

Mishloach manot and gifts to the poor are both mitzvot that foster unity among the Jewish people. They recall the brotherly love that Esther and Mordechai awoke in the Jewish people which, in turn, was instrumental in nullifying Haman's evil decree. But m'shloach manot has an added advantage even over charity; it gets someone else involved in a mitzva.

The greatest kindness that one Jew can do for another and the strongest unity that we can promote are epitomized by mishloach manot. Through one Jew getting another Jew involved in a mitzva or encouraging him to grow and enhance his Judaism, true unity can be achieved among the Jewish people.

There are many lessons that we can learn from the holiday of Purim. But the lesson of Jewish unity, perhaps, is one of the most appropriate for our days. It is a lesson that we can carry with us at every time and every place. And by adopting this attitude of all-pervasive "brotherly love" we will surely merit the coming of Moshiach and celebrate Purim together with all of our people in the Holy Land, may it be rebuilt, NOW.

Thoughts that Count

You shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for ornament (Ex. 28:2)

The commandment to make special priestly clothes comes directly after the command to prepare pure olive oil for the menora. Oil symbolizes the intellect, which should be kept pure and unsullied. The priestly garments symbolize the physical body, the "garment" of the soul, that should be utilized "for glory and ornament." The Torah teaches that purity of thought and of the body must go together.

(Sefat Emet)

That they bring to you pure olive oil, pounded, for the lighting (Ex. 27:20)

Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad, once said: "He who wants to reach the 'lighting,' the enlightenment to be found in the Torah, should work on himself by 'pounding' away at his ego. How? By always bearing in mind that the Torah he learns is none other than the wisdom and the will of G-d. That is the meaning of our supplication, 'Open my heart to Your Torah.'"

"Pure olive oil" is an allusion to the Torah, implying that the Torah in its entirety was given to Moses at Mount Sinai: The Hebrew word for "pure," "zach," has the numerical equivalent of 27 - the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, plus the five letters that have a different form when they come at the end of a word.

(Ohr Torah)

The Egyptian exile was the crucible of fire that refined the Jewish people, transforming them into a proper vessel to contain the revelation of Torah on Mount Sinai. So it is with our present age, when we find ourselves "pounded" by the harshness of the exile. But it is precisely this "pounding" that will bring us to the "light" of Moshiach and the Messianic Era, as our Sages said, "It is only when the olive is crushed that the oil can emerge." At Sinai, it was primarily the revealed part of Torah that was revealed by G-d. Our present exile, however, prepares us for the revelation of the Torah that will be taught by Moshiach.

(Peninei HaGeula)

And his sound shall be heard when he comes to the Holies (Ex. 28:35)

The Torah continually stresses the importance of humility. However, when it comes to safeguarding the spiritual welfare of the Jewish people and reinforcing the observance of Torah, "His sound shall be heard when he approaches the Holies" - one must speak with forcefulness and resolve.

(Chatam Sofer)

It Once Happened

World War I was into its second year and the Jews of Poland were suffering tremendous deprivation. It was almost Purim and the town of Radin was plunged into darkness and despair. The rabbi of the little town was Rabbi Yisroel Meir Hacohen, the saintly Chofetz Chaim, a great leader of world Jewry in the early years of the century.

During this black year, conditions in Radin steadily worsened. Food was scarce, taxes were high, and worst of all, most of the young men had been drafted into the military, never to be seen again.

At the approach of Purim, one Jew came to the Chofetz Chaim and asked, "Rebbe, our lives are so miserable this year. Our sons are off at the front. How can we be expected to celebrate Purim in this joyless, suffering world?"

The Chofetz Chaim knew that the man was speaking from his own pain and his fear for the life of his own young son who was one of the draftees.

"Don't worry, my friend," the Chofetz Chaim said. "Even in these terrible and troubled times, we must not lose our faith in G-d's salvation. Even now, we must rejoice in the thought of the great miracles which He did for our people on Purim.

"Once many years ago when I was a young man in Vilna, it was Purim time and the Czar had issued a bitter decree. He ordered that the Jews must provide double the usual number of young men for the military draft. As you know these draftees, the Cantonists, were little more than children, and were pressed into military service for 20 years. After that long period of time, they often remembered nothing of their Jewishness and were totally lost to their families forever. That year, the draft fell out on Purim and the Jews of Vilna were in virtual mourning.

"However, in spite of their sorrow, the Jews of Vilna performed the mitzvot of Purim - they distributed Mishloach Manot - gifts of food to their friends, and charity to the poor. Their only consolation was in reading the Megilat Esther, recounting the miracle of Purim, when G-d brought a sudden and wondrous salvation to His people.

"It wasn't long, though, until things became even worse. The Czar issued yet another decree against the Jews, ordering them to provide still more young men for the Russian army. All the greatest rabbis and Jewish leaders of the time petitioned the Czar to rescind this terrible decree, but all their pleas were to no avail. The young men were chosen and ordered to report for military service the following Av, the month in the Jewish year when both Temples were destroyed, the month especially marked for tragedy.

"The orders were drawn up and ready for the Czar's signature which would finalize the fate of the young men. It took only a second for the Czar to affix his name to the document, but as he reached out to blot the wet ink, his hand accidentally knocked over the ink bottle, and it spilled over the paper, obliterating his name.

"The Czar was shocked at his mistake. In his mind it seemed an omen from Above, and so he stubbornly refused to have the document redrawn. And so, these young men were freed from the terrible fate which had awaited them.

"The Hebrew month of Av had already begun when word of the sudden miraculous reprieve reached the Jews of Vilna. The young men, who had already prepared to leave Vilna quickly unpacked. Their families breathed a joyful sigh of relief, realizing how close they had come to losing their precious sons and brothers. That year the month of Av turned from a month of mourning over the destruction of the Holy Temple to one of rejoicing for the Jews of Vilna.

"How can we tell whether it was the rejoicing of the Jews in Vilna on that dark Purim when the evil decree was issued that had in it the spark of their redemption the following Av? Perhaps our joyous celebration of Purim now will be the seed of a great redemption which will follow in the same unexpected way, as G-d redeems His people once again."

Moshiach Matters

Our prophets and sages did not long for the Messianic Era in order that they might rule the world and dominate others. They did not desire that the nations should honor them, or that they should be able to eat, drink and be merry. They only wanted one thing, and that was to be free to involve themselves in the Torah and its wisdom. They wanted nothing to disturb or distract them, in order that they should be able to strive to become worthy of the life in the World to Come.

(The Real Messiah, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Moznaim Publishing)

  1462: Terumah1464: Ki Sisa  
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