Shabbat Torah portion Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20-30:10) and Shushan Purim

Moshe Kempinski

The Torah Portion of Tetzaveh which usually is read before Purim and in this year it is read on Shushan Purim. In the portion we read the following;

“You shall make holy garments for your brother Aaron, for honor and glory.( LeChavod ve LiTiferet) “( Exodus 28:2).

When king Ahashverosh creates a feast in order to exult in his own power and glory we read “When he showed the riches of his glorious kingdom, and the splendor of his excellent majesty( TIFERET Gedulato), many days, yea one hundred and eighty days( .Esther 1:4)

Furthermore to show his superiority of all others including and foremost over the G-d of Israel he displays the vessels that were stolen from the Temple.” And they gave them to drink in golden vessels, and the “Different Vessels”, and royal wine was plentiful according to the bounty of the king.”(ibid:7).

The first example of TIFERET is to glorify Hashem , while the second (lehavdil)is to glorify this arrogant king.

Yet the connection between this Torah portion and the festival of Purim goes deeper.

The reading of the “scroll of Esther”(Megillat Esther) is meant to remind us of eternal truths and purposeful direction.

“And these days shall be remembered and celebrated throughout every generation, in every family, every province, and every city, and these days of Purim shall not be revoked from amidst the Jews, and their memory shall not cease from their seed.”( Esther 9:28)

The Hebrew word for the book or scroll as in Megillat Esther ( the Book of Esther) is Megilla. That word is based on the verb “LeGalot” which means “ to reveal or unveil “ .

The name of the heroine of the book Queen Esther is also critical to explore fascinating

.”And he had brought up Hadassah, that is Esther, his uncle’s daughter, for she had neither father nor mother, and the maiden was of comely form and of comely appearance, and when her father and mother died, Mordecai took her to himself for a daughter.”( Esther 2:7) .

That is to say her true Biblical name was Hadassah. Why is that name not mentioned throughout the Scroll of Esther again?

Furthermore, many have postulated that the name Esther has its roots in Babylonian folklore and is connected to the entity called Ashtar.

If that is so , then the question of why her original name Hadassa was not used throughout the book becomes even more pressing.

Actually the name Esther is not connected to any folklore but rather it is based on the Biblical concept and Hebrew verb “LeHastir” which means” to hide”.

“And I will surely hide (HASTER ASTEER) My face on that day, “(Deutereonomy 31:18)

The book of Esther is a book replete with disguises and hiddenness.

“Esther did not reveal her nationality or her lineage, for Mordechai had ordered her not to reveal it.”(Esther 2:10).

Hashem’s name does not appear in the Biblical text even though He is very much present in all the events that “just happened” to occur.

The term Megillat Esther, then, describes a book that unveils that which is hidden. It lifts all the masks and points to the mastermind of the unfolding drama. It reveals all the dots that need to be connected. Only then with such an awareness, can one pierce through the haze of confusion and charades that has enveloped our world.

The festival of Purim focuses on clothing, costumes and masks. Those items we dress our children with are meant to remind us that all things in this world are hidden behind masks .Purim is there to remind us to look behind the mask.

It is also not happenstance that the Torah portion that we read before Purim or on Shushan Purim is Parshat Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20-30:10)

We live in a world wherein layer after layer of disguises and camouflage, hide true intentions and mask sincerity and truth. We dress in certain ways and speak with specific jargon so as to portray certain images.

This phenomenon is clearly revealed in the Hebrew language. The word for clothing in Hebrew is “Beged” and its root seems to be connected to the Hebrew word for betrayal and deception, “Bagad”. In essence the role of clothing is to hide and conceal. Clothes very often are used to hide the weakness or the negative traits of a man, the ultimate Mask.

“And the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves and made themselves girdles.(Genesis 3: 7)

At times, though, the disguise can even convince the one who is wearing these clothes that he is in fact someone he is not.

It is for this reason that Torah in this week’s Torah portion demands that we take that external “beged” and elevate it into a vessel of holiness.

Just as the Biblical text declares in the Parshat Tetzaveh;

“You shall make holy garments for your brother Aaron, for honor and glory.”( Exodus 28:2).

We see this concept as well in the concern Judaism places on how one is to dress in public and the modicums of modesty to be attained. The concept is again revealed with the tzitzit( Numbers 15:38 ) affixed to the corners of the garments.

The concept is to take the clothes that usually adorn and camouflage man and use it to adorn and reveal G-d. It is only then that man’s purpose and destiny is revealed.

“holy garments for your brother Aaron, for honor and glory. “Not for Aaron’s honor and glory but rather for Hashem. When that frame of reference is attained then all the dots and points in our life become connected.


LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved and Alter Mordechai ben Freda

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