VOLUME 59 NUMBER 8
MARCH 2, 2012
ADAR 8, 5772
Candle-lighting Time: 5:35 PM
This week’s Sparks of Torah is dedicated in memory of Neil Moskowitz, ob”m, Nachem ben Mordechai, father of Adam Moskowitz, whose yahrzeit is this week. May his neshama have an aliyah.
Like Water in the Desert
By Rabbi Raphael Leban
I was once privileged to meet the Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Shlomo Amar, at a conference in Miami. He always appears in a very majestic robe with elaborate and intricate gold embroidery. On his head he wears a very unique, black satin orb which looks like the product of NASA technology. He walks deliberately, with dignity, and surrounded as he is by an entourage of assistants and security guards, he reminds one of the grandeur of the Kohen Gadol.
The Chief Rabbi said the following beautiful idea about the construction of the Mishkan and the priestly vestments, which is the subject of this week’s parsha.
The building of the Mishkan was a tremendously elaborate and complex project. There were many intricate details that had to be attended to with expert craftsmanship. Many people were involved and a significant percentage of our national resources were dedicated to it.
Think about it for a moment. Where and when were the commandment and instructions given to the Jewish People to undertake this monumental and historic task? In the desert, just a few short months after leaving Egypt.
The desert is a place devoid of life. There are no settlements, no hotels, restaurants or gas stations. After a person takes a trip through a desert, one traditionally makes a blessing of thanksgiving for surviving the experience. It’s not the kind of place you stop and do a big craft project, even a holy one.
Traveling in the desert, the people were concerned about their food, their water and their basic survival. Why did G-d command them right there in the desert to construct the Mishkan? Couldn’t it have waited until they were more comfortably parked in the pleasant surroundings of the Land of Israel?
The lesson, explained the Chief Rabbi, is that our spiritual lives are no less important than our physical lives. Spirituality is not for your spare moments of leisure. It’s not a hobby. “Ki hem chayeinu…” For these [words of Torah] are our lives.
It’s just like something the Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Isaac Wasserman, once told an adult student of his. The student, who works as an accountant, said that he couldn’t come to class for a while, because he was too busy with tax season. Rabbi Wasserman asked him if he was planning on eating and drinking during tax season, because if so, he had better come to class, too! (And he did.)
Our souls are as dependent on the nourishment of Torah as our bodies are dependent on the physical nourishment of food and water. Have a wonderful Purim, with delightful meals for your bodies, and the life-giving words of Torah for your hungry souls.
What Should We Remember?
By Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum
This Shabbos has a special name and special message. It is called Shabbos Parshas Zachor. Although the parsha we read in the Torah is the regular one for this Shabbos, we read a special haftarah which recalls the incident where King Saul was commanded to destroy the nation of Amalek and failed to do so. Due to this lapse, he forfeited his kingdom and was not allowed to make amends. Aren’t we allowed to amend their mistakes? Even a king can err on occasion. Was this truly reason to depose him?
When the prophet Shmuel approached the king and asked why he did not kill the entire nation of Amalek, he responded that he feared the nation and therefore had not destroyed Amalek as he was commanded to do. Shmuel then made a startling statement accusing the king of some of the worst sins, sorcery and idolatry. Why did the prophet magnify his sin in this way?
The famous commentator Radak elucidates this passage for us. He explains that at its root, one who is engaged in sorcery abandons his trust in Hashem and relies upon idols that obviously cannot help him. He negates Hashem’s involvement in what transpires in this world and effectively ignores the entire idea of reward and punishment. Similarly, one who ignores a direct command from a prophet in Hashem’s name rebels against Hashem and denies His sovereignty. If he were concerned about retribution for his actions, he would have heeded the word of Hashem and fulfilled His will. This was Shmuel’s claim against the king and therefore it was impossible to reinstate him as king after such a travesty.
This message is very befitting of Purim. The Talmud explains that when the people of Shushan attended the party of Ahasuerus, they ignored Mordechai’s explicit directive not to go. Although it is clear from the Talmud that they did not transgress specific prohibitions involving Kashrus, they did ignore the unequivocal edict of the leader of the generation, Mordechai. For this reason, a decree of destruction was pronounced upon the Jewish people.
This type of attitude typifies the wickedness of Amalek. When we left Egypt, the entire world was aware of the awesome miracles that Hashem had wrought for us when we marched straight out of Egypt ‘without a shot being fired.’ The strongest nations were terrified of us and afraid that we were going to attack and destroy them as well. The respect for our nation was tremendous and global. Amalek changed that when they attacked us. Even though they were defeated, our image was tainted nonetheless and Hashem’s unassailable supremacy was compromised. They totally disregarded the unmistakable consequence of their actions, that Hashem would punish them and that they would be crushed.
Perhaps this is the greatest test that we have to surmount. Accountability is no longer the buzz word that it used to be. People are very quick to excuse themselves for mistakes that they have made and loathe to assume responsibility in the aftermath of their errors. We often disregard the ramifications of what we have done and refuse to act to rectify our sins. However, we should not be mistaken to think that Hashem’s memory is a short or faulty as ours own.
Byte for Shabbos
In the Midrash the Jewish People are compared to olive oil. Just as olive oil floats to the top and does not mix with other liquids, so the Jewish People must remain independent and avoid dissolving into other cultures.
Joke of the Week
Where does the king keep his armies?
In his sleevies!