Ritual Wisdom 2-23-2018
Today is the seventh day in the month Adar. Moshe, the greatest leader of the Jewish people, who led them out of Egypt, brought down the Two Tablets with the Ten Commandments and shepherd the Jewish people through their forty years in the desert, was born on this day. Moshe also passed away on the seventh of Adar at the age of 120.
 
Moshe's parents, Yocheved and Amram, were related. Yocheved, was Amram's aunt.
 
Our sages tell us that Moshe's birth was painless for his mother. When Moshe was born, the house was filled with light. Moshe was born circumcised.
 
This week's Torah reading is Tetzaveh. Most of the rreading is about the garments which the High Priest (Kohen Gadol) and the regular priest (Kohen) were required to wear at the time of their service in the Holy Temple (Beth HaMikdash).
 
Tetzaveh is the only Torah reading in the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, in which Moshe's name does not appear even once.
 
Q. Why doesn't Moshe's name appear in Tetzaveh?
 
A. When the Jewish people sinned worshipping the Golden Calf, G-d wanted to destroy the people. Moshe pleaded for his nation. He told G-d, "If you do not forgive Your people then erase mefrom the Book which You have written (Torah)." In the end, G-d accepted Moshe's request and forgave the people for their sin. However, because Moshe said, "Erase me from the Torah," his name was erased from one Torah reading, The reading of Tetzaveh.
 
Q. How, is this week's Torah reading connected to Moshe's passing?
 
A. Torah reading Tetzaveh is usually read close to the seventh day of the month Adar, which, as mentioned above, is Moshe's yartzeit (day of passing). Omitting his name in this reading, alludes to his passing.
 
Another reason why this Torah reading was chosen to remove Moshe's name: Originally, G-d intended that Moshe will be the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) and his children will be the Kohanim (priests) to perform the service in The Temple. But Moshe refused for an entire week, G-d's request to go speak to Pharaoh to let the Jewish people out of Egypt, and G-d had to send Aaron to help Moshe with the mission. As a result, G-d took away the priesthood from Moshe and gave it to Aaron and his children. It would have been very painful for Moshe, who wrote the Torah, to have his name mentioned in this reading which deals with the priestly garments, which have been taken from him. Thus, his name was omitted.
 
Lesson: It teaches us how sensitive one must be to another person's feelings.

This week's Torah reading Tetzaveh begins with G-d telling Moshe to command the people to bring pure olive oil for the lighting of the Menorah (candelabra) in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and Temple.

The oil used for the Menorah had to be pure olive oil, processed especially for lighting the Menorah. While olive oil was used in the Temple for other purposes, the oil used for the Menorah had to be of the highest quality. Only the first drop of oil from each olive qualified for lighting the Menorah.
 
The Talmudic sage Rabbi Tanchuma said, "I served in the Holy Temple and miracles were associated with the Menorah."
 
Rabbi Chanina, who also served in the Holy Temple relates the following story: "One year the olives in Israel didn't produce enough oil. The Kohanim (priests) in the Temple didn't have enough oil to fill the cups of the Menorah and in their great distress they began to weep. A miracle occurred and although there was not sufficient oil, the candles burned longer than usual."  
 
Q. When was the Menorah lit each day?
 
A. The Kohen lit the Menorah each afternoon and the Menorah burned throughout the night.
 
Q. Was the purpose of the lights of the Menorah to bring light in the Temple?
 
A. G-dliness and Holiness are called light. Our sages explain that the Menorah represents, among other things, the light and glory of G-d. Inside the Temple G-d's glory was felt all the time. The lights of the Menorah in the Temple were not for internal light, but for external light. The purpose of the Menorah was that the light of the Temple should spread outside and illuminate the world. For this purpose the windows in the Temple were made narrow on the inside and wider on the outside, so that the light of the Temple shall spread forth to the outside.
 
Q. Why are candles lit on a yartzeit (the day of someone's passing) or at a shiva?
 
A. The Neshama (soul) is compared to a candle, as it is written; "The candle of G-d is the soul of man" (Proverbs 20). Thus, we light candles in honor of the Neshama
 
Q. Why do many have the custom to escort bride and groom to the Chupah with candles?
 
A. The numerical value of G-d's blessing to Adam and Eve, "Pru Urvu," to be fruitful and multiply, is 500. The numerical value of Ner (candle) is 250; two candles represent the number 500. Thus, the two candles represent our blessing to the bride and groom to be fruitful and multiply and be blessed with many children.
 
Next week, Wednesday night (February 28) and Thursday (March 1) we will celebrate the holiday of Purim. It is the most joyful and festive of all holidays. On Purim we celebrate the miracle of Jewish survival when Haman's plot to kill all Jews was miraculously nullified through the intervention of Mordechai and Queen Esther.

Q. Why is the holiday called "Purim"?

A. Purim means "lots". The Megilah tells us that upon receiving permission to kill the Jewish people, Haman cast lots to choose the day and month in which to execute his plan. The lot fell on the 13th day of the month Adar. Haman was very pleased, for he knew that Moshe, the great leader of the Jewish people passed away in the Adar. But, Haman didn't know that Moshe's date of birth was also in Adar. Thus, it turned out to be Haman's downfall and a good month for the Jewish people.

Q. How long ago did the miracle of Purim occur?

A. The miracle of Purim took place 2373 years ago - in the Hebrew year 3405. Purim, as a holiday, was established by the sages of the Great Assembly one year later.

Q. Why is there much more merriment on Purim than on any other Jewish holiday?
A. At the time of the Purim miracle the entire Jewish people lived under the rule of King Achashveirosh. Thus, when Haman convinced him to decree the annihilation of the entire Jewish nation, it affected every Jewish person; men, women and children. Thus, the miracle of Purim is like no other miracle in which the entire Jewish nation was saved.

Q. Women are exempt from most mitzvot which have a time factor. Yet, hearing the Megilah, which is read only one day a year, on Purim, women are required to hear it just like men. Why?

A. Haman's decree was to kill every man, woman and child. Since the miracle of Purim affected women just the same as men, women are also required to hear the Megilah.

Q. Mordechai was involved in the story of Purim together with Esther. Why is the Megilah called "Megilat Esther" - "Scroll of Esther"?

A. The Megilah tells us that Esther's Jewish identity was originally not known, so she was not affected by Haman's decree. In spite of this, Esther risked death, revealing her Jewish identity, to plead for her people. Since Esther put her life in danger more than Mordechai, the Megilah is named after her.

Also, Esther was the one who insisted that the story of Purim be recorded and be added to the Holy Scriptures, thus, it was named "Megilat Esther."