Tuesday, February 19, 2013

T'tzaveh- Carrying the Weight of the World

V’samta et sh’tei ha’avanim al kitfot ha’eifod avnei zikaron livnei Yisrael v’nasa Aharon et sh’motam lifnei A-donai al sh’tei chteifav l’zikaron.
And you will place the two stones on the shoulder-pieces of the ephod to be memorial stones for the children of Israel, and Aaron shall carry their names before the Lord on his two shoulders as a memorial.
Parashat T’tzaveh provides us with the elaborate preparations for Aaron as the Kohain Gadol. Within the parasha the descriptions of the clothes occupy almost as much space as the descriptions for the entire Mikdash. The ritual garb of the Kohain Gadol is as significant as the setting for the sacrificial rites.
Beyond the robes, the breastplate with representation for each of the tribes, the mantle, sash, and headgear, Moshe is instructed to create stone epaulets bearing the names of each of the tribes of Israel. Whenever he comes into the presence of God within the Mikdash, he carries the weight of his responsibility to the entire people with him. These epaulets serve multiple purposes. They are a sign for Aaron, and subsequent Kohanim G’dolim of the great responsibility they bear as the embodiment of Jewish ritual. Additionally, these epaulets, along with the full garb of the Kohain, are a visual reminder both to God of His people and to the Israelite people that they accompany the Kohain Gadol when he stands before God.
Today our ritual garments are much simpler. Our daily uniform consists of the tallit and tefillin. Each provide a sign to the wearer and to the community of our connection to God’s laws carried on our arms and on our foreheads as a reminder to act and to think as if God stands before us always. The tallit rests on our shoulders, wrapping us in a reminder of God’s law; the traditional stripes, as on the modern flag of Israel, represent our connection to the greater nation of Israel. We no longer have one individual who stands as our representative before God. Instead we each stand before God representing ourselves and our entire nation.
This is especially appropriate for Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat immediately preceding Purim. There is a midrashic tradition that in the messianic age Purim will be the only holiday still observed. The reason for this stands upon the idea that Purim is the only holiday where, as Jews, we were expected to stand for ourselves rather than relying upon God for salvation. It is a reminder that each of us has a responsibility to our nation, that each of us, no matter how humble our beginnings can be the key to the Jewish future.
I wish a Hag Purim sameach; may it be one of light and happiness, joy and grandeur.

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