Torah thought forFriday 10 Adar 5783 March 3 2023

Parashat Tetzaveh - Shabbat Zachor

(Based on the Ma’amar of HaRav HaGoan Rav David Shaltiel Shlit”a)
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)

The Unity of Am Yisrael is an Antidote to Evil Decrees

It states in the Parashah, “You, [Moshe], must command Bnei Yisrael to bring you clear illuminating oil, made from hand crushed olives, to keep the lamp constantly burning. Aharon and his sons shall arrange for [the lamps to burn] from evening until morning in Hashem’s presence, in the Ohel Moed, outside the parochet that conceals the [Ark] of Testimony. It is a rule for all time that [this oil shall come] from Bnei Yisrael” (Shemot 27:20-21).

Rabbeinu the Orach Chaim HaKadosh a”h (Rav Chaim ibn Attar or Rav Ḥayyim ben Moshe ibn Attar c. 1696-1743) wrote that the term “You must command” is based on the passuk, “He will ‘charge’ His angels for you” (Tehillim 91:11), which is an expression of being in a group, together, that the angel will accompany you to go together with you. This is the meaning of the passuk in our Parashah, for it is known that the Torah is analogous to pure olive oil. Through Torah-study Am Yisrael will be all one people with one heart, and regarding this it states, “You must command”.

During the Shabbatot of the month of Adar we open with Parashat Shekalim, and afterwards we read Parashat Zachor this Shabbat. We have explained in the last days in “Halachah Yomit” that Am Yisrael are customed during these days to give money to tzedakah, reminiscent of the half shekel.

In the Talmud Yerushalmi our chachamim gave a reason for the mitzvah of the half shekel. Rebbi Pinchas said in the name of Rebbi Levi because they sold Rachel’s firstborn (Rachel’s firstborn was Yosef), for twenty pieces of silver which are five selaim, of which each sela is four denarii. It thus transpires that each of the brothers received half a sela which is equivalent to a half shekel in lieu of Yosef’s sale. In order to atone for this sin Hashem arranged for them that they give the half shekel to the Bet HaMikdash.

All of the Avot’s experiences in the Tenach had colossal implications for generations after and included within this is the sin of selling Yosef, which caused Am Yisrael the first disunity which developed amongst them. This is the first time that one of the brothers was separated from them in a frightening way. As it states, “…when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen. That’s why this great misfortune has come upon us now” (Bereishit 42:21). It didn’t end with the brothers separating from Yosef, for this sin later influenced the division in Am Yisrael at the time of Mordechai and Esther. As Haman the wicked said, “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your realm” (Esther 3:8). Haman the wicked was very clever, for he knew the weak point to ensnare Am Yisrael. To indict them in a way that would be heard before the King of the Universe, before Hashem Yitbarach, that behold Your people Yisrael have no love between them and this is one of the reasons that Hashem cast them from Him and scattered them in the iniquity of their internal strife. Thus enduring a harsh exile with severe decrees like the decrees of Haman the wicked. As our chachamim said that there was no one who knew how to speak lashon hara about Am Yisrael like Haman the wicked. For he knew how through his words he could cause Am Yisrael awful hardships until they were almost annihilated chas veshalom [see Megillah 13b].

In the Talmud (Megillah [13b]) Resh Lakish said, it was revealed and known to the One who said, “Let the world come into being”, that Haman is going weigh shekalim against Am Yisrael, (he offered King Achashveirosh 10,000 talents of silver so that he gives him permission to do with them [Am Yisrael] as he wishes), therefore give My shekel before his shekel. It is explained that the merit of Am Yisrael’s half shekel held them in good stead that they be saved from Haman’s decree. It is known that the weight of 10,000 talents of silver is exactly the amount of the Am Yisrael’s half shekel when they left Egypt. The reason is because the merit of the half shekel protected Am Yisrael from Haman’s decree. For Haman’s accusation against Am Yisrael was due to the division amongst them, yet the essence of the half shekel was all unity, for each Jewish person could have given a whole shekel, or a varying amount each person according to their affordability. But Hashem Yitbarach requested from Am Yisrael that each one just give half a coin, so that every other person completes another [two halves make a whole], so that all of Am Yisrael will be united before Him. Therefore, the merit of the half shekel is worthy to protect Am Yisrael from the accusation of Haman the Agagite the oppressor of the Jews [see Megillah 9:24].

Queen Esther fathomed the depth of the matter, and she knew the cause of the decree against Am Yisrael, which was due to Haman the wicked’s accusation. What did she do? She immediately ordered Mordechai HaYehudi, “Go assemble all the Jews that are to be found in Shushan, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day” (Esther 4:16). It appears astonishing, what was the purpose of gathering the all of the Jews, can’t each person fast alone at home? The reason was because Esther wants to remedy the division that Am Yisrael had. Therefore, he ordered that in order to remove Haman the wicked’s damage, it is necessary to gather all of the Jews into one place and for them to all fast together. Through this Hashem will see that we are all united. He will turn to us in mercy, and if there is no division between Am Yisrael then there shall be no division between Am Yisrael and their Father in Heaven.

It is known that neither Hashem nor His throne are complete until the seed of Amalek are cut off from the world [see Midrash Tanchuma Ki Tetze 11 and Rashi Shemot 17:16]. Even though these are complex concepts, nevertheless the explanation is as follows. There is, as it were, a division in the upper world as long as Amalek’s seed exist, which entirely causes division between Am Yisrael and their Father in Heaven. Therefore, we specifically read during these days, the days of Purim, Parashat “Zachor”, which Is about obliterating a remembrance of Amalek.

When Haman saw Am Yisrael gathering together to study Torah, he asked them what they were studying and they replied that when the Bet HaMikdash was standing anyone who sinned brought an offering which contained a meal offering from which a kometz amount of fine flour was offered and this atoned for them [see Vayikra 2:1, Megillah 16a, Midrash Rabbah, Esther 10:4]. He said to them, your kometz of fine flour came and pushed aside my 10,000 talents of silver. Even the enemy, the bitter wicked Haman knew that when Am Yisrael are united and gather together, no nation is able to cause them harm. Therefore, we must strengthen the love between us, especially each person and their household, and to distance from arguments, and then the One who makes shalom in His upper worlds will make shalom with us and with all of Am Yisrael. And due to the sense of completeness amongst us we will be victorious against Amalek. Then Hashem will  be complete, and His throne will be complete as the King over the whole planet.

Shabbat Shalom.