Torah Weekly

For the week ending 16 February 2008 / 10 Adar I 5768

Parshat Tetzaveh

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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G-d tells Moshe to command the Jewish People to supply pure olive oil for the menorah in the Mishkan (Tent of Meeting). He also tells Moshe to organize the making of the bigdei kehuna (priestly garments): A breastplate, an ephod, a robe, a checkered tunic, a turban, a sash, a forehead-plate, and linen trousers. Upon their completion, Moshe is to perform a ceremony for seven days to consecrate Aharon and his sons. This includes offering sacrifices, dressing Aharon and his sons in their respective garments, and anointing Aharon with oil. G-d commands that every morning and afternoon a sheep be offered on the altar in the Mishkan. This offering should be accompanied by a meal-offering and libations of wine and oil. G-d commands that an altar for incense be built from acacia wood and covered with gold. Aharon and his descendants should burn incense on this altar every day.


The Rabbi’s Cloak

“…for glory and splendor” (28:2)

Anyone who has appeared in a play will be familiar with “props.” A “prop” could be as small as a pen or as large as a coffin. Any object with which an actor has to interact is a “prop.” In days of yore, “theatre properties” was a term used to distinguish the company’s property from what belonged to the actor.

The word “prop”, however, has another connotation.

Sir Lawrence Olivier, the doyen of Shakespearean actors, once said that he could never bring a character to life until he wore the character’s clothes; the costume and “props” propped up his creation of the character.

“Props” may be fine for the stage, but in life they can be dangerous things.

It would not surprise me to meet someone who had penned a masterpiece on the back of a deli menu. Someone, however, who had managed to do the same while using a Cartier fountain pen on an antique writing table in a Soho loft would seriously surprise me.

Abraham Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg address on a piece of borrowed stationary; a famous Irish novelist used a pencil and a notebook to write his odysseys; and Van Gogh rarely used more than six colors.

The less we understand what we are trying to achieve with our lives, the more we need the trappings, the props; which is why there are so many second-rate art directors with state-of-the-art Macintosh computers and second-rate photographers with this week’s cutting-edge digital camera.

In life, being dressed for the part is not enough. You just have to be the part.

Our soul is pure, a part of G-d from above. Nothing we can do can ever pollute the soul itself. However, we can make it pretty grubby. When we leave this world we cannot enter the palace of the King wearing soiled garments, and thus we have to go to the ‘spiritual dry cleaners’ also known as Gehinom. By all accounts this is not an enjoyable experience to say the least. When a person masquerades away his life, the props stick to him. He becomes welded into an iron mask of illusion. Removing him from that mask, as must be done, is an unpleasant business.

Before donning the tallit in the morning, there is a short prayer in which we ask G-d that the mitzvah of tzitzit should create for us a chaluka d’Rabbanan, “the Rabbi’s cloak.”

When we live our life devoid of the costumes and props of this world, our good deeds and mitzvot bedeck us in the world to come with “the Rabbi’s cloak”, a beautiful garment of “glory and splendor.”

  • Sources: Based on an idea by Hugh MacLeod

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