11 Adar

Who will speak for those who cannot speak for themselves?

I am taking the message on today’s Parashah, Tetzaveh (You shall command) from the teaching that our rabbi of blessed memory brought to us in 5780. As I mentioned last Shabbat, he told us that these portions are not chronological. Why should it matter? It is more important to examine the Torah in light of its application to our lives rather than to get caught up in the details. That’s not to say that the making of the elaborate vestments of the cohanim and the other magnificent items for the Mishkan (the Tent of Meeting) should be ignored, rather that there is the danger in becoming too esoteric or mystical, and forgetting the practical application to our lives. One of the consequences is that we are losing our young people, and not only them, but the rest of the world is also being deprived of the essence of what the Creator wants to impart to us.

Shemot (Exodus) 28:3 says,  “And you shall speak to all who are wise-hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they make Aaron’s garments to sanctify him, that he may minister to Me in the office of cohanim.”  In the same way that these people were chosen for their innate talent, each of us has been gifted by God, but how many of us know what our gifts are?  Sadly, most people are looking for what they can get instead of what they can give. The result is that so many end up working in areas where they feel unfulfilled, and sense that something is missing in their lives. Our rabbi said that he had a friend many years ago who loved and excelled in martial arts. He had won countless medals in his field. If you didn’t know him, he appeared to be very mild-mannered, even timid; if he was insulted, he never reacted. The only time he stood up to defend anyone was when that person couldn’t defend himself. Although he was very capable of winning, he never started a fight.  He knew what he had inside and didn’t need to show off. When we search within and begin to truly know our gifts and qualities, we stop having to prove anything to anyone. They were implanted within us so that we can use them to find our place within society and serve the greater good.

The cohanim had to make a very special oil for the menorah to bring light into the Mishkan. It would have to burn continuously and be so pure that it would not produce any smoke within the Tent. The reasons are very practical. They wouldn’t want the Cohen HaGadol, the High Priest to choke to death during his time of service and since the Tent had no windows, the menorah would bring in light. The Creator uses physical things to send us an esoteric message. Shedding light on something means to bring clarity to it. Our Creator wants us to be transparent. There are people who think that are doing that but they often come with a hidden agenda. For example. when we do a favor for someone, do we expect to get something in return? This is a struggle for us. Are we ever really perfectly clear about why we do things for others? The principle here is to learn to be honest and direct in our dealings with people. Most of us are so used to putting on a façade for others, more concerned about our appearance than who we really are. We all have our methods of performing, of manipulating people and situations in order to look as if we are in a “good light”. This portion is reminding us to be ourselves, to be clear in our communication and to be as direct as possible without being hurtful or insulting; we can learn to be kind while being honest. Sadly, hypocrisy has become the rule of the day.

The garments which were designed for the cohanim which were regal, elaborate vestments with precious stones. Were they made for the benefit of the Cohanim or for the Creator?  No, they were meant to draw the attention of the Israelites away from the magnificent costumes of the priests of Egypt who practiced paganism with no mercy. Our merciful God wanted to redirect their focus toward Him. He could have done this in an instant by changing their brains but He gave humanity Free Will and wants us to exercise it. It would be a weaning process for the Israelites in which they would have to choose between light and darkness. This is the process for each of us who have been affected by the darkness of our past and are being brought into His light. When we think of the light in the Mishkan, the menorah lit with pure oil, we are reminded of our responsibility of being light to the world.

The Cohen HaGadol would be the representative of the people, the middleman, the “link” between them and their Creator, signifying how we are to present ourselves before Him. He had to first present burnt offerings for himself before he could represent the people. The cohen would need to be humble enough to acknowledge that he could sin even if he was dressed in such an elaborate costume. God is not impressed with our outward display, our costume of religiosity.  He knows our hearts and wants us to come clean to Him and then He would, so to speak, “cover” us in a special garment.

Our Creator is teaching us to keep our light shining and to be light to others, but we bring only smoke when we are dishonest with one another. The Torah emphasizes that clarity is extremely important; to be transparent so that people can see us for who we are.  Sometimes, we will be in a good mood, sometimes not. Sometimes we will do something or say something wrong, but we need to acknowledge what we’ve done or said and make it right. That’s where the support of true friends come in. They can tell us the truth about ourselves, with kindness, because they want to help us grow, not put us down. The people who have more problems growing and changing are those who will not acknowledge that they can do anything wrong. It is easier to blame others than to take responsibility. We live in a society where “victim mentality” is prevalent and we see this in all its various movements. It’s so easy to point fingers at others for our problems but remember, when we point a finger, three are pointing back are us. Our first responsibility is to check within before we judge others; to examine our own behavior and not blame others for what we do.

One of our rabbi’s favorite expression from the Torah was Tzedek, Tzedek TIrdof, “Justice, Justice, we must purse”.  He would always speak up against injustice wherever he saw it and that didn’t make him popular. Today, as believers in the Creator and followers of the Torah and its standards, we must speak up against the injustices of this world. We may be singled out and attacked to the point that we become afraid to speak.  But then who will speak for the mute, the blind, those who cannot speak for themselves?

In the book of Proverbs 31: 9 it is written, “Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy”. Who will speak for the unborn baby who has no voice? Even the religious world has diluted the message. The medical world calls the baby a fetus, so that our conscience can be appeased by disassociating it from a human being. The Scriptures tell us that life begins at the moment of conception.Women may say: “it’s my body and no one can tell me what to do” and men may say” it’s their body, we don’t have the right to tell them what to do with their body.”  We are the ones who must speak up for that baby.  For too long, we have been too quiet. The Creator is calling us to be light to the world. It is time to cry out that the principles of the Creator teach justice, mercy and caring for the weak, the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner.

He has given us the tools to move forward, and to not allow others to speak for us; to deal with injustice instead of thinking that we are victims and powerless. As followers of Torah, we are responsible, that is the result of having Free Will. The garments of the High Priest depicts that our attention needs to be focused on doing what is right.  It is not easy to be a believer, to reflect God’s light. It would be easier to simply accept the opinions of others in order to keep the peace. But as our prophet Isaiah said in chapter 42:6 -7  “I the LORD have called you in righteousness, and have taken hold of your hand, and kept you, and set you for a covenant of the people, for a light to the nations; To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, and those who sit in darkness out of the prison-house;” and in 49:6:Indeed, He says: ‘It is too light a thing that you should be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the offspring of Israel; I will also make you a light to the nations, so that My salvation may be to the end of the earth.”

Shabbat Shalom

Ranebi’s message from 5780 Adapted by Peggy Jacobson Pardo

Today’s message: https://youtu.be/Y3Gp8Q9cv9Q