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Parshas T'Tzaveh/Zachor - It's not what they call you, it's what you answer for!                      9 Adar 5783

03/02/2023 09:12:09 AM


Buddy, my long-time close friend, and I talk about old times and people whom we mutually know from past decades. We tell each other who we may have met from our mutual past and try to guess who they are, based on imbedded hints. On several occasions, Buddy told me he attended an event and a vaguely familiar-looking guy approached him  exclaiming, ”Hi Buddy! How have you been!” Buddy did not recognize this person, so after an uncomfortable space of time, Buddy confessed and excused himself, explaining,  “I’m sorry, but could you remind me who you are?”  At that, this individual expressed hurt that Buddy didn’t recognize him, even though it may have been thirty years since he last saw him! This has happened to me as well, and therefore Buddy and I have decided to be proactive, together coming up with the plan that when meeting someone who knows us  we do not recognize him to immediately introduce ourselves, thereby opening the opportunity for the other guy to introduce himself to us.

A few weeks ago I attended a Rabbinical conference hosted by the Rabbinical Council of California. A general protocol at conferences is to place a nametag around your neck or wear a badge with your name stuck onto your attire. Since it had been three years since this conference previously took place, it was a good idea to wear the name tags, especially because I recognized the faces but could not remember the names.  I personally never like wearing those tags, most times choosing not to wear one, helping me to remain under the radar at these events.  Truth be told, for this event  I did so because of the stretch of time since the last conference. Additionally, I reasoned to myself that there is sure to  come a time when I am going to need to wear a name tag - not for others to know who I am - but for me to remember who I am!

This week’s Parshas T’Tzaveh is famous for not having Moshe Rabbeinu’s name mentioned, something that does not previously occur  from the time Moshe was born until his death - essentially every Parsha in the Torah from Shmos forward. Nevertheless, while we may not have Moshe’s name mentioned in the parsha, the significance of names that are posted is accentuated. The Torah states in Shmos 28:21 "והאבנים תהיין על שמות בני ישראל, שתים עשרה על שמותם פתוחי חותם איש על שמו תהיין לשני עשר שבט"  -  “The stones shall contain the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, one for each of the twelve [stones]. Each one’s name shall be engraved as on a signet ring to represent the twelve tribes”. A few verses later, in Shmos 28:29, the Torah states "ונשא אהרן את שמות בני ישראל בחשן המשפט על לבו בבאו אל הקודש לזכרן לפני ה' תמיד" “- Aharon will thus carry the names of Israel’s sons on the decision breastplate over his heart when he comes into the sanctuary. It shall be a constant remembrance before God”.  Rav Shimshon Pincus zt”l explains that the Bigdei Kehuna, the Kohein Gadol’s garments contained hidden hints and deep secrets regarding the essence of a human being.   Often, the clothing we wear are a reflection of our souls, reflecting who we are, and what we are really all about. For example, if a person wears the clothing of a talmid chochom, a Torah scholar, then everyone sees that his primary focus in life is all about Torah. On the other hand, someone who does not do anything with his life will display himself with clothing that testifies to whom he truly is  - or is not. about his  With this in mind, the clothing that the Torah commands a Kohein to wear during the Avoda/Temple service reveal certain characteristics of a wholesome, complete person standing ready to serve God. Previously, in Shmos 19:6 ,“…and you will be to Me a Mamleches Kohanim V’Goy Kadosh, A kingdom of Priests and a Holy nation. Therefore, every Jew is viewed as a Kohein vis a vis his/her serving Hashem. With this in mind, we can learn many things about how we must serve Hashem.

There are two places where the twelve names of the tribes are mentioned on the Kohein Gadol’s garments. The Choshen/breastplate is described as having the names of the tribes on his heart as he approached the Sanctuary. This is a hint that teaches us it is possible for one person to carry the entire Jewish people within his heart, meaning to be able to love and worry for the entire Jewish people. The אֵפוֹד was a type of apron, which was worn by the Kohen Gadol. The Torah commands “then take two lazuli stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel”. Typically, an apron has two straps that go over the shoulder, representing that a person can carry the entire Jewish people on his back. This means that a person can carry the entire Jewish people through the greatness and strength of the Torah. The Jewish people had giants in their midst, for example, Rashi, of whom it was said,  ”"If not for for Rashi, Torah would have been forgotten, or wiped from the memory of the Jewish people.” Other great personalities including the Rif, Rambam, and Ramban, also carried the Jews of their generations. In every generation there are those leaders who carry the Jewish people in their hearts and on their shoulders. These giants are there for us through the good and bad times.

We see that the names of the tribes that were on the hearts of the garments of the Kohein Gadol were twelve stones - separated from each other - while the names on the ephod, the apron of the Kohein Gadol, were only on two stones. From this distinction we can derive - and learn - a very practical law. If a person credits the people to learn Torah and attain a greater fear of Heaven, he clearly brings the people closer together as one.  Nevertheless, when it comes to loving a fellow Jew, it is not enough just to love them because they are Jews, descendants of   Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov. Rather, one needs to love each and every Jew independently, just for being a Jew, not only because he belongs to the greater Jewish people.

This is hinted with the twelve separated stones, for we know that the twelve tribes are like twelve distinct nations. Every nation has its own customs, laws, philosophy,  fundamental and philosophical differences apart from other nations which bring them to despise each other, eventually bringing them to war. So, too, this animosity at times existed between the tribes of Israel. Therefore, Hashem commanded that each tribe remain separated by a holy stone that was unique to its tribe, its people. The Kohein lifted the stones together, as one on his heart, because it was upon him to love every Jew as is, as they are, respecting each with their uniqueness, accepting every Jew from his tribe, along with his customs and traditions that he received from his father, despite all our differences.

As Purim approaches we are reminded how Haman accused the Jewish people of being a nation that was apart, and at that time, Haman was correct. We were not only physically all around the world, but we had overt division among us. When we repented the Jewish people, we didn’t make an effort to remain close physically and band together. Instead, we remained in our same location but succeeded to open up and treat every Jew as one person with one heart. Today more than ever before need to come together. We as the twelve tribes, and twelve distinct names must work to come together, to be one - the Children of Israel.        

Sat, May 18 2024 10 Iyyar 5784