Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Torah Connection - Tetzaveh (and Purim!)

Well, here is the belated Purim post I promised.

My 3rd child is having her Bat Mitzvah very soon, so I decided this week to to to synagogue just with her, and go for the whole service (2.5 hours) to get a feel for what it feels like and how all the parts fit together. With small children, we usually just come for the last hour or so, so the first half is not very familiar to us.....

Anyway, it is interesting that we came this particular week.  This is the parsha just before Purim, and she will be doing the parsha just before Pesach (Passover) four weeks later.  As she read along in her Chumash, she noticed that many verses were almost identical to those that she will be reading!  Turns out that there are many parallels:

1. This parsha is called "Tetzaveh" - "You will command", while my daughter will read "Tzav" - "Commanded".  In other words, there is a good reason for the similarity in the text!  Here we announce what we will do, while next month we will make good on these intentions.

2. Both Purim and Pesach are holidays of deliverance from those who would annihilate us.

3. Both this parsha and the Pesach Hagaddah share an interesting feature: Moses, although clearly central to the story, is never mentioned by name! Many commentators have suggested that this omission in the Hagaddah is intended to avoid the creation of a Moses cult -- all credit goes to G*d alone.

4. Related to this, however, is that the Scroll of Esther, read during Purim, omits any mention of G*d! The story reads like a secular folk tale, with sex and violence, drama and intrigue. The only hint of G*d's hand is a line by Esther's uncle Mordechai, to the effect that if she does not rise the challenge of the moment, that "help will come from another place, but you and your family will perish."  The message of Purim is that even when G*d is hidden, He is not truly absent, but merely "disguised" as a pattern in natural or human events.  The absence of Moses from the Hagaddah and from Parshat Tetzaveh can likewise be seen as a "hiddenness" rather than an actual absence.

On Purim, there are several customs, besides the reading of the Megillah (Scroll):

1. Adults and children alike dress in costumes, both to re-enact the story (Purim-spiel) and for general merriment.  This is a form of hiddenness, certainly.  However, adults are instructed to drink to intoxication.  Is your true self hidden or revealed in drunkenness? Or both?

2. All are instructed to both donate to charity (Matanot La-evyonim) and give goody-baskets to our friends (Mishloach Manot).  Which takes precedence, looking outwards to the truly needy, or taking care of our own?  Or both?

3. A theme in both the Purim story and the Haftorah for the Shabbat before Purim (Shabat Zachor - "remember") is that the ancient "Amalekites" are the perennial enemies of the Jewish people.  We are instructed to both remember them and obliterate their memory.  How can we do both?

A lighthearted holiday full of fun, it nonetheless hides within it some incredible richness and depth.  No wonder it has been said that in the days of the Messiah, all holidays will be abolished except Purim!

1 comment:

  1. Our Rabbi is fond of drawing unintuitive parallels between Purim, our most joyous holiday, and Yom Kippur, our most solemn. The grammatical name, "Yom ha-Kippurim" (day of atonement) can also be read, in vowel-less Hebrew, as "Yom Hachi Purim" (the day most like Purim). This year, he took the theme to new heights (depths?) by parodying the Kol Nidre tune, inserting the names of every kind of booze you could imagine. Fun fun!


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