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Do you remember hearing a parent, teacher or elder tell you, "Do what I say, not what I do"? Although as children we might have considered such an instruction a contradiction (and maybe it was!), as "mature" adults we can certainly understand it. After all, who's perfect? We're human. At least once in a while it's hard to avoid doing something that cannot or does not match our instruction to someone else.
G-d, however, isn't limited as we are. When G-d tells us to do something, He accepts upon Himself the same obligations. And we don't have to worry that G-d will say one thing and do another. Thus, as Jews are commanded to wear tefilin, G-d, too, "dons" tefilin, though His tefilin are slightly different. Whereas our tefilin speak of our love for G-d and our responsibility to obey His commands, G-d's tefilin speak of His love for the Jewish people.
This reciprocal relationship is evident in the upcoming holiday of Purim, as well. On Purim we have the mitzva of giving charity to anyone who extends his/her hand for help. Our Sages explain that on Purim, we, too, have the right to "put out our hand" to G-d and ask Him for our needs, even more than on any other day. As we are commanded by G-d to fulfill the needs of others when they extend their hands on Purim, G-d will also fulfill our needs when we do the same.
How do we put out our hand to G-d? Through prayer.
The Baal Shem Tov taught that on Purim one should rise early to pray and ask G-d for everything that he needs. And not only for oneself, but for others as well, for Purim is an especially auspicious time for our prayers, just like Yom Kippur.
Interestingly, Yom Kippur is also referred to as Yom HaKipurim, literally "the day that is like Purim," hinting that Purim is an even more auspicious day than Yom Kippur!
Thus, amidst the rejoicing, merrymaking, charity-giving, hamentashen- eating, gifts of food (Mishlo'ach Manot) sending, Megila-hearing, and dressing up of Purim, it's a truly auspicious time to spend some minutes in heartfelt prayer to G-d, putting out our hands for all of our own personal needs, and for the needs of our family and friends.
On Purim, the holiday of Redemption from Haman's evil plan, we should also remember to ask G-d for our most personal and, at the same time, global need, the revelation of Moshiach and the final Redemption.
When it came time to construct the Sanctuary's vessels, discussed in this week's portion, Tetzave, Moses was unsure of how to make the gold Menora. G-d instructed him to throw the gold into the fire, and the Menora miraculously took shape by itself.
Many of the Sanctuary's vessels were far more complicated to construct than the Menora, but Moses had no difficulty with them. What then did Moses find so troublesome about the menora, especially since G-d had already shown him what it looked like on Mount Sinai?
What Moses found difficult to understand was not the menora's form but its function. How could a physical object -- any object -- serve as a "dwelling place" for G-d and become holy? What do a table, an ark, a menora or an altar have to do with the Divine Presence?
Indeed, King Solomon posed the same question in the verse, "The highest heavens cannot contain You; how then can this House?"
Logic seems to dictate that a "dwelling place" for G-d be constructed of spiritual building blocks: learning Torah, praying with the right intention, loving and fearing G-d, etc. But how can physical objects bring sanctity into our lives?
It was this concept that Moses found troubling, which found expression most particularly in the Menora. The purpose of the Menora was to serve as "testimony to all mankind that the Divine Presence rests in Israel." By means of the Menora, the light of holiness was to disperse throughout the world; Moses wondered how any physical object could perform such a tremendous function.
G-d's answer was that, in truth, this task is indeed beyond the ability of human beings. Only an infinite and unlimited Creator can grant a golden Menora the power to light up the entire world with holiness; the only reason it does is because such is G-d's will.
This was alluded to when the Menora took shape in the fire without human intervention. Similarly, the entire concept of the Sanctuary serving as a dwelling place for G-d is Divine in origin and not human.
This provides us with an eternal lesson for today, for despite the fact that the physical Temple has not yet been restored (may it be rebuilt by Moshiach immediately), every Jew possesses a "Sanctuary to G-d" in his heart. Furthermore, the Jew's primary function in the world is to imbue all he comes in contact with holiness.
The Torah tells us that it's not enough to bring sanctity into life's spiritual dimensions; even the most mundane aspects of our lives must serve as a "Sanctuary" for G-d's Presence. This can be achieved miraculously if we throw ourselves into the "fire" of love for our fellow Jew -- just like the Menora that took shape in a supernatural manner.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 1
by Yehudis Cohen
I always envy my friends who prepare simple and elegant "Mishlo'ach Manot" on Purim -- a beautiful bag filled with a bottle of wine and a pineapple, gaily decorated with some ribbons. Every year I tell myself that next year I will do the same. I will go to the liquor store and purchase a few cases of wine and then go to the produce store and purchase a couple dozen pineapples. I will then place them, quickly and efficiently, in some beautiful bags I purchase at a paper goods store, tie and curl some ribbons on the two handles and voila! My Mishlo'ach Manot will be ready.
This variety of Mishlo'ach Manot, or gifts of food to friends on Purim, fulfills the requirements of the mitzva: that the food be ready to eat and that there be at least two different types of food upon which two different blessings are recited.
But every year, no matter how frazzled or hectic things are, I can't bring myself to actually make these Mishlo'ach Manot. You see, in addition to the fact that I like to be different, I have always enjoyed being creative with Mishlo'ach Manot as it is a beautiful mitzva which is, unfortunately, unknown to many Jews.
Most Jewish children know that we dress up on Purim and twirl groggers at the mention of Haman's name. Most Jewish adults know that it is a mitzva to hear the Megila read on Purim. And most everybody knows that we eat delicious cookies on Purim known as "hamantashen." But somewhere along the line, maybe during the Depression Era when money was so tight, sending Mishlo'ach Manot to friends fell by the wayside for many, to the point where many Jews don't even know that this mitzva exists.
And so, if Purim has almost arrived and I still don't have a "theme" around which to base my Mishlo'ach Manot, then, at the very least, they have to be unusual or homemade. For instance, I've had my children deliver fresh bagels, cream cheese and orange juice to friends early in the morning so they could enjoy a fairly nutritious breakfast and our Mishlo'ach Manot at the same time (before everyone starts digging in to all of the candy and cake that are an inevitable part of most Mishlo'ach Manot). Or one year I made fresh onion bread and babaganoush and gave it together with spring water (the Chabad custom is to include a beverage with the Mishlo'ach Manot).
Last year, however, I think that many of my friends and neighbors in Crown Heights were thinking about what the Rebbe told us time and again is our only task left until the Redemption: to prepare ourselves and the entire world for Moshiach. And many of the Mishlo'ach Manot reflected just that theme.
One of my friends sent a rather plain container, but the message on the cover was far from ordinary. The cover note had a graphic of a door slightly ajar with a sign handing from the doorknob that read:
"Hold fast to the Rebbe's "klamkeh" (door knob), Let his Torah be your guide For Moshaich's standing at our door Let's pull him right inside!"
Inside there was a can of tuna labeled livyatan -- the special, giant fish we will eat at the festive meal with Moshiach, a paper ox (with googly eyes, she reminded me) labeled Shor Habor -- the wild ox that we will also eat at the festive meal, and a bottle of wine labeled Yayin Hameshumar -- the wine, guarded since the time of creation, that we will drink at the festive meal.
Another friend sent her Mishlo'ach Manot in a little plastic shopping bag that had a picture of fish swimming around on it. Inside there was a cup -- decorated with fish swimming in water -- with jelly fish, crackers in the shape of fish, and tuna spread. The card read, "May we merit very soon to eat the livyatan at Moshiach's festive meal."
We also received a beautiful little treasure chest filled with chocolate candies that were wrapped in all different colored foils.
Snuggled next to the candy was a three-inch, old-fashioned bottle that my friend had filled with wine and closed with a little cork. I assume she based this beautiful Mishlo'ach Manot on a talk from the Rebbe where he stated that every single person holds the key to unlock the treasure chest of the Redemption.
As for my Mishlo'ach Manot, I bought children's plastic firemen helmets ($3.60 a dozen!) and filled them with "hot" items like barbeque corn chips, taco chips, fireballs, red hots, hot tamale candies and "white fire" -- vodka. I wrapped them all up in red cellophane and tied them with red, orange and yellow ribbons. Our family's message read: "May the spark of Moshiach in each one of us grow into a blazing flame that burns down the walls of exile and brings about the complete revelation of Moshiach."
What are my plans for this year? Once again I'm considering the pineapple-and-wine-in-a-beautiful-bag variety. But what I'm really hoping for is that before I have too much more time to think about it, all Jews from all over the world, including "all those who were born and all who were destined to be born" (as it says in the Midrash) will be partaking of the festive meal with Moshiach in the Holy Temple.
Somehow, I don't think I'll be in a quandary about Mishlo'ach Manot then.
Foster Love and Unity:
On the day preceding Purim in 1990, the Rebbe encouraged actions that demonstrate love and unity amongst the Jewish people, saying, "In particular, efforts should be made to continue activities throughout the holiday of Puirm and after which, as does the mitzva of Mishlo'ach Manot [the giving of gifts on Purim], reflect ahavat Yisrael, the love for our fellow Jews, and achdut Yisrael, the unity of the Jewish people. Similarly, increases should be made in gifts of charity, reflecting the mitzva of matanot l'evyonim [gifts to the poor]."
7 Adar, 5713 
The story of Purim, as related in the Book of Esther, gives us a clear analysis of the "Jewish problem."
Being dispersed over 127 provinces and lands, their own still in ruins, the Jews undoubtedly differed from one another in custom, garment and tongue according to the place of their dispersal, very much in the same way as Jews in different lands differ nowadays. Yet, though there were Jews who would conceal their Jewishness, Haman, the enemy of the Jews, recognized the essential qualities and characteristics of the Jews which made all of them, with or without their consent, into "one people," namely, "their laws are different from those of any other people." (Book of Esther 3:8).
Hence, in his wicked desire to annihilate the Jews, Haman seeks to destroy "all the Jews, young and old, children and women." Although there were in those days, too, Jews who strictly adhered to the Torah and mitzvot, and Jews whose religious ties with their people were weak, or who sought to assimilate themselves, yet none could escape the classification of belonging to that "one people," and every one was included in Haman's cruel decree.
In all ages there were Hamans, yet we have outlived them, thank G-d. Wherein lies the secret of our survival?
The answer will be evident from the following illustration. When a scientist seeks to ascertain the laws governing a certain phenomenon, or to discover the essential properties of a certain element in nature, he must undertake a series of experiments under the most varied conditions in order to discover those properties or laws which are obtained under all conditions alike. No true scientific law can be deduced from a minimum number of experiments, or from experiments under similar or only slightly varied conditions, for the results as to what is essential and what is secondary or quite unimportant would then not be conclusive.
The same principle should be applied to our people. It is one of the oldest in the world, beginning its national history from the Revelation at Mount Sinai, some 3300 years ago. In the course of these long centuries our people has lived under extremely varied conditions, [in] most different times and different places all over the world. If we wish to discover the essential elements making up the cause and very basis of the existence of our people and its unique strength, we must conclude that it is not its peculiar physical or intrinsic mental characteristics, not its tongue, manner and customs (in a wider sense), nor even its racial purity (for there) were times in the early history of our people, as well as during the Middle Ages and even recent times, when whole ethnic groups and tribes have become proselytes and part of our people).
The essential element which unites our "dispersed and scattered people" and makes it "one people" throughout its dispersion and regardless of time, is the Torah and mitzvot, the Jewish way of life which has remained basically the same through out the ages and in all places. The conclusion is clear and beyond doubt: it is the Torah and mitzvot which made our people indestructible on the world scene in the face of massacres and pogroms aiming at our physical destruction, and in the face of ideological onslaughts of foreign cultures aiming at our spiritual destruction.
Purim teaches us the age-old lesson, which has been verified even most recently, to our sorrow, that no manner of assimilationism, not even such which is extended over several generations, provides an escape from the Hamans and Hitler; nor can any Jew sever his ties with his people by attempting such an escape.
On the contrary: Our salvation and our existence depend precisely upon the fact that "their laws are different from those of any other people."
Purim reminds us that the strength of our people as a whole, and of each individual Jew and Jewess, lies in a closer adherence to our ancient spiritual heritage, which contains the secret of harmonious life, hence of a healthy and happy life. All other things in our spiritual and temporal life must be free from any contradiction to the basis and essence of our existence, and must be attuned accordingly in order to make for the utmost harmony, and add to our physical and spiritual strength, both of which go hand in hand in Jewish life.
With best wishes for a joyous Purim and may we live to see a world free of Hamans and all types of Amalekites...
A Purim Extravaganza sponsored by Chabad Lubavitch of the Upper East Side (of Manhattan) and the Chabad House on Wheels features Megila reading with explanation, a buffet dinner, live music and entertainment as well as a special children's program and masquerade.
Reservations for this special evening, which will take place at the International Center Anti-Defamation League, can be made by calling (212) 717-4613
An innovative, multi-media presentation by Rabbi Avraham Kotlarsky, director of the Chabad Lubavitch Center of New City, NY, took place recently on the topic of ancient, modern and future borders of the Holy Land. The audience was captivated and moved to ask what we can do today to assure the fulfillment of the Divinely promised borders.
For more info about Chabad-Lubavitch activities in New City call (914) 634-0951
Advanced students at the Chaya Mushka Women's Seminary in Montreal, Canada, have been sharing their knowledge of Talmud with Jewish women in various communities. The seminary, whose curriculum was expanded to include Talmud when the Rebbe stated that women should also be studying Talmud, has arranged for the 30 advanced students to spend an evening teaching in Burlington, Vermont, and at Cornell University, New York University and SUNY Binghamton.
Chabad of the Upper East Side is offering a 90 minute "Round Table" get-together at your home or office, covering Mysticism, Biblical Insights, Prayer, Talmud Study, Jewish Medical Ethics, Business or Social Ethics, Jewish History, Moshiach, or any other topic of Jewish interest. All it takes to organize these casual classes is a small group of individuals with a thirst for Jewish knowledge.
If you can generate the interest, Chabad will be happy to teach the informal learning sessions in the privacy of your own surroundings. Call Rabbi Ben Tzion Krasnianski at (212) 717-4613 or your local Chabad Lubavitch Center for similar offerings.
The total triumph of the Jewish people over the evil Haman, which we celebrate on Purim, transforms the entire month -- not just the day of Purim -- into a day of joy and happiness.
Why is the Purim victory so amazing, more so than, say, the miracle of Chanuka, that it has the power to actually transform the entire month?
Haman (may his name be erased) was a descendant of Amalek, the infamous nation that had the chutzpa to attack the Jewish people after their miraculous exodus from Egypt.
All of the nations of the world trembled at the thought of battling with the Jewish nation, except for Amalek. The Torah explains that Amalek "met" the Jewish nation during its journey. But our commentators explain that the Hebrew word for "met" -- "karcha" can also mean "made you cold."
Amalek, in his insidious way, wanted to "cool off" the Jewish people from their fiery faith in G-d and Moses after all the miracles and Divine revelations they had merited.
The very name "Amalek" has the same numerical value as the Hebrew word "safek" meaning "doubt." Amalek's main goal was not to win a military victory over the Jews, but to pierce their perfect faith and strong belief by bringing in "doubts."
So you see, when, generations later, the Jews at the time of Purim were victorious over Haman the Amalekite, the ultimate victory was not over the man but over all that he stood for -- coldness, doubt, skepticism, and the like.
Thus, the entire month of Adar is permeated with the joy and happiness of the Purim holiday, because the stakes were so terribly high.
May we all be victorious over our personal Amaleks this Purim until we merit the ultimate victory over Amalek at the time of the Redemption.
"Because Moses had previously asked G-d to 'erase his name from this book' [unless He forgave the Jewish people], Moses' name does not appear in this Torah portion," comments the Baal HaTurim.
From this we learn that it is forbidden for a person to curse himself. If Moses, who was motivated purely by self-sacrifice, caused his name to be omitted by merely saying "please erase my name," how much more damage can occur when a person curses himself in anger...
That they bring to you pure olive oil (Ex. 27:20)
"Pure olive oil" is an allusion to the Torah, implying that the Torah in its entirety was given to Moses at Mount Sinai: The Hebrew word for "pure," "zach," has the numerical equivalent of 27 -- the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, plus the five letters that have a different form when they come at the end of a word.
And you shall bring near to you Aaron your brother (Ex. 28:1)
Moses and Aaron were of entirely different natures. Moses was given to seclusion and contemplation, as it states, "And Moses took his tent and went outside the camp," whereas Aaron was a social being, involved with his fellow man and pursuing peace. G-d's directive to Moses implied that he should emulate his brother's ways, for a true Jewish leader cannot remain apart from his people.
(Rabbi Meir of Premishlan)
And his sound shall be heard when he goes into the holy place (Ex28:35)
In general, the Torah always emphasizes the importance of being humble and modest. If this is true for every Jew, how much more so does it apply to our Sages, who must set a good example by their behavior. Nonetheless, when it comes to preserving the sanctity of the Jewish people, our Rabbis must not be shy and are in fact obligated to speak out in a loud voice.
The bitter cold chilled the officer's bones and fear made his heart tremble. Ivan was not a coward, but the rumors of the sadistic Bolsheviks who were nearing the city of Rostov frightened him terribly. He paced the streets, waiting anxiously for the light of day. He was oblivious to the two men following at his heels, not making a sound, the distance between them narrowing...
Suddenly he felt powerful hands grabbing him. He screamed a loud and bitter scream, but the two held him and... In the morning the body of the officer was found with the warning: "Beware! The Bolsheviks are coming!"
The Jews were the most shaken by news of the Bolsheviks' approach, as the study of Torah and observance of mitzvot was a most serious crime to the Bolsheviks. There was only one part of the city where life went on as usual, where fear of the Bolsheviks was not felt: in the Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim.
The yeshiva students continued their studies without disruption. They drew their strength from their Rebbe, Rabbi Sholom Dovber of Lubavitch -- the fifth Rebbe of the Chabad dynasty. The Rebbe encouraged them to study and pray as usual, and the yeshiva bustled with life.
It was Zundel the Beggar who brought the news: "The Bolsheviks are on their way into the city!" Soon Rostov became a city of flames and the Bolsheviks beat and killed anyone they chanced upon.
Thus passed several weeks. The holiday of Purim was approaching. The Rebbe isolated himself and didn't speak to anyone. The students could not make peace with the Rebbe's isolation. They remembered the great joy of Purim, when Jews celebrate the victory over Haman who tried to "destroy, kill and annihilate."
And then it was Purim. Not a soul smiled. Finally, two of the yeshiva students who could no longer bear the thought of Purim passing in such a manner, summoned up their nerve and entered the Rebbe's room. After a few silent moments they heard the Rebbe's voice: "The Bolsheviks are in the city. I cannot exist together with them. But for the sake of Purim, we'll forget about the situation. Go buy plenty of vodka and let there be light for the Jews!"
The good news spread through the city and the yeshiva students took their places for the Purim gathering. The Rebbe spoke and all listened. When the Rebbe concluded, an older Chasid began singing a soulful Chasidic niggun (melody). Everyone joined in, singing from the depths of their hearts. Suddenly the door burst open. At the entrance stood a Chasid. "The Bolsheviks are coming," the Chasid cried, wringing his hands in fear.
The singing stopped at once; everyone was gripped with terror. The Rebbe, however, disregarded the news, and began singing a niggun very softly. The melody touched and calmed the frightened crowd. Having concluded the melody, the Rebbe began saying a Chasidic discourse. The room was silent; the only audible sound was the Rebbe's voice.
Suddenly the silence was broken by loud knocking. The Rebbe continued speaking as though nothing was happening. After a few moments one of the members of the Rebbe's family said: "Rebbe, the Bolsheviks are demanding that we let them in. If they see us gathered here it will be our end...G-d forbid." The Rebbe interrupted the discourse and said, "Open the door for them."
In the doorway stood two tall and fearsome looking Bolsheviks, their eyes darting all about, hungry for prey. "What is this gathering? What is going on?"
Trembling, one of the Chasidim called out, "This is the Rebbe Sholom Dovber of Lubavitch. He is teaching Torah to his Chasidim. The Rebbe is busy with his talk and he cannot be bothered." He could hardly believe the words that came from his mouth. The two soldiers were astounded at the Chasid's nerve, and they turned on their heels and departed.
"An open miracle!" the Chasidim exclaimed to one another. They felt protected and sang with greater fervor. Thus passed two hours. So immersed were they in their joy, that they did not hear the Bolsheviks knocking again... "Rebbe, what shall we do?" several frightened Chasidim cried out.
The Rebbe freed himself from his thoughts and said, "Open for them! I don't fear them." The Chasidim understood that another great miracle was about to occur. The Bolsheviks burst through the door, their weapons in hand. The Rebbe ignored their threatening presence and said, "We will begin saying some words of Torah." The Rebbe raised his voice and began, "Amalek is first among the nations but his end will be destruction."
The faces of the Bolsheviks softened. The swords returned to their sheaths, and they watched with growing perplexity as the Chasidim listened to their Rebbe. They looked at one another and then, without a word, turned and left...
The Chasidim thanked G-d for miraculously saving them and for giving them their Rebbe in whose presence evil had no power. Everyone was deeply moved, feeling in their hearts without knowing why that this would be their last gathering with the Rebbe. Painful tears flowed from their eyes, tears of parting. A week after Purim the Rebbe became very weak, and on the second of Nissan his soul departed in holiness and purity.
In what respect is Purim greater than all the other festivals? All the festivals are sanctified by Israel, and in the future when the world will be completely redeemed -- and all its days will be like Shabbat... the light of Purim, which is greater than the light of other festivals, will shed light even in the Messianic age.
(Book of Our Heritage)