This week’s parasha is Tetzaveh from the Book of Shemot - Exodus. This Book features multiple monumental moments from the 5 books of Torah, including the Ten Commandments, the Golden Calf and the building of the Mishkan - the Tabernacle. This year, the parasha of Tetzaveh also falls on the same week as Purim. Purim takes place on the 14th of Adar (or the 15th if you live in Jerusalem). It is a holiday commemorating Queen Esther’s success in stopping the attempted annihilation of the Jewish people in Persia over 2,000 years ago. The festival of Purim has four main mitzvot: giving tzedakah - charity, listening to Megillat Esther (which chronicles the story of Purim), taking part in a Purim Seudah (feast) and delivering Mishloach Manot (gifts of food to the needy and to friends). Purim also has many other customs and traditions - one of the most well known is to dress up. There are numerous reasons for this custom but I would like to focus on one which I felt connected to Parashat Tetzaveh.
Early in Megillat Esther, Mordechai saves King Ahasuerus from an assasination attempt by the king’s guards. Ahasuerus asks his scribe to record this good deed so that Mordechai will be rewarded. This eventually comes to pass later on in Megillat Esther when King Ahasuerus orders Mordechai to be dressed in royal garments and paraded through Shushan on one of the king’s horses. The person pulling the horse? That role is designated to Haman - an avid hater of the Jews and Mordechai as well as the primary antagonist of this Megillah. This could be seen as a turning point in the story as it is the first time in Megillat Esther where we see an openly Jewish person in Persia praised by the king in this way. This event is one of the reasons people dress up on Purim - in order to commemorate Mordechai’s reward.
Similar to Mordechai donning the royal garments, Parashat Tetzaveh focuses on the different garments worn by the Kohanim and the Kohen Gadol in the Mishkan. The text goes into detail about the numerous engravings and designs on the garments. One of the most notable examples of the Kohen Gadol’s garb is his breastplate holding 12 precious stones - each one representing one of the 12 tribes. These two instances are just a couple of examples of the significance of clothing in Jewish religion and history. Mordechai’s regal garments - especially in contrast to Haman’s ordinary clothing, emphasizes the power shift between the two. The Kohen Gadol’s clothing plays a big role in multiple festivals and is a prominent symbol of his role in society. All the Kohanim have special clothes which separates them from the rest of Am Israel. This is even more prevalent with the Kohen Gadol and his extra pieces of attire.
Overall, Mordechai and the Kohen Gadol both send a message of the importance of outer appearances. That what you wear may change people’s perceptions of you. That being said, it is also important to be kind and contribute to the world around you, which can be seen in one of the mitzvot of Purim - giving Tzedakah.
Shabbat Shalom and Purim Sameach!
Hannah, Grade 10