Following Shacharis on Sunday morning I sat down to study the first portion of the coming parashah, Tetzaveh, as is the custom, and I noticed something interesting that I hadn’t previously realized.
On the fourth verse in the parashah, which states, “These are the garments that they are to make: a breastplate, an ephod, a robe, a fringed tunic, a headdress, and a sash,” Rashi highlights the word “ephod” and comments, “I haven’t heard or found any source that describes the ephod. My heart tells me that it was tied around his back…” There was something about the words “v’libi omer li” that just seemed to be saying more than the colloquial translation, which is “my opinion is.” Since I was away at the time and not able to peruse the sefarim that I had at home, I attempted a quick Google search to see if any sefarim found this nuance as profound as I had but to no avail.
Later in the day I took out a sefer that I had taken along for the trip, called Vayoshet HaMelech on the yom tov of Purim written by Reb Avraham Tzvi Kluger of the Nezer Yisrael Beis Medrash in Beit Shemesh. There, Rav Kluger points out the recurrence of the word “lev” in Megillas Esther and cites a few examples: “On the seventh day when the king’s heart was gladdened from wine”; “And Haman went out on that day gladdened with a contented heart”; “And Haman said in his heart…”
There are enough mentions of the word “lev” to compel the discerning and inquisitive student to pause and seek to understand just what the Megillah is imparting with this. In what I can only characterize as a Divine kiss, or perhaps as a way of giving validity and assurance to the lucidity of my thought, Rav Kluger writes: “As it is known any time chachamim write the words “libi omer li” or the like, they are not just giving over their opinion but imparting an idea etched into their heart, which represents a furtherance of the oral Torah rising to the fore from their very essence.”
I knew it! Rashi’s words describing the ephod seemed so conspicuously odd that it begged for more. Furthermore, we read this parashah with this verse and its accompanying Rashi on the week of Purim, when we read Megillas Esther in which the word “lev” is repeated a number of times—there is certainly a specific message being communicated relevant to the times.
Rav Kluger continues: “The Arizal did not speak about the depth of the heart too much, rather of the emotions, referred to in Kabbalah by the term Vav Ketzavos, which emanate from the heart. However, many sefarim indicate that life in the Messianic era will be played out on a deeper realm within the heart of mankind, where the end and beginning of Torah run seamlessly into each other. The lamed of ‘l’einei kol Yisrael’ and the beis of ‘Bereishis’ will be fused to form the word ‘lev,’ which will become the playing field for life in that awaited era.”
After finishing the portion of Chumash for the day, up until Sheini, I continued on to the Tanya for the day and was floored when I discovered that the chapter in Tanya for that day was the 32nd chapter, which in Hebrew is lamed beis, or lev, the heart of the Tanya. In the 32nd chapter of Tanya, the Alter Rebbe famously discusses the virtue of ahavas Yisrael—the perspective one needs to adopt in order to attain it to the extent to which all Jewish people are one.
The mitzvos of the day of Purim contain a commonality among them that bespeaks ahavas Yisrael. Mishloach manos ish l’rei’eihu, matanos l’evyonim, even the seudah wherein there is an obligation to imbibe until reaching the point of being unable to discern between “blessed is Mordechai” and “cursed is Haman.” In essence, the purpose of drinking on Purim is to aid us in being able to transcend our everyday consciousness with regards to those people we align with and those others who make us feel anxious or uncomfortable. On Purim every Jew feels at home in each other’s company.
The whole idea behind dressing up on Purim is for that very reason. Like many of the things we do, this, too, often gets stripped of its meaning and significance to the point where some people might even characterize Purim as the Jewish Halloween. The whole notion of costume contests on Purim is contrary to the purpose of dressing up, which has little connection to the choice of costume and has more to do with obscuring the identity of the person behind the costume. Last week, a meme went out in which the Lubavitcher Rebbe was quoted, saying, “On Purim we see many people dressed up in a variety of costumes. One is a clown, another an animal, and a third person we cannot even identify. Does one costume choice or another irk us? No! The reason being it is just a costume and doesn’t represent the person behind the masquerade.” He continued, “In life we encounter many people. Some are angry, others are impatient, and some others may even be cold and apathetic.” The Rebbe said, “This doesn’t represent who they are; it is but a costume concealing their inner essence. As the Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya, all Jews are one from the vantage point of their heart and soul.”
Still, I thought it was quite ironic that the presence of heart throughout the Megillah is always describing an emotion of Haman and Achashveirosh and not Mordechai and Esther. It occurred to me then that Chazal state that the difference between reshaim and tzaddikim is ultimately their relationship with their heart. Chazal state that reshaim are directed by their heart whereas tzaddikim direct their heart.
The entire salvation of the Jews, it seems, occurred due to an extreme instability in Achashverosh, which led to Vashti’s slaying and ultimately to Haman being hanged. We have to learn how to see things and people from the vantage point of the depths of our heart and we will ultimately come to the realization that we are all connected. A Freilichen Purim!
Yochanan Gordon can be reached at email@example.com. Read more of Yochanan’s articles at 5TJT.com.