Tetzaveh and Purim – All for the Sake of Hashem’s Honor

In the spirit of Purim I found a Baal HaTurim in this week’s Torah portion of Tetzaveh that ties into the holiday of Purim, which takes place this coming Sunday. The Baal HaTurim observes that there are three times in all of Tanach where the word “Vinishma” is written. (1) In this week’s Torah portion, by the description of the מעיל (coat) of the Kohen Gadol which had bells on the bottom of it, ונשמע קולו בבאו אל הקדש” “And its sound was heard when he went into the Kodesh” (Shemos 28:35), (2) “כל אשר דבר ד’ נעשה ונשמע“All that Hashem said we will do and we will listen” (Shemos 24:7), (3) ונשמע פתגם המלך” “And let the verdict of the king be heard” (Esther 1:20). This is what we say in Tractate Megilla daf 3b: “Rava said, ‘If there is a choice between reading the megilla or learning Torah, megilla is better. If there is a choice between the service in the Beis HaMikdash or reading megilla, megilla is better.” This is what is referred to when it say “All that Hashem said we will do and we will listen,” which refers to learning Torah and by the service in the Beis HaMikdash it says “And its sound was heard,” “And let the verdict of the king be heard,” which refers to reading the megilla and right afterwards in the megilla it writes “for it is greater,” which implies reading megilla is more better. Besides this hint of juxtaposition by the word “vinishma” being written three times in Tanach, Rava himself said megilla is better. (Click here and here for Hebrew text)
The Rashba says that even if there would be enough time during the day to complete the sacrificial service of the daily offering in the Beis HaMikdash and then read megilla, never the less it is better to push off the service and to listen to the megilla with the congregation (Rashba in Megilla df 3a).

Let’s take this into perspective; the Rabbeinu Chananel, depicting the grandeur and royalty of the  daily offering, says “that as soon as they sprinkled the wine libation on the alter the head Kohen would wave his kerchief, Ben Arza would then ring a bell, and then the Leviim would start singing the ‘Song of the Day.’ When they got to an end of a portion, the trumpets would blow and the nation would bow down. For every portion there was a blow and for every blow they bowed down…” What majesty! What show of royalty and honor! All this was done for the sake of the honor of Heaven (כבוד שמים). (Click here for Hebrew text of Rabbeinu Bachye.)

I remember, on one of my trips to Ottawa, Ontario we visited the Parliament and watched the changing of the guards for the royal keys to the parliament. Hundreds of soldiers, a marching band, guns shot into the air, a whole half hour ceremony –  just to hand over the symbolic keys from guard to guard for the English Queen’s governmental satellite in Canada. Royalty and majesty demands that respect. All the more so, and in greater abundance, one can imagine the scene in Hashem’s Sanctuary everyday by the daily service; yet the Gemara in megilla says that the reading of the megilla is better than the Holy Service in the Beis Hamikdash.
There is nothing like the study of and toil in Torah. The gemara in Shabbas (daf 127a) says: “and the study of Torah is equivalent to them all,” referring to all the mitzvos. The study of Torah should ideally be done throughout the entire day and night, and should be done for the sake of making Hashem’s Torah great, and to glorify it (להגדיל תורה ויאדיר). Hashem gave us His blueprint of creation, as a handbook on how to live our lives. It is of course priceless, and the more time one spends struggling to understand it, the greater the Torah is honored, and the greater the respect we are showing to the honor of Heaven. Yet the gemara in megilla tells us we should stop learning to listen to the reading of the megilla.

The Gemara in Megilla says that the reason why the reading of Megillas Esther is so important is because of the publicizing of the miracle. It would seem that publicizing Hashem’s miracles is a greater show of honor of Heaven than either the daily service in the Beis HaMikdash or the learning of Torah. (Click here for Hebrew text of the Gemara.)

However the gemara in Megilla then goes on to say that there is one thing greater than reading megilla, which is the burying of the dead. If there is someone who must be buried, that should be done before the reading of the megilla. The reason being, says the gemara, because the honor of people (כבוד הבריות) is greater. The Orchos Tzadikim in The Gate of the Fear of Heaven says: “The soul is the resource for wisdom, and it resides in the brain just like a king residing over his battalion, and is comparable to the honor of its Creator in a miniature way.” Later he says: “That because the soul came from above, from Hashem’s ‘Throne of Glory’, therefore the body which it rests in, is a miniature world. Therefore man is called a miniature world, (see the Zohar Bamidbar 257b and Medrish Tanchuma, Pekuday, parsha 3.) The soul is compared to its Creator and the body compared to the world below on this earth and above in the heavens.” (Click here and here for Hebrew text.)

Man was created in the image of G-D; we are the prince and Hashem is the king. There is a certain regality to us, gadlus Ha’Adam, the greatness of man; however, Hashem is still the king and we are only His children – so how can the honor of people trump the Honor of Heaven?

We must therefore say that the preservation of man’s honor is the Honor of Hashem. Showing respect and honor to one’s fellow, acknowledging the greatness of man in each individual, a prince to the mighty King Of All Kings, is Hashem’s greatest honor, and trumps even the publicizing of Hashem’s greatness through recounting His miracles.

If we imbibe this message into our psyche, we will, without a doubt, have an even greater appreciation of fulfilling mitzvos between man and his fellow man and between man and his Creator.

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