Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Tetzave
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

Bayle' finkle bat yocheved

Parshat Tetzaveh

Remembering Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda

Remembering Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda. We find ourselves once again faced with the question, how is it possible to educate others concerning the importance of the completeness Land of Israel, while at the same time stressing the importance of the complete unity of the People of Israel?


Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed

1. The Priestly Vestments
2. Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook, zt"l

The Priestly Vestments
God commands Moses: "Make holy vestments for your brother Aaron which are both dignified and beautiful." Later we bear witness to the great attention which the Torah pays to the clothing of the high priest, Aaron. We find much care being taken when it comes to the style of the vestments - they are to be beautiful and embroidered with precious jewels. They are to be knit with exquisite threads: gold, sky-blue, dark red and crimson wool, and linen - the work of an artist.

Truthfully, the great attention given to the clothing of Aaron comes as quite a surprise. We are accustomed to thinking of pious people as remarkable in their inner, spiritual side, and not the sorts to stand out with beautiful clothes. Preoccupation with exterior beauty is foreign to them. What's more, we find the sages of the Talmud voicing criticism of the Babylonian rabbis because they were noted for their fine clothing. Why, then, does God trouble Himself to assure the outer beauty of none other than the high priest?

The chapter of the priestly vestments intends to drive home the essential point that everything must be anchored in sanctity. Beauty, gracefulness, splendor, and glory must all flow from the wellspring of holiness. The Holy Temple is the splendor of the world, for it is the source of the world's beauty. The high priest is obligated to receive a hair-cut each week. He is obligated to appear before God in the height of his beauty.

In the case of the high priest, beauty stems from holiness and purity. This sort of beauty can only appear in the height of its perfection; one must be careful that absolutely nothing is lacking. All of existence evolves from the source of holiness, and when our physical world is connected to its source it must appear in flawless beauty, in glory, and in splendor.

When, though, there is a severance between the physical world and its holy source, beauty becomes like a "gold ring in the nose of a pig, a beautiful woman lacking purpose." Without purpose beauty possesses no value. Indeed, it constitutes a deficiency. Therefore, because we, the Jewish people, chased after the world's external beauty, and neglected the inner bond to the true source of beauty, we were exiled from our land and distanced from normal, natural life. We ascended to an inner, spiritual, abstract life, completely detached from the outer, natural aspects of existence. For the sake of purification, we were forced to confine ourselves to "the four cubits of the Law."

Yet we long for perfection. Our eyes are to the great future which awaits us, in which we will merit a complete and perfect union with the source of holiness, the source of all existence. Then there will be a complete appearance of life in all its glory and beauty, in all its splendor. Then the holy light will shine in all fullness, illuminating all of existence.

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook, zt"l
(Parshat Tetzaveh is generally read on the Sabbath before Purim, the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook, zt"l. Therefore, on Sabbath Parshat Tetzaveh Rabbi Melamed makes a practice of recalling Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda's approach to Torah, community leadership, and the education of his many students.)

We find ourselves once again faced with the question, how is it possible to educate others concerning the importance of the completeness of the Land of Israel, while at the same time stressing the importance of the complete unity of the People of Israel? On the face of things it would appear that the stubborn and extremist stance which expresses a lack of willingness to give up even an inch of the Land of Israel is the very factor responsible for the rift in the nation.

In addition, we ask ourselves, how is it possible to educate the masses towards the complete and unyielding fulfillment of all Mitzvoth , even the most seemingly insignificant, and at the same time educate towards the love of all Jews, even those who are estranged from the Torah and Mitzvoth? Does not this sort of guidance contain something of an inconsistency?

And on top of all this, how, we painfully ask, can we continue to show respect for the State of Israel and view it as the "first burgeoning of our Redemption," the foundation of God's throne in the world? Why, not only is it made up of many who are distant from the Torah, it is lead and its direction determined by Jews who have abandoned the Torah all together.

Indeed, it was towards this seemingly impossible end that Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook educated. Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda proved that not only is it possible to educate towards all of these values together - it is the only way to educate. He taught us, his students, that the Torah, the Nation of Israel, and the Land of Israel are completely interdependent. The Nation of Israel cannot exist without the Torah and the Torah cannot exist without the Nation of Israel. Similarly, the Nation of Israel and the Torah cannot exist without the Land of Israel, and there can be no Land of Israel without the Nation of Israel and the Torah. The completeness of the Torah depends on the completeness of the Nation and the Land.

Our master's love of the Land was beyond compromise; Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda stood opposed to even the slightest forfeiture of land. This extreme love of his stemmed from a clear understanding that the relinquishment of portions of the Land of Israel constitutes, in fact, a relinquishment of both the Torah and the Nation of Israel; the Land, the Nation and the Torah are one, and therefore a blow to one of these entities constitutes a blow to all of them.

This approach did not stem from a pragmatic, political, diplomatic, or security-orientated outlook. It stemmed from deep Jewish faith that the Land of Israel is the Land of God, the Land of life for the Jewish people, and that any division or separation of the Nation of Israel from its land is like separation from God Himself - a veritable death blow, Heaven forbid.

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda's love for both Torah-observant and estranged Jews did not stem from humanistic kind-heartedness alone; neither was it the expression of a superficial nationalistic outlook. It flowed forth from the depths of faith and Torah. It stemmed from an acute awareness that each Jew, even the Jew who has altogether abandoned the Torah, possesses a pure and Divine soul. This soul, constituting as it does the Jew's true basic nature, is destined to overcome all transient outer weaknesses.

Our beloved Rabbi's affection for the entire nation stemmed from a recognition that the Jewish people are like one living body; though one part of the body is infected and diseased, it remains a part of us, our own flesh and blood. Even if that element denies the fact that it is part of the all-encompassing nation of God, the act denial itself is part of our shared sickness. It is impossible, taught the Rabbi, to sever the limbs of a living and united body.

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda taught us that the State of Israel is not merely a formal, technical apparatus guaranteeing existence of the nation, an apparatus with no intrinsic value. Rather, the mere existence of the State of Israel has Divine meaning. He educated us not to err, thinking that the worth of the state can be gauged and measured according to the actions of the government; not to err, thinking that when the government acts as it should, the State has value, yet when it does not act as it should, it does not have value. The mere existence of the state possesses spiritual, Divine value, for it constitutes a meaningful stage in the ongoing materialization of the prophetic vision of our Redemption.

The ingathering of exiles, the settlement of the Land, the liberation the Land from foreign hands together with its return to the sanctity of Israel, and the freeing of the Jews from the yoke of the nations, are all stages in the Divine Redemption, for they belong to the essential aim of the State of Israel. The return of the Nation of Israel to its land and its independence is bringing, and will continue to bring about the return of the Nation of Israel to its Torah and to its God.

Because of his great love for the State of Israel, and because of his recognition of its Divine value, the Rabbi was shaken to the depths of his soul by the appearance of a minority government in Israel which relied on the votes non-Jews. At that time Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda spoke out vehemently, saying that such an act constitutes an "incomparable desecration of God's Name." He called the episode a "comic-tragedy of humiliation towards our people and our state... a great crime which will be remembered forever as an abomination in the history of the People of Israel, the eternal people."

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda's extreme criticism of the government, though, did not effect in the least his recognition of the value of the state. The Rabbi made a clear distinction between our regard for the government - a body which is indeed measured according to its actions - and our relation to the state, which is Holy. Governments come and governments go. "We," the Rabbi used to say, "are commanded by the Torah - not the government. The Torah comes before the government. The Torah is eternal and the present disloyal government will pass on and disappear."

Finally, the Rabbi was not bewildered by obstacles standing in the way of the Redemption. He viewed hindrances as part of the process of redemption - a process which includes crises along the way. He educated us to maintain faith and to recognize God's salvation, to discern the acts of the Almighty, and to be active together with God, as Rabbi Yirmiya in the Jerusalem Talmud said, "...In the future a heavenly voice will erupt in the tents of the righteous, saying, 'All those who worked together with God, come and accept your rewards!'"

Talmud - The voluminous embodiment of the Oral Torah. Basis of Jewish law and philosophy.
Torah - the Five Books of Moses

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