IN A REGULAR year this Shabbos we would read Parashas Zachor, the second of the four special readings before and after Purim. It’s when we recall Amalek’s first attack against the Jewish people on their way to Mt. Sinai and the receiving of Torah.
Being a leap year with an extra Adar, this has been pushed off a month to Adar Sheini. Of course, it makes it seem as if there is no real connection between the parsha and the special maftir since the latter can be moved around as suits the year. But consider this: the parsha discusses the clothing of the Kohen Gadol, and that is what Achashveros put on to make the point that God had abandoned the Jewish people.
Of all things.
Why specifically the clothing of the Kohen Gadol? Because he was the link between the Jewish people and God. Everyone should have their own personal link to God, but the Kohen Gadol has it on a higher level. He’s holy enough to maintain such a high level that he can have that connection on a daily basis. The rest of us tend to fluctuate, depending upon our mood and the situation.
The clothing helped. We all know the power of clothing. Clothing does make the person to a large extent, and that’s why it’s such a multi-billion dollar industry. The only caveat is that what it makes you on the outside has to eventually make it to the inside. That is not so hard when the yetzer hara is dictating a person’s wardrobe. This is evident by the yetzer hara-like way a person may dress. But when it comes to trying to become more elevated, then you can begin to dress the part, which should encourage a person to fill the “suit” with the real thing.
This was part of Achashveros’ mockery. He was saying, “Look at me! I can dress like the Kohen Gadol without actually being him! In Persia, you can do the same thing. You can pretend to being anyone you want and no one will question what’s truly going on inside.”
So, on Purim, we make a mockery of Achashveros’ mockery. We reverse it. Instead of wearing what we pretend to be on the outside, we wear on the outside what we really are on the inside. In other words, we wear our yetzer haras on our sleeves, and on the rest of our bodies for that matter by wearing a costume.
This makes the clothing connection not incidental, but primary. Our original clothing was only our bodies. Before Adam and Chava ate from the Aitz HaDa’as Tov v’Ra we didn’t need clothing. It’s not that we were blind. It’s that we didn’t have a yetzer hara yet, and it wasn’t even in the Garden. We never considered anything from the yetzer hara’s point-of-view, and seeing another without clothing then was like seeing another with clothing now.
Clothing is to the body what the body is supposed to be to the soul: a means to express the will of the soul. The body is a car for the soul to get around and accomplish in the physical world. Clothing has to be the same thing, and when it is not, the person has lost touch with their soul and, is overly in touch with their body. Purim is supposed to help with that. We only drink wine on Purim to neutralize the body so that the soul can be better heard.
THE TORAH SAYS regarding the making of the clothing:
And you shall speak to all the wise hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, and they shall make Aharon’s garments to sanctify him, [so] that he serve Me [as a kohen]. (Shemos 28:3)
Wise-hearted? How about just a good Jewish tailor?
Not this time. The clothing of the Kohen Gadol was not about style and a good fit, at least not physically. It was made lechavod ul’tifferes—for honor and glory, spiritual honor and spiritual glory.
It was for the same reason that everything for the Mishkan and its service was constructed just so. Every aspect of the Mishkan was made for the sake of tikun, and like with respect to every good mechanic, there was a “tool” for each aspect of the tikun. The average good Jewish tailor has no idea how to do that.
The Talmud gives us an example of this:
Why was the section [in the Torah that discusses] offerings juxtaposed to the section [that discusses the] priestly clothing? To tell you that just as offerings bring atonement, so too priestly vestments bring atonement. The kesones—tunic—atones for bloodshed…The michnsayim—trousers—atone for forbidden sexual relations…The mitznefes—mitre—atones for the arrogant…The avneit—belt—atones for thoughts of the heart…The choshen—breastplate—of the Kohen Gadol atones for improper judgments…The ephod of the Kohen Gadol atones for idol worship…The me’il—robe—of the Kohen Gadol atones for malicious speech…The tzitz—diadem—of the Kohen Gadol atones for brazenness… (Zevachim 88b)
How did this work? Sha’ar HaPesukim helps with the following explanation of the dimensions of the Aron HaKodesh:
They shall make an ark of acacia wood, etc. (Shemos 25:10)
In all of Atzilus, “amasayim—two amos,” refers to [the sefiros of] Netzach and Hod, [and] “vacheitzi—and-a-half” refers to half of Tifferes…and they make the soul of Zehr Anpin. (Sha’ar HaPesukim, Terumah)
If you don’t know Kabbalah, this means nothing. But it says everything. Just as the average person does not understand quantum mechanics, even though it is the basis of their life, likewise the average person does not know how the sefiros are the basis of all they do and accomplish.
That’s a longer discussion. The main point here is how the things we do in the physical world are rooted in and impact the spiritual world. It’s like playing spiritual pinball. In physical pinball, you actually press buttons to move flippers to affect the direction of a ball. In spiritual “pinball,” it is the things we do and the things we make that move spiritual flippers, so-to-speak and, cause divine light to “bounce” from here to there.
What about the fact that most people cannot conceive of this, or of what they are impacting? One might have expected the world to blow up a few times already from all of our spiritual recklessness.
Well, it almost did a few times. And it would have done so more often if God did not have mercy and either direct us in better ways, or minimized the damage we have done for periods of time. But every once in a while, it becomes more than God is willing to permit, and He takes his finger out of the dyke and destruction comes pouring in.
Part of that system of divine mercy was the Temple service. This is why the Talmud says that if the nations of the world had understood how it actually saved the world, they wouldn’t have destroyed it. They would have built walls around it to protect it. Likewise, if the nations understood how important it is for the Jewish people to go back to their land with a Temple to serve in, instead of boycotting Israel, they would be supplying it with all it needs to be the house of prayer of all the nations it is destined to become.
Achashveros too. He promised Esther up until half the kingdom, which Chazal say meant up until the building of the Temple. He figured that as long as the Temple did not stand, people like him could do what they wanted and get away with it. As Haman told him, if the Jewish people sleep through their mitzvos, then God goes to sleep as well, so-to-speak.
Perhaps, but whether God goes to sleep regarding the Jewish people or not, the world doesn’t. Each sin that anyone does goes onto the scale and tips the world in the direction of destruction. Even during times of hester panim, the evil people of history must eventually go, and do.
A Temple might mean no more evil, but it also means a longer life. Bilaam had a blast while it lasted, but only lived 34 years. With a Temple, he might have been a better person and lived twice that age. Haman too. Achashveros as well. But then again, with a Temple they would have been different people altogether, better people altogether. The Jewish people would have had the necessary tools to rectify Creation and increase divine light. Evil has no chance to exist when that happens.
WHO DOESN’T READ the story of the Tower of Bavel and think, “Idiots! Did they really think they could go to war against God by building a very high tower? Did they think they could use it to stop the sky from exploding into a rain flood in the future?” But once we understand what they understood, we might wonder who the real idiots are, them or us. Evil they were. Idiots might be up for debate.
It’s like cutting a piece of paper with scissors. On our level it seems that we are actually cutting something. On a sub-atomic level, we merely break the bonds of electrons and cause a separation of molecules that were never physically attached to one another. For all intents and purposes, it makes no difference to the one cutting the paper, but it can to someone applying the principle in a different way.
Similarly we act in ways without considering how they impact the spiritual world, or how the spiritual actually allows what we do to happen. All we know is that there are things we can do, and things we can’t do. We can walk and even jump off the ground, but we can’t fly without some kind of physical aid.
That is not a physical limitation, but a spiritual one. It may seem like the opposite because we only see what goes on in the physical world. But in Techiyas HaMeisim, the resurrection of the dead, we will be able to fly, and not simply because our bodies will be lighter. They’ll still be quite physical. It will be because we’ll finally merit the kind of divine light that will give us the ability of flight.
The people who built the tower, as evil as they were, knew all of this. But rather than do teshuvah and try to reach such a future level in their time, which they knew was impossible, they devised a scheme to shortcut the system. The tower was built according to kabbalistic specification, based upon gematrios from certain verses, in order to capture the Malchus of Atzilus which, is basically the computer program for the world.
For now, you don’t need to know what the Malchus of Atzilus is to get the point. The point you need to know is that Nimrod and his cohorts understood how the spiritual world controls the physical world, so they sought to control the spiritual world. It was an audacious plan, one that may look outright foolhardy from where we sit. But then again, can we draw down angels to our bidding like Nimrod could?
It certainly attracted the attention of God, Who came down to judge and disperse them. But the point is the point, one that has been lost on us now for thousands of years. Today we don’t even think about the connection between the physical world that we manipulate, and the spiritual world that it impacts. Let the Torah’s focus on the details of the Mishkan be a re-introduction, and a re-empowerment.
KABBALAH MEANS RECEIPT. If you pay for something and get a receipt, it is a “kabbalah.” Likewise, if what you do or learn is the result of a tradition you have “received” from previous generations, it is also called a “kabbalah.” This term is therefore used for the ENTIRE Torah tradition, passed down to us generation after generation since Moshe Rabbeinu first received it from God Himself at Mt. Sinai.
Nevertheless, if you mention “Kabbalah,” it is usually understood to refer to ONE specific level of Torah learning: mysticism. Unless explained otherwise, people will assume that you are talking about something from the Zohar, or the writings of the Arizal.
What is mysticism? This is one definition:
The belief that it is possible to directly obtain truth or achieve communication with God or other forces controlling the universe by prayer and contemplation. (Cambridge Dictionary)
That’s it, only a BELIEF?
Actually, it’s a lot more than just a belief. It’s a REALITY, like the soul, for example. Although we lack the means to see and confirm a soul’s existence, it is clearly obvious that there is something more than just our bodies keeping us alive and bringing out the “better” in us. We may not be able to see a soul, but we certainly CAN see its footprints.
The same is true about mysticism. It can’t be observed in a laboratory, but it can be observed in everyday life. As well as we have PHYSICALLY explained the universe, there are still gaping holes in our knowledge, holes that can be filled only with mystical concepts, beginning with the origin of existence.
Some argue that mysticism is really just the product of an innate desire for higher meaning, and requires an active imagination. Humans can certainly be delusional and, perhaps, the argument goes, mysticism is part of that. After all, how many people throughout history have erroneously believed that they have spiritual powers?
This points to the major difference between general mysticism and TORAH mysticism. Torah mysticism is NOT the result of human intuition or experimentation. It is a “kabbalah,” a tradition, one that was given by God to Moshe Rabbeinu, and then handed down “mouth to ear” ever since.
Of course, such a statement only has weight if one already accepts that God spoke to man in the first place, and actually gave us Torah. But that’s a different discussion, perhaps one worthy to have ELSEWHERE before continuing any further in this book.
Unless, that is, one puts aside such questions and simply looks at what Kabbalah has to say. Then he or she would find, as many have over the ages, that Kabbalah itself proves the point. Quite frankly, no person WOULD ever or COULD ever make up something as vast, detailed, and convoluted as PURE Kabbalah.
It HAS to be true.
It HAS to be from God.
Anyhow, while many others debate the validity of these statements, and spend time and energy trying to undermine the authority of the kabbalistic tradition, others reap the benefits of its time-honored divine wisdom. They walk through the portal that others don’t even approach, and enter an entirely HOLIER and LOFTIER level of consciousness.
Because what you BELIEVE dictates what you SEE, and that directly impacts the SPIRITUAL QUALITY of your life. There are people who die rich without ever knowing why they were alive, while others have lived the most meaningful lives with few material comforts. It doesn’t come down to what you PHYSICALLY own, but what you SPIRITUALLY possess. (Excerpted)