Tetzaveh: Fear is Fun




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    Tetzaveh: Fear is Fun

    This week’s Torah reading ends with the commandment to build the ‘inner’ ‘golden’ altar used for burning incense in the Temple. (Unlike the much larger ‘outer’ ‘copper’ altar upon which was burnt the animal sacrifices)… Read the full dvar torah by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton • Full Article 

    By Rabbi Tuvia Bolton

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    This week’s Torah reading ends with the commandment to build the ‘inner’ ‘golden’ altar used for burning incense in the Temple. (Unlike the much larger ‘outer’ ‘copper’ altar upon which was burnt the animal sacrifices).

    This, at first glance, makes no sense. Why is the Golden Altar mentioned here instead of last week? This week’s reading is about the garments worn by the Kohanim (Priests). This ‘inner’ alter should have been discussed in last week’s portion, Truma, where the other Temple vessels including the ‘Outer Altar’ were explained.

    Also, this week’s Torah reading is the only one of the last Four books in the Torah (after the birth of Moses) that does not mention Moses’ name.

    Is there any connection to the Golden Altar?

    To understand this here are two stories about fear.

    The first is about Rabbi Zusia of Annipoli around 250 years ago (Siporim Noraim pg.159).

    One day an elderly Jew came running into Rabbi Zusia’s synagogue begging to see him. Usually it would a while to get a private audience with this Holy Tzadik (miracle Jew) but this old fellow looked so broken and on the verge of collapse that the Chassidim had mercy and in a few minutes he was standing before the Rebbe pouring out his broken, confused heart.

    He was desperate. An hour ago, a group of some twenty soldiers on their way back home from some sort of victory decided to descend on his inn to ‘refresh’ themselves.

    They promised to pay in full for all they ate and drank. But when he asked for money, they just laughed pulled out wads of cash, waved them in the air, told him not to worry and they would pay only after they were satisfied.

    But their appetite was much greater than his supply of food and whiskey. So when it looked like they weren’t going to get all they wanted, the soldiers angrily began smashing dishes, then tables and chairs and were joking about doing the same to him and his family as well as burn down the building.

    There was absolutely no way to stop them; they were huge barbarians feared by even the police. He took his family and fled the inn but it was only a matter of time till they would finish the food and drink and they would carry out all their threats. He burst out into heartbroken tears and begged for help.

    Reb Zusia immediately put on his coat and said, “Let’s get to your inn as quickly as possible. We will go in my carriage. We have no time to lose!!”

    From a distance the shouting, breaking of glass, and wild laughter from within was frightening but the Rebbe showed no signs of anxiety.

    He calmly entered the inn, stood serenely in the midst of the bedlam and sang out in a loud clear voice a verse from the High Holy Day prayers. “U’b’chain Tein Pach’d’chaw HaShemetc.” (Therefore, put Your fear, G-d, on everything You have created).

    The soldiers suddenly and unexplainably stopped what they were doing, and looked at him in astonishment.

    When he repeated the verse a bit louder their eyes widened in fear and they began trembling. And when he said it the third time, they all began screaming hysterically and tried frantically to escape the room as though it had burst into flames.

    In fact, the rush for the door created such a jam that some leapt through broken windows and continued running for their lives.

    Just at this time their commander, who had been delayed for some reason, appeared in the distance in his carriage and was amazed to see his entire battalion running from the house in all directions waving their arms and shaking their heads like madmen. When he tried to stop them not one of them slowed down to even look at him.

    Only after firing his pistol several times in the air, did he finally get them to stand at attention and try to explain what had happened.

    Most of them were so shaken up they couldn’t talk and others could only say “Pach… pach…pach” (the first syllable of the word for “fear”), but, at last, one of them came to himself and tried to explain.

    When the commander heard the entire story, he ordered them all to return to the inn, apologize to the Jew, and repay all the damages plus a fine. In addition, he handed out severe punishments and got them to swear they would never harm a Jew again. He was at a total loss to understand what caused his brave soldiers to experience such intense fear.

    The answer is…. They experienced truth.

    The second story occurred some fifty years later (cir.1882) when the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Mahara’sh (Rebbe Shmuel), led the Chabad Chassidim. (Bait Moshiach magazine #573 pg. 17).

    The Russians were always either at war or preparing for war and all young men were conscripted, often by force, to serve for at least fifteen years in the armed forces. This was taken for granted by everyone and for many it was even considered a great honor. But for the observant Jews it meant disaster; the army was a tool for getting Jews away from Judaism, and join (G-d forbid) the Church.

    Our story begins as a young Jew by the name of Chaim-Ber Melamed got a draft notice from the Russian army. He was desperate and willing to try anything to get out of it but his chances looked very slim. He was healthy, and strong as an ox – a perfect candidate for battle. And even if he didn’t get killed or wounded physically it would be impossible to keep any semblance of a Jewish life. He had only one chance of getting exempted: The Rebbe.

    Early the next morning he hitched up his horse and wagon and headed off to the city of Lubavitch, hoping against all hope that the Rebbe could save him.

    Usually, the waiting line was for weeks but as soon as he arrived, he was informed that the Rebbe had issued and order that all Jewish soldiers should be admitted with no delay.

    Just moments later he was standing alone before the Rebbe in his closed room. The Rebbe took one look at him and, before he could open his mouth, said,

    “You will not go to the army”.

    Joyous and with an uplifted heart, he thanked the Rebbe profusely, returned home and sat down to learn Torah in peace, certain that his problems were over. But they weren’t.

    A few days preceding his scheduled appearance before the induction board, the Rebbe passed away (13th Tishre 5743).

    The Rebbe was gone!! Chaim Ber was shaken; would his promise of not getting inducted still hold true? Without the Rebbe, almost certain death was awaiting him. Perhaps he should run away, dodge the draft and be a fugitive all his life? But that would be better than … spiritual death in the army!!

    But on the other hand, maybe the Rebbe’s blessing still was valid? Maybe they wouldn’t take him after all.

    He went to the Rebbe’s son, Shalom Dov Ber, and told him what had happened and his son replied that his father would surely keep his promise and he shouldn’t worry.

    But he did worry. Confused, scared, unable to think clearly, he mechanically walked to the draft center praying and saying Psalms to soothe his mind.

    He entered the huge building and was directed up the stairs to his medical examination. His mind was racing with horrible thoughts of war, mayhem and darkness when he noticed that someone walking up the stairs close behind him almost on his heels.

    “Hey!” He turned and yelled out “Why don’t you watch…..”

    He turned back around, burst into a cold sweat, opened his shirt collar, and staring forward, continued going up the stairs, afraid to look behind him. He didn’t know whether it was just his imagination or if it was real. It was the Rebbe Mahara’sh walking right behind him!!

    As he got to the doctor’s door he turned to looked again and sure enough, this time the Rebbe was standing next to him!

    Chiam-Ber was pale and shaking with fear as, at just that moment, the office door opened, the doctor looked out and told him to enter.

    But Chiam Ber was trembling and vibrating so uncontrollably he couldn’t move or even utter a word.

    The Doctor, on the spot, took out his stethoscope and put it to Chaim Ber’s chest. His eyes widened and his jaw fell open in shock! “Young man! You are very ill! Your heart is not functional! Give me your papers.” On the spot the Doctor stamped “Unfit!” and told him to leave the building and never return again.

    The Rebbe kept his promise in a ‘natural’ way.

    This answers our questions about why the Golden Altar is last and the absence of Moses’s name in this week’s reading.

    The structure and service of Holy Temple and its vessels corresponded to the spiritual structure of man and our service of the Almighty.

    The inner incense alter corresponds to the inner fear of G-d.

    Fear, when unwarranted, is destructive and negative. But proper fear; for instance, when we experience a truly wise or holy man, brings us to total self-negation or ‘surrender’ to the good.

    This elimination of false-ego before a greater ‘Truer’ reality is called healthy fear, or ‘upper’ fear.

    That is why the incense on the inner altar was the antidote to death. (Rashi on Num. 17:11)

    Because death was caused by the false egotism of Adam; causing him to eat from the Tree of Knowledge and ‘feel’ separate from G-d; the source of life. But the incense, representing inner surrender to life, negated this feeling and the death that it causes.

    This is what happened to the soldiers in our first story and the young man in the second; they experienced something so intense and real that it shook them to the essence of their souls, destroyed their false egotism and saved the day.

    (Incidentally, this ‘fear’ is also the way to true and constant joy. As my teacher o.b.m. Rabbi Futerfass once told me, “Depression comes from trying to make yourself big. And joy comes from trying to make G-d big.”)

    That is why the Torah explains the Inner Altar last; after all the other vessels and garments, To tell us that this inner fear is the goal and sum total of all truth. As King Solomon, the wisest of men, wrote, “After all is said; Fear G-d and do His Commandments for this is the entirety of man.” (Ecc. 12:13)

    But this is impossible to achieve without a ‘Moses’ of each generation (and eventually Moshiach) to build this Holy Temple with it’s inner altar. As we saw from our stories and will see in next week’s Torah portion when the Jews turned to idolatry because they thought that Moses would not return.

    And that is why Moses’ NAME doesn’t appear here. Because a name is external.

    Here G-d refers to Moses as ‘YOU’ (‘ATA’) DIRECTLY. Because ‘Moses’ must be taken directly and PERSONALLY.

    In other words, we must learn the teachings of ‘tzadikim’ like the Lubavitcher Rebbe (see your local Chabad House for details) internally.

    Then, each deed we do, word we speak or even thought we think can add more blessing and Joy in the world… and bring….

    Moshiach NOW!

    Rabbi Tuvia Bolton
    Yeshiva Ohr Tmimim
    Kfar Chabad, Israel


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