Thursday, March 9, 2017

Honor And Glory

Ma’amar by the Tolna Rebbe Shlita

 בהראותו את עושר כבוד מלכותו ואת יקר תפארת גדולתו - אסתר א:ד - The Gemara in Maseches Megilla (12a) explains that Achashveirosh at his feast wore the bigdei kehuna – the garments of the kohanim. This is inferred from the Megilla’s description of Achashveirosh displaying at his feast יקר תפארת גדולתו” (the honor of the splendor of his greatness”), which resembles the Torah’s description in Parshas Tetzaveh of the priestly garments as being made  לכבוד ולתפארת  – for honor and splendor (Shemos 28:2). Rashi comments that the Gemara refers here to the garments of the kohen gadol, which had been brought from Yerushalayim. The Imrei Emes , in Michtevei Torah (21), writes that he was asked a question about Rashi’s comment by his brother-in-law, Rav Chanoch Tzvi Levin of Bendin zt”l. He asked, how did Rashi conclude on the basis of the phrase יקר תפארת גדולתו  that Achashveirosh wore specifically the garments of the kohen gadol? The parallel phrase in Parshas Tetzaveh –   לכבוד ולתפארת – was written in reference to all the bigdei kehuna, and not only to the special garments of the kohen gadol. Why, then, did Rashi assume that the Gemara speaks here specifically of the kohen gadol’s garments? 

The Imrei Emes presented an answer to this question which he described as  “Exceedingly good, because it is according to the simple meaning.” He explained: By showing the nations of the world the honor and glory of the garments of ordinary kohanim, even the white garments, they would not see the splendor; only in the golden headplate, breastplate, efod and robe with the bells. Meaning, Achashveirosh’s objective was to display his wealth and splendor before the dignitaries of foreign countries. This objective would not have been achieved by wearing the plain white garments of the ordinary kohanim. To the contrary, if he would have worn these garments, he would have been ridiculed. In order to impress the dignitaries, he had to wear the golden garments of the kohen gadol. We learn from these comments of the Imrei Emes that our conception of  כבוד ותפארת – honor and splendor – differs fundamentally from that of the other nations. We understand that true beauty is inner beauty, the beauty of avodas Hashem and fulfilling Hashem’s will. Anything that is done for His honor and to fulfill His will is beautiful and glorious, whereas anything that is not done for His sake has neither beauty nor glory. Indeed, we have always known how to show honor and glory to matters of kedusha. For example, we dress in special clothing for Shabbos, even though the gentiles do not see any beauty or glory in these clothes. We can see the beauty in our special Shabbos clothes, just as we can see the beauty in the plain clothing of the ordinary kohanim, which could not possibly be appreciated by members of other nations. We see them as garments made in accordance with HKB”H’s command for the purpose of serving Him in the Beis Ha’mikdash, and there is nothing more glorious and beautiful. This message needs to be reinforced in our generation. 

Unfortunately, many among us have been attracted to the כבוד ותפארת of the foreign nations, and they dress their children in clothing that is deemed beautiful and honorable by non-Jews. On Purim, they dress their children in costumes that originate from non-Jewish culture, something our forebears would never have countenanced, and this can cause grave spiritual destruction, Heaven forbid. I have already told several times what I heard my grandfather say about the time he moved to Eretz Yisrael and saw the way the impoverished Jews of Eretz Yisrael, who barely had any money, prepared themselves and their homes for Shabbos. They spread white sand on the floor of their homes in honor of Shabbos, the food for Shabbos was scarce, and they lit the candles in crevices in the stone walls. My grandfather remarked that although he had seen lavish Shabbos festivities in Tulchyn, Russia, and in America, nevertheless, he never saw as beautiful a Shabbos as what he witnessed in Yerushalayim. Indeed, this is a kind of splendor that no non-Jew can appreciate. On Shabbos Parshas Tetzaveh, as we read about the garments of the ordinary kohanim, which, like the golden garments of the kohen gadol, are described with the phrase  לכבוד ולתפארת ,we must reinforce this awareness of the distinction between Jewish beauty, which is true, inner beauty, and the external beauty which is appreciated by other nations. We must distance ourselves from all forms of כבוד ותפארת which originate from impure sources, and ensure to give honor and respect only to matters of kedusha, and we will then be worthy of true splendor and glory, אמן כן יהי רצון.