1. The unique aspect of this Shabbos is that it is Shabbos Zachor — first of the four special Shabbosim, when an extra Torah section is read in addition to the regular Torah portion.

The mitzvah of reading the portion of Zachor is by Scriptural injunction while the general practice of Torah reading throughout the year was instituted by Moshe as a Rabbinic enactment.

The blessings pronounced before and after the Torah reading this week also assume more importance because they fuse with a Torah reading prescribed by Biblical law.

The practical application of Torah, as well as the eternity of Torah, are also enhanced when the Torah reading is ordained by Biblical law. In the case of the portion of Zachor the practice will include remembering the attack of the Amalekite army against the Jewish people in the desert and the obligation to utterly wipe out the remembrance of Amalek in the future. Thus, in practical terms we are dealing with action that will entail the ultimate devotion — the readiness for self-sacrifice in battle. This certainly affects the essential being of the Jew. Victory being one of the essential attributes of a person.

It is given further importance when the Torah tells us that, so to speak, this is “G‑d’s battle against Amalek.”

The perception of eternity takes on new dimensions in the case of the future war against Amalek. The Torah says: “G‑d shall be at war with Amalek for all generations,” (Shemos 17:16) to which the Targum Yonason B. Uziel expounds: “In the generation of this era, in the generation of Mashiach, and in the generation of the world to come.”

Hence, from the time of Moshe and Yehoshua when the first confrontation took place, up until and even after the generation of Mashiach, this conflict will go on.

On a more profound level there seems to be a connection between the war with Amalek and the building of the Sanctuary. The original attack by Amalek came about just before the Jewish people built the Tabernacle, and similarly in the future, the destruction of Amalek will precede the building of the Third Beis HaMikdash. (see Rambam, Laws of Kings 1:2) What is the association?

Amalek and Haman (his descendant) both wished to destroy the Jewish people. By war or by decree they attacked the physical being of the Jewish people, which is why the main celebration of Purim emphasizes physical practices. It is of course the living physical Jew who is capable of transforming the material world into a dwelling place for G‑dliness. Here then is the connection between the Jew’s role and the Beis HaMikdash and Mishkan. It was in the Sanctuary that G‑d’s desire for a dwelling place in the lower worlds crystallized, through the Divine service of the Jews. Consequently, Amalek tried to destroy the Jews.

For this reason we must first eliminate the force that opposes this Divine plan (Amalek) and then go on to make a place for the Shechinah in this world.

The eternity of the Beis HaMikdash is an integral and fundamental component of the Sanctuary, for as the Midrash explains:

Wherever “unto Me” [or “Mine”] is said it refers to something that shall never cease either in this world or in the World to Come. (Vayikra Rabbah 2:2)

This means that even when the physical edifice is not present, the “Sanctuary” and the “offerings” still exist. We may explain this to mean the Synagogues and Torah study-halls which are seen as mini-Sanctuaries. This also includes the Mini-Sanctuary which every Jew can create in his/her own home and heart, a dwelling place for the Shechinah. For Chassidus explains that the inner purpose of the Sanctuary was in fact to make the Jewish heart an abode for G‑dliness. This holiness never budges from this place — it is permanent and eternal. It is because of this permanence that the initial devotion and commitment is so powerful on the basic down-to-earth level of time and space, so that the real temporal world is permeated by G‑dliness. As a result, G‑d’s blessings are bestowed upon us in a manner that the individual person is given “permanence” in time and space.

Consequently, when we see the Amalek battle as a preparation for the building of the Tabernacle, then just as the Sanctuary is permanent, so too, is there always the spiritual conflict with Amalek and the need to subdue and eradicate the evil of Amalek as a preparation for the building of a Mini-Sanctuary. This Divine service leads to the ultimate elimination of Amalek through our righteous Mashiach and the building of the Third Beis HaMikdash.

In a sense, “to remember” is a fundamental function in the general area of Torah and mitzvos. The Torah was given to the Jewish people thousands of years ago, yet it must be seen by Jews as being current and fresh — as if it were given to us today. This may be accomplished only through remembering — when the memory is strong then it makes the past alive in the present. As we read in Megillas Esther (9:28): “These days are remembered and come into being (celebrated).” By remembering properly we conjure them into reality as they once were.

This follows the teaching of the Baal Shem Tov on the Mishnah:

If one reads the Megillah backwards he has not performed his obligation. (Megillah 17a)

To which the Baal Shem Tov explained, the meaning of the Mishnah is that if one sees the story of the Megillah only as something which happened “in the past” (backwards) he did not comprehend the true meaning of the Megillah, and in a sense he did not emerge from the decree of Haman.

The remembrance must be with us into the time of Mashiach. Amalek represents indifference and boredom with the aged and hackneyed. To which the remedy is “Remember” and see it as something new, fresh and exciting, for Torah and mitzvos are eternal and immutable.

This mitzvah of remembering is denoted in the Torah in the double form of “Remember” and “Do not forget,” a positive and negative commandment.

Another pertinent point: both the Mishkan and the battle with Amalek have a special association with Moshe. The Mishkan was planned and put up by Moshe, and it was he who effected the revelation of the Shechinah in the Tabernacle. The war of Amalek was likewise linked to Moshe, for he directed Yehoshua to choose the army and the success of the battle ultimately depended on his raised arms.

This parallels the rule that in the future both the war of Amalek and the construction of the Beis HaMikdash must follow the appointment and coronation of the Jewish king. When the Jews were redeemed from Egypt and shepherded by Moshe in the desert, Moshe was truly considered the king of the Jews. (see Maimonides, Laws of the Temple 6:11)

When we remember that every Jew has an aspect of Moshe in his/her soul we can see how every Jew has the potential for the Divine service of eliminating Amalek and building the Sanctuary.

On this Shabbos this connection is enhanced. The portion Tetzaveh begins, “You (Moshe) Tetzaveh — command the Jewish people.” The word Tetzaveh also has the connotation of: “being connected to.” This connection gives every Jew the necessary powers to deal with Amalek, etc.

This Shabbos also concluded the week in which Moshe was born and passed away. Hence, we receive additional potential from this week.

Shabbos by itself also has a special connection with Moshe, for Chassidus explains that at the sin of the Golden Calf Moshe lost “the illumination of a thousand lights” and that Shabbos and the inherent power of teshuvah brought them back to him. (see Siddur AriZalAmidah of Shabbos) Which is what we allude to when we say: “Moshe rejoiced in the gift of his portion.” (Siddur)

Hopefully, everyone will utilize this special power to be involved in the Divine service of the week of Zachor, so that we will speedily see the destruction of Amalek and the complete redemption, through our righteous Mashiach, especially on the eve of the holiday of Purim, which brings one redemption close to another redemption. May we be redeemed now, so that when Pesach comes we will eat of the sacrificial meals in our Holy Land, in Yerushalayim the Holy City, on the holy mountain, in the Third Beis HaMikdash may it be built speedily and truly in our days.

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2. When Shabbos Zachor occurs the day before Purim the destruction of Amalek is more clearly seen in connection with the destruction of Haman. For the hanging of Haman brought the effectuation of the commandment to eradicate Amalek.

Being that today is the 13th of Adar it would normally be the fast of Esther. However, because of Shabbos the fast was moved up to last Thursday. Nevertheless, the aspect of the fast day which sees it as a “day of grace” still remains with the 13th of Adar and in fact it can reach the higher state of “delight,” since it is Shabbos.

Normally, the fast day carries with it a loftier aspect of spiritual sustenance, for the person exists not on the word of G‑d clothed in the food, but rather on the word of G‑d that gives him life directly. This is the fundamental spiritual life force of a Jew, which includes Torah, prayer, etc.

Thus, when the fast of Esther occurs on Shabbos it loses none of its qualities, rather the same lofty state is attained through the eating and drinking of Shabbos. You feel the mitzvah of Shabbos delight when you eat on Shabbos — so that even the process of eating is actually on a higher level, for the spiritual aspect is more clearly evident.

In the normal course of events “the utterances of G‑d” which are enclothed in any physical entity are not the same as G‑d’s word — the Torah and prayer — and there may be quite a distance between the two.

A Jew has the potential to introduce a new system where the G‑dly life-force of the physical shall become actually permeated with the higher and purer G‑dliness. This is the lifeforce of the fast day. This is effected when the G‑dliness is brought down into the mundane world and when G‑d’s commands are obeyed.

Go ahead, you can even explain this to a child. He sees that on a fast day you are still alive; how can this be? You answer that the energy comes from food eaten on previous days — which has already been incorporated in the lifeforce of the human being.

So the child understands that on a day when you do not eat the energy comes from the body of the Jew. And he also understands that energy from food is lower than energy from Torah and prayer.

Likewise, he can comprehend that the food we eat on Shabbos to fulfill the mitzvah of “Shabbos delight” is loftier than a normal fast day. Even a child sometimes does not taste his food and so he can imagine someone eating without physical satisfaction — only spiritual satisfaction.

Now convince the adults. With all due respect, sometimes the child comprehends faster than the adult and most adults have not yet reached that state where all their food on Shabbos carries only spiritual pleasure. There may be some physical satisfaction polluting the spiritual feeling.

But, the goal is for the food of Shabbos, Taanis Esther, to be eaten in a manner of giving life through fasting, by feeling only the spiritual taste and delight of the food and drink. only because you are fulfilling the command of the Holy One, Blessed be He, to enjoy the Shabbos.

This afternoon we read the portion Ki Sisa which speaks of counting the Jews. The first verse has the literal connotation “when you lift the head” — indicating that the head must be above all the functions of the body — “The mind must control the heart,” and direct it to desire only those things prescribed by Torah.

This power is given to us by Moshe — for he was told “Ki Sisa es Rosh.” In our generation, the Moshe of our generation, the Previous Rebbe, is the one who lifts the heads of all the Jews of the generation.

We must act in a way that clearly shows the mind’s in control of the heart and body in all permitted matters. Even the nations of the world should see that when we do any mundane act it is permeated with the intelligence and spirituality and holiness of our souls and minds — “Know Him in all your ways,” and “All your actions shall be for the sake of heaven.”

This all points to a matter of primary importance, that our individual actions reflect upon the Moshe of our generation. As the Mishnah says: “What is the difference between the disciples of Avraham our father....” (Avos 5:19)

When you see the actions of the disciples it reflects on the teacher who taught them and trained them and only when the action of the disciples are worthy of the teacher, only then may they use the descriptive, “disciples of Avraham.”

One who calls himself a “Lubavitcher Chassid,” whether an elderly person, young man or little girl, must realize that his/her personal actions are not a personal matter, for it reflects on Lubavitch. If he is looked upon as a Lubavitcher Chassid then any negative behavior will bring a desecration to the name Lubavitch, the Rebbe of Lubavitch, and the Previous Rebbe, the Nasi of our generation, for people will say: “This is a chassid (student) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.”

Everyone knows that before the Previous Rebbe came to these shores there was only a handful of Lubavitcher Chassidim in the U.S.A. His decision to transfer to America was based on his firm belief that he could build a new Lubavitch community worthy of its name even under the difficult, adverse conditions of America. He believed that here, too, he could train students and disciples in the spirit of Lubavitch, who would be involved in spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit and the wellsprings of Chassidus to the outside, in all corners of the land.

Consequently, when someone sees a Lubavitcher conduct himself socially in an unbefitting manner no excuse will suffice to neutralize the desecration and defamation of Lubavitch in the eyes of the beholder. No matter if the excuse is valid, what counts is the perception; they will say, “See, this is a student of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.”

This should answer those who complain that we are asking too much of them — or that they have done enough. They studied Torah, prayed, gave tzedakah, and now they want to rest. But the answer is that we speak not of their personal time or obligation, but of the work of the “Nasi, who is the whole” and there are no excuses which will exempt them from their obligations.

And may the spirit of Shabbos bring “double salvation” to rectify and perfect anything lacking in this area. And may it bring us to the complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach.

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3. In this week’s portion a question has been raised on a verse in the study section of this Shabbos (Shevi’i): “Make an altar to burn incense.” (Shemos 30:1)

In the commands given to Moshe concerning the construction of the Tabernacle there seems to be an apparent order. The vessels of the Mishkan, such as the Table and the Menorah are described in the portion of Terumah. Following that, in Tetzaveh, we find the commandment to make the vestments of the Kohanim. And here, at the conclusion of Tetzaveh we suddenly find the order to make an incense Altar. Surely this is a strange sequence and seemingly out of place.

It would appear more appropriate to include the altar among the other items listed in Terumah. It does not fit in here. Several commentaries on Torah have raised this difficulty, among them the Ramban, who then goes on to propose an answer which cannot be considered to be in the plain meaning of the Scripture. On the other hand, Rashi, who always explains the plain meaning of the verse, ignores this problem completely. Other commentaries may oft times ignore a question because they rely on Rashi, but Rashi cannot skip a problem unless the solution is so simple that even the five-year-old Chumash student will understand it from the obvious or implied meaning of the verse.

At the beginning of today’s portion another question comes to light. Among the commandments concerning the Tabernacle and its vessels and the vestments of the Kohanim, the Torah tells us:

You [Moshe] must command the Israelites to bring you clear illuminating oil, made from hand-crushed olives, to keep the lamp constantly burning. (Shemos 27:20)

Logically this command does not belong here in the middle of the rules of the construction of the Mishkan and the manufacture of its vessels and vestments. It should be in proximity to the laws of the Menorah or at the end of the whole section.

This brings to mind another question: Obviously the Torah singles out the oil because olives did not grow in the desert and they had to use olives which they had brought with them (out of Egypt). If so, the Torah should likewise give special attention to the fine flour used in making the Showbread — wheat does not grow in the desert either! Why does the Torah wait for the portion of Emor to speak of the preparation of the flour, while it discusses the oil here?


Careful thought will discover that there is actually no order in the listing of the utensils made for the Mishkan. For in the plain meaning of Scripture there was no necessary order to the sequence in which they were commanded to Moshe. Did it follow the sequence of importance or the sequence of manufacture? This is not specified and so we cannot demand an explanation for the order. [On a deeper level of comprehension there may be meaning in the order — but not on the level of plain meaning].

An illustration of this rule may be drawn from the case of the ark which Ramban says was spoken of first because of its importance, while Rashi makes no mention of order, because there is no problem with the order.

In the order of the garments of the Kohanim we see that there is no order. The Choshen (breastplate) was mentioned first but put on after the tunic. If the order was by importance, then why was the Tzitz mentioned after all the others?

So, too, in many areas of the Torah we see that lists follow no special sequence. And therefore in the realm of the plain meaning of the Scripture we have no basis to question the location in the parshah of the altar, or of the oil.

Regarding the discrepancy that oil is mentioned here while the flour for the Showbread is mentioned later in Emor, we must understand a basic difference between these two items.

Although we wondered about the procurement of oil and flour we must admit that logic would dictate that during the 40 years they sojourned in the desert they surely had access to flour and oil. Flour for “earthly bread” and oil to kindle lamps in their tents — especially Shabbos lights. If so, what did the commandment want to accomplish? That they should be zealous in donating these items for the Tabernacle. Well, in the case of oil you can hold it from year to year — as the five-year-old Chumash student sees that the oil lasts from one Chanukah to the next. Showbread, however, cannot last, and even flour may become wormy. So the oil was asked for right away, and the flour only when it was actually needed to bake the bread.

The commandments concerning the Mishkan were given to the people the day after Yom Kippur but the Mishkan was set up during the month of Nissan — the oil could be stored — but not the flour. So the Torah tells us about the oil immediately among the items needed for the Mishkan, and about the flour only after the Tabernacle already stood.