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Friday, February 26

The Weekly Shtikle - Tetzaveh / Purim

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my Opa, Tovia Yehudah ben Yoel, a'h.

As we have discussed on a number of occasions, the juxtaposition of certain parshios to certain events in the calendar is no coincidence and there is often an underlying message to be found. In almost every non-leap year, the shabbos before Purim, Shabbas Zachor, falls out on parshas Tetzaveh. The only time it does not it is Terumah. There must be a connection between these parshios and Purim.

As we know, HaShem's name is completely missing from the text of the megillah. But I find that in addition to that, the megillah also lacks a strong historical context. From the text itself, we know very little about the story's place in history, what preceded it, what followed it, and even some explanation of the events recounted. Who was Achashveirosh? What was his relationship with the Jews? What was his party all about? Perhaps the only inkling of historical  context in the megillah is the brief biography of Mordechai, in which we are told that he was part of the final exile at the end of the first Temple. For "the rest of the story," we must turn to our sages.

Over the course of the megillah, we go to great lengths to demonize the evil Haman, and rightfully so. We make loud noises at the mere sound of his name and then stick in a good curse for him and his wife in the Shoshanas Yaakov song that follows the reading. But what about Achashveirosh? Where does he fit in? There's no mention of him in the song. And we certainly don't make noise for him. (Would the reading ever end if we did?) But we are told in the gemara (Megillah, see that the Jews had already begun rebuilding the Beis HaMikdash. It was Achashveirosh who put an abrupt halt to the reconstruction. There was a well-known prophecy by both Yirmiyahu and Daniel that the Jews would go through 70 years of exile after which they would return to Eretz Yisroel and rebuild the Beis HaMikdash. Belshatzar, a previous ruler, had come to the conclusion that 70 years had passed and rejoiced that the prophecy would not come true. His calculation was erroneous and he was dead by the next morning. Achashveirosh made some adjustments to the calculation and determined that now according to his enhanced calculation, which would also prove to be erroneous, the 70 years had passed and there was no more hope for the Jews. This was the cause for celebration. The "keilim mikeilim shonim" (1:7) were in fact the vessels of the Beis HaMikdash. 

It is understandable that Esther could not have written anything in the megillah itself that would shed a negative light on her husband, the king. But the midrashim make it quite clear what Achashveirosh was all about. Perhaps the juxtaposition of parshios Terumah and Tetzaveh are meant to help preserve that historical context. We spend two complete parshios detailing the beauty and the splendor of the Mishkan and the men who were tasked with doing its work. That special beauty was even enhanced in the edifice constructed by Shelomoh to be the permanent dwelling place of the Holy Presence. After nearly 70 years since its destruction, we were ever so close to getting it back. The beauty and the splendor would return once again. The story of Esther chronicles the hurdles and obstacles we needed to overcome to finally reach that moment.

Have a good Shabbos and a Purim Samei'ach!
Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah!

Eliezer Bulka

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