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Kenneth Brander
President and Rosh HaYeshiva, Ohr Torah Stone

Purim and the Parsha: Making a Difference (Parshat Tzav)

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We’re living in very complicated, perplexing, difficult times, where so many people – Jews and non-Jews – are being terrorized and being hurt simply because of the location they live in.

I’m so proud of my son and his friends for going to Ben Gurion Airport and welcoming in hundreds of refugees on a regular basis, to let them know that this is their home and they are welcome to be part of our “Medinat Yisrael”, the State of Israel, both Jews and non-Jews alike.

On a personal level, as someone who is now seeing children coming, not because they’re orphaned, but because their parents have given them up temporarily, in order to make sure they are saved, I’m reminded of the experiences that my father went through as a hidden child during the Holocaust – I’m not comparing the two experiences, because they’re incomparable – but this one is, indeed, still a tragic experience.

And I asked myself, “What am I to learn from the reading of the Megillah and from the parsha, Tzav? What messages does it share with me that I need to internalize into my essence, and the way I engage?”

Megillat Esther reminds us of the fact that God is not found in the Megillah, because the change that happens in the destiny of the Jewish people is because of the initiative of people like Mordechai and Esther.

The heroic activities of Esther and galvanizing energies of Mordecai transform the moment.

And while God is there somewhere, His name is not found in the Megillah – although it is hinted to – because ultimately what helps us bring the Mashiach is our energies; it’s our efforts.

It’s why the Rambam tells us [Mishneh Torah, Scroll of Esther and Hanukkah 2:18] that in the time of Mashiach, the books of the Bible that will be of consequence are the Five Books of Moses and Megillat Esther – not the rest of the Prophets and Writings.

Megillat Esther speaks to the fact that we can change the destiny of the world through our activities, through our essence, not through the miraculous activities that are discussed in the other books, but rather the human initiative that is discussed in the Megillah.

Parshat Tzav speaks about the fact that “אש תמיד תוקד על המזבח”; the need for there to be consistency: a fire must be lit on the altar at all times. [Leviticus 6:6]

Constant consistency. That’s also a message.

And I take away from Parshat Tzav and from the Megillah the responsibility that I have – indeed, I think that all of us have – to make a consistent and constant difference.

“אש תמיד”

We have to constantly understand that our responsibility as Jews, as human beings, is to be God’s partner and to right the wrongs in the world.

And our responsibility as we celebrate the experiences of Megillat Esther is to realize that human initiative can make the difference.

That’s why I’m so proud of institutions such as Hatzala and Chabad, which are doing amazing work. And indeed our own rabbis from the Straus-Amiel / Beren Amiel Institute of Ohr Torah Stone, who find themselves throughout Europe working on behalf of refugees; and the fact that so many of my colleagues have traveled to Poland during Purim to make a difference and to be involved in the humanitarian effort.

“אש תמיד תוקד על המזבח”

We can make a consistent difference, and we recognize from the story of the Megillah that it’s up to us to change the destiny of the world.

Shabbat Shalom and Purim Sameach.

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander is President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone, an Israel-based network of 30 educational and social action programs transforming Jewish life, living and leadership in Israel and across the world. He is the rabbi emeritus of the Boca Raton Synagogue and founder of the Katz Yeshiva High School. He served as the Vice President for University and Community Life at Yeshiva University and has authored many articles in scholarly journals.
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