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Tetzaveh 5779

Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20-30:10 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  Once I was in line at a grill restaurant when the woman in front of me asks, "May I have a shwarma please ... and would you please warm the pita before you put the meat in the pita?" The grill man replies, "No. The pita has to be heated after the meat is in it for best results." The woman responds, "I don't want it done that way. Just give me the shwarma without heating the pita." "No" replies the grill man, "If you want a warm pita, I'll warm it after I put the meat in." To the woman's credit she just laughs and exclaims to no one in particular, "This is incredible!"

When we do an act of kindness we must make sure that the kindness is for the good of the person and what the person wants.

There is a story of a father asking his son, a Boy Scout, if he did his good deed for the day. The boy says, "Sure, I helped an old lady cross the street. It took 12 of us." "Why did it take 12 boys to help her across the street?" asks the father. Answers the son, "Because she didn't want to cross!"

Every act of kindness has the possibility of a personal benefit. We must work to divest ourselves from our personal interest and to do kindness just to help someone.

The Sages call the kindness of burying someone a "chesed shel emes" -- a true kindness. Why? As mentioned, in every kindness there is hope or a possibility that the kindness will be returned by the person. When one performs the necessities for a burial -- a tahara (gently washing and clothing the body while reciting prayers by people who truly care) and kevura (preparing the grave and doing the burial, attending the funeral) -- there is no way that the deceased will ever repay this kindness. Yes, the Almighty rewards us for every mitzvah we perform, but the person will not repay the kindness.

The main body of prayers which a Jew prays three times a day is called the Shemoneh Esray. (It includes praises for the Almighty, requests for the whole Jewish people and the world, personal requests and thanks to the Almighty.) In the first blessing there is a phrase that the Almighty is "gomel chasadim tovim" -- He bestows good kindnesses. Why did the Sanhedrin in its great wisdom decide that it was necessary to add the seemingly extra word "good" to tell us what kind of kindness the Almighty bestows? Isn't every kindness done by the Almighty good?

It teaches us to emulate the Almighty to ensure that the kindnesses we bestow are truly good. We all have the capacity to justify and rationalize our thoughts and actions. We often tell ourselves that we are doing someone a kindness when we are actually doing something for our own benefit! (The brain is a very powerful tool. If you ask it, "Brain, give me 10 reasons to rob a bank, it will give them to you --1) Think of all the good you could do with the money! 2) No one is really getting hurt. 3) They're insured! 4) It will be exciting. ... And if you ask your brain for 10 reasons NOT to rob the bank, it will gladly oblige -- 1) You'll probably get caught! 2) You'll go to jail. 3) It will bring shame on your family. 4) It's wrong!) One has to be aware of the motivations for his/her actions and make sure they are for the right reasons. Ask yourself, "Why do I really want to do this deed?"

The story is told of Moshe who returns from synagogue one night and asks his wife Sadie what is for dinner. Sadie replies, "Chicken. But to tell you the truth, it smells kind of funny." Moshe says, "You know, the rabbi announced that there is a poor man who needs food. I'll take him the chicken; you make something else!"

The next day, Moshe is late from synagogue and Sadie wants to know "Why?". Moshe tells her, "Remember the poor man who needed food to whom I gave the chicken?" He got sick so I went to fulfill the mitzvah of bikur cholim (visiting the sick).

The third day, Moshe was REALLY late. When Sadie asks for the reason, Moshe says, "Well, you remember the poor man to whom we gave the chicken and who got sick? Unfortunately, he died and I took care of his funeral. It's really sad -- but look at that -- we got three mitzvahs from one stinking chicken!

When you do a mitzvah of kindness make sure it is a true mitzvah of kindness that is good for the other person and what the other person wants -- not what's good for you!

Torah Portion of the week

Tetzaveh, Exodus 27:20 - 30:10

The Torah continues this week with the command to make for use in the Mishkan, the Portable Sanctuary -- oil for the Menorah and clothes for the Cohanim, the Priests. It then gives instruction for the consecration of the Cohanim and the Outer Altar. The portion concludes with instructions for constructing the Incense Altar.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And you shall command the Children of Israel that they bring to you pure pressed olive oil for illumination to keep the lamp constantly burning" (Exodus 27:20).

The Midrash comments on this verse that the Almighty does not really need the light, but you should nonetheless make a light for Him just as He makes light for you. The Midrash gives the analogy of a blind person and a person who could see walking together. The person with sight led the blind person the entire way. When they came to their destination the sighted person told the blind person to make a light. "I want you to do this," he said, "so you will not feel a debt of gratitude for all that I have done for you. Now you have done something for me in return."

There are many ulterior motives a person can have when he does favors for others. The ultimate in doing kindness is to do it without any expectations for something in return -- and to do the kindness in a manner that doesn't make the other person feel obligated. This Midrash should be our guide when we do a favor for another person. Our attitude should be totally to help someone.

Many people feel strong resentment towards people who do not show any gratitude for what they have done for them. While a person should feel gratitude, one who does kindnesses for others for the sake of doing kindness will be free of any negative feelings towards someone who does not reciprocate or express gratitude. Moreover, an elevated person will go out of his way to make the person receiving his kindness feel free of any obligations towards him.

* * *

The Ktav V'hakabala gives a list of behaviors to guide us in treating others as we wish to be treated:


10 Guidelines to Better Relationships

  1. Do not hurt people physically, financially, emotionally, or with words.
  2. Care for others' needs and feelings.
  3. Be genuine in caring for others because the feeling is part of the care -- we are commanded to be Godly.
  4. Treat people with dignity and respect.
  5. Seek to honor others.
  6. Greet people with gladness and seek their welfare.
  7. Commiserate with others and help them in their time of sorrow or need.
  8. Judge people favorably.
  9. Do not be arrogant towards others.
  10. Rejoice in their happiness.



Candle Lighting Times

February 15
(or go to

Jerusalem 4:49
Guatemala 5:48 - Hong Kong 6:02 - Honolulu 6:11
J'Burg 6:33 - London 4:57 - Los Angeles 5:19
Melbourne 8:01 - Mexico City 6:18 - Miami 5:56
New York 5:12 - Singapore 7:03 - Toronto 5:29

Quote of the Week

You can't do a kindness too soon --
you never know when it'll be too late



With Deep Appreciation to

Larry Sherman

With Special Thanks to

Dr. David Silverstein



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