Wednesday, March 20, 2019



Randy Pausch, a computer science professor, was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in September 2006.
On September 18, 2007, he delivered an inspiring lecture entitled "The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams". The video of the lecture went viral and has been viewed by millions. Pausch subsequently co-authored a book called, “The Last Lecture” on the same theme, which became a New York Times bestseller. Pausch died on July 25, 2008.
The following quote is from his book:

“In 1969, when I was eight years old, my family went on a cross country trip to see Disneyland. It was an absolute quest. It was the coolest environment I’d ever been in.
“As I stood in line with all the other kids, all I could think was “I can’t wait to make stuff like this.”
“Two decades later when I got my PhD in computer science from Carnegie Mellon, I thought that made me qualified to do anything, so I dashed off my letters of application to Walt Disney Imagineering. And they sent me some of the nicest go-to-purgatory[2] letters I have ever received. They said they had reviewed my application, and they did not have “any positions which require your particular qualifications.”
“Nothing? This is a company famous for hiring armies of people to sweep the streets. Disney had nothing for me? Not even a broom?
“So that was a setback. But I kept my mantra in mind: The brick walls are there for a reason. They’re not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something…”

At the beginning of parshas Tzav, the Torah instructs that the first avodah performed each morning in the Mishkan/Bais Hamikdash was terumas hadeshen, removal of the ashes from the previous day’s korbanos. If the ashes remained upon the Mizbaiach the fire would dim. When the kohain removed the ashes, it enabled the fire to surge upwards and consume the new day’s korbanos.
Rabbi Meir Shapiro zt’l[3] explained that this avodah contains an important message: Every Jew has a spiritual fire within him. At times that fire can become dimmed because of sin or the rigors of life which dull his emotions.
The role of the kohain was to help the person whose fire has dimmed, by removing his spiritual/psychological ashes which are impeding his inner fire, so that his inner flame can surge upwards again. No matter how much one has strayed, his internal flame can always be stoked and revitalized. But the first step is to remove the ashes and spiritual debris that have amassed.
Every Yom Tov affords us a unique opportunity to fan our inner flame. But perhaps there is no time of year when that inner fire bursts forth and manifests externally as on Purim.

When Haman maligned the Jews to Achashveirosh, in building his case why the Jews should be eliminated, Haman noted that the Jews are eccentric and different. “Their laws are different from all of the other nations, and they do not perform the laws of the king.”[4] The gemara explains that Haman particularly noted that the Jews work productivity is subpar because they are always saying “Today is Shabbos; today is Pesach.”[5]
Why did Haman specifically point out these two holidays?
More than other holidays, these two special times entail tremendous preparation in order to observe them properly.
During the summer months, expert rabbinic personalities go out to the wheat fields to inspect the wheat that will be used to produce the flour for the next year’s matzah production. The actual baking of matzah begins Chanukah time.[6] Ridding one’s home of chometz is also a tremendous undertaking that requires time and effort. To properly observe Pesach, one also needs to be versed in the many nuances of the unique laws of kashering, cleaning, and preparing for the Seder. Pesach is not a one-week holiday. It requires months of prior preparation.
Shabbos too is not a one-day event at the end of each week. Every morning we recite the Yom[7], in which we refer to that day as part of “Shabbos”. The first three days of the week are still connected to the previous Shabbos, and we begin preparing in earnest for the upcoming Shabbos in Wednesday. Shabbos consumes the entire life of a Jew.
The mission of Amalek is to eradicate G-dliness from this world. The first step in doing so is to dull our excitement and devotion to avodas Hashem. Therefore, Amalek/Haman particularly challenges the holidays of Shabbos and Pesach because they are not merely celebratory events, but they become the entire focus of a Jew and fill him with a sense of complete subservience to G-d.

When Haman prevailed upon Achashveirosh to agree to the genocide of the Jews it was during the month of Nissan.[8] As soon as he received Achashveirosh’s signet ring that enabled him to enact the edict, Haman hurried to have it dispatched immediately. “The couriers went out in haste with the word of the king.”[9] If the decree wasn’t to take effect for another eleven months, why the rush to dispatch it?
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky shlita explains[10] that Haman wanted to ruin the Jews’ celebration of Pesach. This is a tactic that Haman’s successors, the Nazis, utilized as well. They would purposely schedule selections, as well as impose other nefarious decrees and torture tactics, particularly during Jewish holidays, to break the spirits of the hapless inmates, and ensure that they would not be able to receive any inspiration from the holiday.

At the beginning of parshas Tzav the Torah instructs the kohanim about the procedure for offering the korban olah – the elevation offering, which was completely consumed upon the Mizbeiach. “These are the laws (procedures) of the Olah – the Olah upon the fire upon the Mizbeiach, the entire night until the morning, and the fire of the Mizbeiach shall burn upon it.”[11]
The Ben Ish Chai derives a lesson from these words:
When the pasuk says ‘this is the procedure of Olah” it is also asking what is the way for a person to grow and ‘ascend’ spiritually? The answer is, “It is the Olah upon the fire”, i.e. one must invest heart and passion into his divine service.
The Mizbeiach’s dimensions equaled 32 (לב) a hint to the heart of a person. One’s heart must be fired up throughout the nights, and challenging times, and remain that way until the morning sets in.

The gemara[12] relates that in a leap year, we observe Purim in the second Adar in order to juxtapose the redemption of Purim with the redemption of Pesach as much as possible. The calendar has done its part to help us connect Purim to Pesach. Now, it is incumbent upon us to take the excitement and emotional fire of Purim, to carry it over and fuse it into our celebration of Pesach in just a few weeks. 

“Remember what Amalek did to you”
“The Olah upon the fire the entire night until morning”

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] The following is the lecture I delivered at Kehillat New Hempstead, Parshas Tzav 5776
[2] My alteration of his words
[3] Imrei Da’as
[4] Esther 3:8
[5] Megillah 13b
[6] I’ve asked employees at matzah bakeries how they are able to eat matzah on Pesach after spending months producing matzah all day every day…
[7] The psalm that was sung by the Leviim in the Bais Hamikdash
[8] The decree was for the Jews to be killed eleven months later on the thirteenth of Adar
[9] Esther 3:15
[10] Ta’ama D’kra
[11] Vayikra 6:2
[12] Megillah 6b


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