Thursday, February 14, 2019



Arnie and Ethel were married for fifty-six years. Ethel finally convinced Arnie that fifty-five years after their honeymoon, it was time for him to take her on vacation for a few days. During their vacation, they ate lunch in a restaurant. When they got back into the car and were heading back towards the hotel, Ethel told Arnie that she forgot her glasses on the table in the restaurant. As he turned off to go back to the restaurant, Arnie launched into a diatribe about how Ethel was always forgetting things, and after all these years was still so irresponsible. His speech lasted all the way back to the restaurant. As Ethel got out of the car to retrieve her glasses, Arnie called out, “While you’re in there, I left my hat on the chair!”

The gemara[2] explains that each of the eight bigdei kehuna – vestments that the Kohain Gadol wore, atoned for a different sin. The gemara explains that the tzitz[3] served as atonement for brazenness.
The Shemen HaTov notes that some explain that the tzitz did not actually atone for brazenness, but rather one who saw the Kohain Gadol wearing the tzitz would be so humbled that he would not be able to be brazen and arrogant.  
The Mishna[4] states: “Yehuda ben Taima said: Be bold like a leopard, light like an eagle, run like a deer, and strong like a lion to fulfill the Will of Your Father in heaven. He would say: One who is brazen will go to purgatory, while one who is bashful will go to Gan Eden. May it be You will, Hashem, our G-d, that you rebuild the Bais Hamikdash quickly in our days, and grant us our portion in Torah.”
The Mishna seems very strange. What is the connection between the beginning and the end? In addition, why does the Mishna begin by speaking about what will happen to a brazen person, and then end with a prayer for redemption?
Rabbi Akiva Eiger explains that one cannot excel in Torah without a certain level of brazenness. One who is meek and easily embarrassed will not assert himself and will therefore not ensure that he properly understands what he is learning[5].
The gemara says that the Jewish people are the most brazen of all the nations. We would be unable to keep Torah and mitzvos and stubbornly maintain our values in a society so antithetical to those values, without that chutzpah.
The gemara says that in the generation before Moshiach, chutzpah will be rampant[6]. Rav Tzadok Hakohain explains that before Moshiach’s arrival it will be extremely challenging to maintain one’s faith and to observe Torah and mitzvos according to the demands of halacha. It requires fortitude, confidence, and chutzpah to stand up to society and not submit to its trends. 
It is only when Moshiach will come that the world will recognize the truth that brazenness will no longer be necessary to serve Hashem. Thus, although generally a brazen person will end up in purgatory as the Mishna states, regarding spiritual matters one needs some level of brazenness. But we hope and await the day when that will no longer be a prerequisite. That is why the Mishna concludes with that prayer fro Moshiach.
Shemen HaTov explains that it was specifically the tzitz which contained the words “Holy for Hashem” that atoned for brazenness. Brazenness is generally a negative character trait, but in regard to being “holy for Hashem”, it becomes necessary.

As the Purim story unfolded, the Esther we are introduced to at the beginning of the megillah, seems to be very different from the Esther we are told about at the end of the megillah. When we are first introduced to Esther, she seems very passive. She is the wife of Mordechai, and accepts all instructions from him. The megillah also defines her by her external beauty.[7] She requests nothing and allows things to happen to her and with her.  
Yet, at the end of the Megilla, Esther is the heroine who bravely stands up to her egotistical and volatile husband, and brings about the downfall of Haman. She becomes the catalyst of the entire story.
What brought about the drastic change in Esther?
In the fourth chapter of the Megilla, Mordechai tells Esther that she must violate protocol and approach Achashveirosh, even at the peril of her life. He instructs her that this is her moment, her destiny, and responsibility. Throughout her life until this point, Esther fulfilled her responsibilities, righteously but passively. Now she was told that she was charged with taking an active role, and that the fate of the entire nation rested upon her shoulders. 
We can hardly imagine how difficult it was for Esther to fulfill Mordechai’s instructions. It wasn’t merely the fear of what might happen to her, but also the incredible pressure and challenge of challenging her nature to fulfill her newfound role. She was also a descendant of Shaul Hamelech, who allowed his piety and bashfulness to impede him from fulfilling his mission of destroying Agag, the king of Amalek, generations earlier. Based on her nature and her nurture it was completely contrary to Esther’s very being to fulfill what she was being told to do.  
In our lives, we are occasionally placed in positions that demand us to take on roles that we might not be comfortable with and that challenge our nature. The measure of greatness is when someone can overcome his personality in order to fulfill what is being demanded of him.
Esther did not ask for this mission, nor did she want it. She had been the rebbitzin of one the greatest Torah leaders of her day[8], renowned among her people for her piety, modesty, and adherence to halacha. Suddenly she was instructed to marry an evil despot who hated her people and had sold them to the devil. It entailed incredible brazenness for her to rise to the occasion. 
Many of the incredible chesed organizations in our communities were founded by people who found themselves in challenging situations and instead of resigning themselves to a difficult situation, pledged to help others in similar predicaments.
It’s been said that, “The comfort zone is a wonderful place, but nothing grows there.” Perhaps there was no one who personified this more profoundly than Esther.
Part of the joy of Purim is the celebration that resulted from heroes who fulfilled their divinely mandated roles and embraced the challenges that doing so entailed. Purim is indeed a brazen celebration.
It is also a reminder to us that, until Moshiach comes, we must utilize brazenness to withstand the spiritual challenges being a Torah observant Jew entails.

 “You shall make a tzitz of gold, and engrave upon it the seal: Holy for Hashem”
“Be bold like a leopard”

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 Tetzaveh 5778
[2] Zevachim 88b
[3] The ‘headplate’ of the Kohain Gadol which had a gold plate with the words “Holy to Hashem” engraved upon it
[4] Avos, Chapter 5
[5] See Avos 2:5
[6] Sotah 49b
[7] The following idea is based on an essay by Rav Aharon Lichtenstein zt’l in the book, “By His Light”. The essay is entitled, “If you remain silent at this time” 
[8] The gemara says Esther was married to Mordechai before she was taken to the palace


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