Tetzaveh - Weekly Torah Portion
The Bavli in the Megillah tractate rules that on Purim it is required to drink until one becomes so drunk that it is impossible to distinguish between the damned Hamman and the blessed Mordechai. Frequently it seems to me that last Purim we drank so much because it impacted our ability to understand a whole year! While masks are the norm during Purim, now masks are an everyday requirement. Going out dressed in costumes has become everyday routine. In the Megillah we read a description about the king’s city, that “the city of Susa was agitated”, there is no doubt that now, and certainly our own country leadership, was unable to take us out of this year’s Purim spiel. May be this is because many of the male leaders acted more as clowns, while some other countries, led by women, should much more common sense and wisdom.
Esther also managed her politics vis-à-vis the king carefully and wisely. When her uncle, Mordechai, pressed upon her to act quickly she, rather than responding immediately, made sure that she had some time to think. “Go, gather all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants also will fast in the same way. And then I will go in to the king, which is not in accordance with the law; and if I perish, I perish.” Then, once she had enough time to think this through, building a solid plan, she acted upon it and approached the king who said, “What is troubling you, Queen Esther? And what is your request? Up to half of the kingdom it shall be given to you.” She has but a seemingly simple request, “If it pleases the king, may the king and Haman come this day to the banquet that I have prepared for him.” Once they are there, she requests them to return once more, carefully weaving a trap around he was seeking to catch her in his trap. Careful planning and meticulous execution will result in success.
Meticulous planning is also the order of the day for the building of the Mishkan, the holly tabernacle, with all its minute details, including the high priest’s clothes. From “clear oil of beaten olives for the light, to make a lamp burn continually”, to “a breastpiece of judgment, the work of a skilled embroiderer; like the work of the ephod you shall make it: of gold, of violet, purple, and scarlet material, and fine twisted linen you shall make it. It shall be square and folded double, a span in length and a span in width. And you shall mount on it four rows of stones; the first row shall be a row of ruby, topaz, and emerald; and the second row a turquoise, a sapphire, and a diamond; and the third row a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst; and the fourth row a beryl, and an onyx, and a jasper; they shall be set in gold filigree.” There is an altar too, “you shall make it of acacia wood. Its length shall be a cubit, and its width a cubit; it shall be square, and its height shall be two cubits; its horns shall be of one piece with it. You shall overlay it with pure gold, its top and its sides all around, and its horns; and you shall make a gold molding all around for it.You shall also make two gold rings for it under its molding; you shall make them on its two sides—on opposite sides—and they shall be holders for poles with which to carry it.”
King Ahasuerus also knew a thing or two about fancy stuff. For in his banquet you would find, “curtains of fine white and violet linen held by cords of fine purple linen on silver rings and marble columns, and couches of gold and silver on a mosaic floor of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and mineral stones. Drinks were served in golden vessels of various kinds, and the royal wine was plentiful in proportion to the king’s bounty. But the drinking was done according to the royal law; there was no compulsion, for so the king had given orders to each official of his household, that he was to do as each person pleased.” However, this irresponsible conduct by the leader sows the seeds of disaster. There is nobody there to advise him of his erred ways. To the contrary, a contentious person such as the minister Memucan says what the king willingly wants to hear, “Queen Vashti has wronged not only the king but also all the officials and all the peoples who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus.” The king, and not for the last time in this story, falls to the flattery words, “Now this word pleased the king and the officials, and the king did as Memucan proposed.” No strategic thinking, no planning, but the price shall be dear.
Good leaders are expected to be long-term planners, people who can see well-beyond flattery and the pursuit of power by others around the leader. They must know how to grow the next generation of leaders that are to be even better than the current leader. This is tough by any human scale and failure is oft. Therefore, just like when building the tabernacle, it is necessary to invest in detailed planning. It requires not to give to the avoid the important by caving to the immediate, dealing with the urgent instead of the important, and carefully balancing between the two. In our democratic world, where we are called upon to cast our vote, we must think this through carefully and responsibly, as if our vote will make all of the difference. Are we leaning towards a leadership of funfair and banquets, of intoxicating drinking not thinking of tomorrow, or choose responsibility, patience, tolerance, the building of the much necessary infrastructure for long-term success? That which is less glamorous today but ensure the future of our children and grandchildren.
Shabbat Shalom, Happy Purim and wishes for Good Health.
Reuven Marko, 26 February 2021, 15 Adar, 5781