Nachal novea; makor chochma -
A flowing river; the source of wisdom (Mish. 18:4)

Parshas T'tzaveh 5756

(Exodus 27:20-30:10)

"You (the Jews) shall make a breastplate of judgment ..." (Exodus 28:15)


The firstborn is endowed with superior spiritual energies which increase his intellect and potential, enabling him to come closer to Hashem, if he so chooses. On March 5, 1996 we celebrate the holiday of Purim (meaning 'lots') to commemorate Hashem's (G-d's) deliverance of the Jews from Haman, the evil Persian prime minister, who plotted to annihilate them in the year 3394 BCE. There is a strong connection between the holiday of Purim and the breastplate worn by the high priest. In the following paragraphs, based on the teachings of Rabbi Nachman and his disciple, Rav Noson, let us examine the nature of this connection.


Rabbi Nachman says that there are two nations which dominate the world politically as a result of their connection to the forces of evil (which are associated with the spiritual energies of the primeval snake). Their energetic attachment to the primeval snake gives them dominion in the world, particularly over the holy, Jewish nation. Their political and spiritual goals are diametrically opposed to goals of the holy nation. Thus, these two nations have been Israel's main political and spiritual adversaries throughout history. The two nations are the descendants of Aisav (Esau), Ya'akov's (Jacob's) twin brother, and Yishmael, Yitzchak's (Isaac's) half brother. Their cultural, political, and spiritual philosophies cloud one's perception, making it very difficult to find Hashem (G-d). Rabbi Nachman says that the spiritual impurities that these two nations emit into the world, through their actions, do tremendous damage to the faculty of judgment, making it very difficult to distinguish between right and wrong. A classic example of this is when King Saul was commanded by Hashem to exterminate the evil nation of Amalek, which descended from Aisav (cf. 1 Samuel 15:1-15:35). The reason why Hashem called for the total annihilation of Amalek was that they were so strongly rooted in the primeval snake, its evil could not be rectified, as the verse says, "Amalek is the first amongst nations. [This means that Amalek is the primary offspring of Aisav, "first" in that they are the embodiment of extreme evil, just as Israel, its implacable foe, is also called "first" in that they are the embodiment of good. (Re'sisai Lay'lah)] (Numbers 24:20)


The primeval snake was responsible for turning paradise into a place of suffering and sorrow. The nation of Amalek became the bearer of those very same destructive spiritual powers, and throughout history, they continued to spiritually pollute the world with the snake's destructive essence. Israel's military campaign against Amalek had been a complete success. However the exposure to Amalek damaged King Saul's decision making faculty, just as the snake had done to Adam. As a result, he violated Hashem's direct command to totally wipe out every trace of Amalek, sparing the life of Agag, their king. King Saul was punished for his poor judgment by being made to forfeit his kingdom to King David. Saul's error in judgment had far reaching consequences, and came back to haunt the Jews many centuries later. In addition, his sin remained unrectified for many centuries as well. Several hundred years later, the wicked Haman became the archenemy of the Jews. He quickly rose to power, becoming the prime minister over the powerful Persian Empire. Haman was a descendant of Agag, the Amalekite whom King Saul had allowed to live. True to the nature of his nation, Haman's first priority was to liquidate the Jews, and they were at his mercy.


Rav Noson says that because the spiritual damage which Amalek inflicted upon the holy nation came through King Saul, it was more severe than if some other righteous individual had been its agent. Rav Noson explains why: Ya'akov was the father and main builder of the Jewish nation. He produced twelve holy sons who became the foundation of the twelve tribes and the holy nation. As Ya'akov matured, the holier he became. Each son born resonated with the particular level of holiness that Ya'akov had achieved by that time. Thus Binyamin (Benjamin), the youngest of Ya'akov's twelve holy sons, was conceived when Ya'akov was on a much higher spiritual plane than at the births of his preceeding children. So, when Binyamin was born, Ya'akov's perception of Hashem and his ability to choose between right and wrong were at their highest level.

Each of the twelve holy sons were rooted in a spiritual pathway to closeness with Hashem unique to that son. Since Ya'akov was the spiritual source of the twelve tribes, he incorporated all of those pathways. This means he had achieved Tikun HaMishpat, i.e. he had perfected his ability to make the right decisions by totally expelling from his mind the spiritual pollution created by the snake and later by Aisav and Yishmael. Ya'akov was the prototype for Tikun HaMishpat, as the verse says, "A [day of] judgment of the G-d of Ya'akov." (Psalms 81:5) "Judgment and charity amid Ya'akov, You (Hashem) have instituted." (Psalms 99:4) [These two verses associate perfected judgment with Ya'akov.] So, when Binyamin was conceived, Ya'akov's vibrational essence was of both intellectual and spiritual perfection. In addition, being the youngest, Benyamin got the "hand-me-downs" of all of his older brother's holy pathways and purified minds and they were thus incorporated within him. Therefore, there was great spiritual significance in Binyamin's birth, because his spirit incorporated such great breadth of perfected attributes. Since the holy nation is strongly attached to Hashem, Binyamin's state of mental perfection (which is the ability to make the right decisions--Tikun HaMishpat) also perfected the Divine Chariot and Hashem's Throne of Glory.


All heavenly decisions are channeled through the Throne of Glory and implemented through the Divine Chariot. Because Binyamin was most reponsible for the rectification of those heavenly tools, Hashem's decisions, edicts and authority were best manifested on earth through Binyamin and his descendants. Binyamin's status as the earthly manifestation of the Divine Chariot, reflecting Hashem's dominion over this world, was evidenced in the following ways: He was the only one of Ya'akov's sons to be born in the land of Israel, and the holy Temple was constructed in his territory. These are the places where Hashem's Presence is concentrated more than anywhere else. The Sanhedrin, the leading Rabbinical court where the application of Torah law was decided, was situated next to the Temple, in Binyamin's territory. This is because Binyamin's territory resonated with his connection to Tikun HaMishpat, to the ability to make clear and correct decisions. Through the tribe of Binyamin, this decisi on-making mechanism was available to all of Israel. Therefore, a member of the tribe of Binyamin would be the most suitable leader of the Jewish people.


The mission and goal of a holy nation is to come to recognize and perceive Hashem in this spiritually polluted world. It is the purity of the mind that enables a person to perceive Hashem and follow the right paths that lead to Him. So the goal and collective effort of a holy nation is to strive for mental purity, in order to create an environment of intellectual clarity to clearly distinguish between right and wrong and thus easily choose the right paths that lead to closeness with Hashem. Since Hashem is infinite, the paths and methods that lead to Him are infinite and therefore entail many different forms of service and approaches. This is why there are twelve distinct tribes. The spiritual abilities and philosophies that they embody span the entire spiritual spectrum, each tribe having its own, unique spiritual path. Those pathways are made far more direct when the different tribes pool their talents, thus increasing everyone's ability to perceive Hashem many fold.

Saul was chosen to be the first king of Israel because of his great righteousness, and especially because he was a descendant of Binyamin, and thus strongly connected to the decision-making mechanisms of the upper worlds. Amalek's abilities were the complete opposite of Binyamin's ability to give the right spiritual advice. Amalek was most adept at giving advice that led people away from Hashem, just like his spiritual forebear, the snake. In order to fight fire with fire, King Saul, because he was a descendant of Binyamin and was connected to perfected holy advice, was chosen to wipe out and neutralize the nation of Amalek. When Amalek damaged Saul's Tikun HaMishpat, it not only damaged him, but, since he represented his entire tribe and all of Israel, the Tikun HaMishpat of the entire nation was damaged at its spiritual root. From that time on, it became difficult for King Saul and the Jews to make the right decisions, whereas before this incident, they had been able to come to the right conclusions with relative ease.


There are times when the spiritual energies that nourish the world are particularly strong and favor the Jews and there are other times when they are weak, leaving the Jews susceptible to harm. The factors that make a particular time more or less favorable are partially influenced by the historical events that occurred during a specific month. There is an axiom that actions and events create spiritual energies that are eternal and reappear annually on the event's anniversary. For example, the first Hebrew month, Nissan, is very favorable for the Jews, for this is when the exodus from Egypt occurred, when the Jews earned great merit by demonstrating their faith in Hashem and following Moshe (Moses) into the barren desert without sufficient provisions. The month of Av is the time when the Jews sinned in the desert, swayed to lack of faith in Hashem by the evil report of the ten spies. For that, the two Temples were destroyed during this month. Haman was well aware that, in order to achieve a physical victory, one first had to win the war on the spiritual level. Haman also knew that the Jewish nation was unique and special, always protected by the watchful eyes of Hashem. This is why he implemented his plans to destroy the Jews with extreme caution.

Haman's first step was to cast lots to help him to determine which would be the most auspicious time for destroying the Jews. Casting lots in the correct manner accesses the spiritual mechanism of judgment contained in the upper worlds, which is why Haman used them to try to come to the right decision. Another reason Haman cast lots was to infuse his extremely impure essence into the spiritual channels of good judgment in order to further hinder the Jews' ability to decide. Haman was overjoyed when the lot fell on the Hebrew month of Adar. In his eyes, this could not have been a better month to get the Jews for the following reasons: Each one of the twelve tribes resonate with energies that nourish the world during a particular month. Adar is the twelfth and last month of the year, therefore it is associated with the spiritual energies of the tribe of Binyamin, Ya'akov's twelfth and youngest son.


One of the many functions of the Divine Chariot is to help people make proper determinations. It also aids in finding the pathways that lead to Hashem. As mentioned above, the essence of the tribe of Binyamin brought the Divine Chariot into completion, and so they had more ability than any other tribe to access its spiritual energies of good advice. Centuries earlier King Saul, the Binyaminite, had damaged the decision making apparatus of the Divine Chariot. Haman understood that that damage had not been repaired. Furthermore, since Binyamin incorporated all of the spiritual energies of the other tribes combined, Haman knew that if he could damage the spiritual energies of Adar, associated with the tribe of Binyamin, he would be able to destroy the Jewish people with one blow. Any further damage to the Divine Chariot would a) deprive the Jews of their ability to make the right decisions and b) would make it almost impossible for them to find the right pathways that lead to Hashem. In such a state, the Jews would be practically cut off from their spiritual source of defense, making them easy prey.

There were many ways to access the Divine Chariot. Among them were the lots of holiness cast by the high priest to divide the land of Israel amongst the twelve tribes; on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), the high priest would cast lots to determine which goat would be offered to Hashem and which goat would given to Azazel (the forces of evil); the breastplate of judgment that was worn by the high priest connected to the Chariot as well. Haman discovered how to imitate the mystical procedure to access the spiritual energies of the Divine Chariot, a procedure known only to the high priest and a few other select Tzaddikim (saints). Haman's casting of his own, unholy lots connected him to the spiritual energies of the Divine Chariot and the tribe of Binyamin, enabling him to severely damage them.


The Tzaddik HaEmes (the leading saint of the generation), Mordechai, was aware of all the things that Haman had done, and he was particularly aware of the damage that Haman had wrought to the Divine Chariot, as the verse says, "Mordechai learned of all that had been done [by Haman, both on the physical and spiritual levels]." (Esther 4:1) Mordechai knew he had to act quickly if the Jews would have any chance for survival. In order to repair the Divine Chariot, Mordechai first had to access it. However, Haman, through the unholy lots, had damaged and polluted the spiritual pathways that lead there. Therefore, it could not be reached that way. The breastplate of the high priest was unavailable, for the Temple lay in ruins. So, to access and repair the spiritual energies of judgment, Mordechai had to find another way. He had to activate the same spiritual energies as the holy lots and the breastplate employed by the high priest.

The holy lots and breastplate could activate the spiritual energies of judgment from the Divine Chariot because these devices helped the user to completely nullify himself to Hashem, which, given human nature, is extremely difficult to do. The user's mind would become completely merged with the Divine Intellect, all of his own ideas and conclusions fell away. Humbling oneself to this state of total submission and dependence upon Hashem entitled the person to Heavenly revelation as to the proper course of action. This is exactly what Mordechai did, as the verse says, "And Mordechai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth with ashes. He went out into the midst of the city, and cried loudly and bitterly." (Esther 4:1) In so doing, Mordechai completely humbled himself before Hashem and demonstrated that he considered himself as nothing before Hashem and His Divine judgment. Instead of trying to devise his own plans, he placed himself fully in Hashem's care, completely dependent upon His decisions. In contrast, many individuals of lower caliber would have first held committee meetings, circulated petitions, held protests, sought out influential politicians, etc. Mordechai resorted to such methods only after he knew that he had humbled himself before Hashem and enlisted His aid. Then Mordechai was confident that any political maneuvering would be Hashem's instrument for salvation. Belief in salvation solely through political means or the whims of chance is tantamount to idolatry.


Mordechai's absolute submission to Hashem gave him full access the Divine Chariot and enabled him to repair not only Haman's damage, but King Saul's as well. The Talmud says that a person's name tells us about his spiritual essence. (Talmud: Berachot 5b) The name, MoRDechai can be rearranged into two words, MoR/D'RoR. D'ror means freedom. The word is associated with the Jubilee year, when all ancestral land which had been sold, is returned to its original tribal owners and all Hebrew slaves are freed. [Poeple would sell their familial lands or sell themselves as slaves for monetary gain, among other reasons.] The commandment of d'ror, liberty, must be observed every fifty years. The reason why liberty is proclaimed after fifty years is that the number fifty is associated with the spiritual energies of the fifty gates of understanding, binah.

It takes great understanding to free oneself from the binds of greed and monetary dependence that dragged him to the point where he sold himself or his inherited land. The fiftieth gate of understanding contains the most lofty and hidden wisdom that a human is capable of apprehending. The spiritual energies derived from this high level of wisdom, enable a person to connect to Hashem's Throne of Glory, which is propelled by the Divine Chariot. When someone attains this awesome level, they are able to access the spiritual energies of good judgment from the fifty gates of binah, associated with the Divine Chariot. Rav Noson says that the wisdom of the fiftieth gate is sometimes revealed to ordinary people in dreams. When a person sleeps, he is selfless, and as mentioned above, this enables his mind to become merged with the Divine Intellect.


One must totally nullify his intelligence to Hashem in order to access the highest levels of wisdom. Mordechai is associated with the fifty gates of understanding connected with the fifty year cycle of the Jubilee, where d'ror, freedom is proclaimed (again, the name Mordechai rearranged to mor/d'ror). This indicates that Mordechai had connected his mind to the fiftieth gate of wisdom and that he had totally freed his mind from the limitations of ego and self-worth, totally merging with the Divine Intellect. Therefore, through total submission to Hashem, Mordechai was able to access the fiftieth gate and repair the damage done to the Divine Chariot, using its spiritual energies to turn events against Haman and thus save the Jews.


Haman became aware of Mordechai's success in repairing the damage to the Divine Chariot. So, Haman built a wooden gallows, fifty cubits high, upon which to hang Mordechai [a cubit is a distance approximately 18-24 inches]. The number fifty was significant, for it would have enabled Haman to reactivate the spiritual energies of the lot that he had cast, which is associated with the fifty gates of binah. The energies activated by the fifty-cubit-high gallows would have let Haman ascend to the fifty gates of binah, where Mordechai was then spiritually connected. Because Mordechai was merged with the fifty gates of binah, executing him would have caused untold damage to the Divine Chariot. However, since Mordechai had thoroughly and completely repaired all of the damage to the fifty gates of binah and the Divine Chariot, he was, through Hashem's mercy, able to use all of the powers from the rectified Divine Chariot to turn all of the unholy spiritual energies that Haman had used in his attempt to destroy the Jews against him. This was physically manifested when Haman was hung on the very gallows that he himself had prepared for Mordechai.


Hanging Haman on the same gallows that he had prepared for Mordechai was similar to the high priest's casting of lots to determine which goat went to Hashem and which one went to Azzazel. When the spiritual energies of judgment are working properly, the high priest could determine, through the lots, which one of the two identical goats contained the spiritual energies of holiness fitting to be offered to Hashem and which one was spiritually impure, associated with Aisav and Yishmael. That goat was sent away to Azazel before it could damage the fifty gates of wisdom associated with the spiritual energies of good judgment, which lead to the pathways of Hashem. Therefore, the Yom Kippur lots were similar to the gallows on which Haman hung. For executing Haman erased the impurity before it could damage the fifty gates that lead to Hashem. This is why the holiday is called Purim--lots, because the entire incident revolved around lots. Through Haman's lots, the Jews were imperiled, and through Mordechai's lots, they were saved. We get drunk on Purim because it is similar to the casting of lots, meaning to say that we throw away our intelligence in our state of holy drunkenness, and depend only upon Hashem. (Lekutai Halachot: Orach Chaim: Hilchot Purim 3:6-12)


We mentioned that the wicked Haman cast lots to determine the most auspicious time to kill the Jews. The following is a more detailed account of how this was actually done: Having made up his mind to exterminate the Jews, Haman then sought an auspicious time. Making use of a device known as pur, Haman tried, aided by his knowledge of astrology, to determine the best month and day to implement his plans. Hashem brought it about that Haman casted his lots on the first day of the Hebrew month of Nissan, the most favorable month for the Jews, the month of when the exodus had occurred, a time when Jews have always triumphed over their enemies. Even Haman was aware of this, but he disregarded it, because he thought that this would not have any influence upon the lots. The very first pur was much like dice. They were cubes, and on their six faces were the numbers one to six, written in Hebrew and arranged so that the face of all opposing numbers added up to seven. Thus, opposing faces resp ectively had the pairs 1-6, 2-5, and 3-4. For his pur, Haman used three dice. On the first throw, they came out 1- 3-3, which corresponds to the Hebrew letters Aleph and twice Gimel which spell the name AGaG, the king of Amalek, Haman's ancestor. Then Haman turned over the dice that he had thrown, to see which letters were on the bottom. The letters Vav, Daled, Daled appeared, which spell the name DaViD. Haman took this as a sure sign that Agag and his descendants would end up on top, and David's people, the Jews, on the bottom. Haman then cast lots for months and days. To draw a month from one lot, would prove nothing, for one month was sure to come up and was too much dependent upon chance. To ensure the validity of the lots, he wrote the names of all twelve months on twelve pieces of paper and, on a separate set of pieces of paper, he wrote the numbers 1 to 354--the number of days in a lunar year. If the two separate drawings, the months and the days coincided, Haman would know that the draw was truly fortuitous. For example, if the drawing for the month yielded Adar, as it actually did, then there was a drawing for the day. The number chosen was 337, seventeen days before the end of the year, corresponding to the thirteenth of Adar. Since the month that was drawn, fell within the correct range of the number of days chosen, this verified that the lots drawn were not the result of chance. However, if the drawing for months had yielded Adar, and the one for days had yielded 100 (much earlier in the year, in the month of Tammuz), it would have been clear that the lot was inauspicious.

Haman and his son, Shimshi carefully reviewed the portents of each month of Jewish history and they found that the month of Adar would be the perfect month in which to destroy the Jews. Moshe, the greatest leader the Jews, had died on the seventh of Adar. Further investigation revealed that the thirteenth of Adar was also the day Hashem had brought the plague of darkness upon the Egyptians. During this period, many wicked and unfaithful Jews had died. The lot seemed to imply that this day would again be a time of death for the Jews. Haman was pleased that he had almost a full year to carry out his plan and he immediately sent out messengers to all parts of the Persian Empire to make arrangements to implement his plans of destruction. Hashem arranged that the lot should designate such a distant time for another reason, so the Jews would have plenty of time to repent and be saved. Divine Providence directed the fall of the pur especially to lead Haman into a trap. Haman did not know th is and was ecstatic at the fall of the dice. All the portents indicated that Haman stood to be elevated. What he didn't know was that his "elevation" would come when he would be hoisted up on the gallows to be hanged. (Yalkut Me'am Lo'ez: The Book of Esther )

HITHBODEDUTH (secluding oneself)

Rabbi Nachman taught that as well as reciting the mandatory daily prayers contained in the prayer book, we should also speak to Hashem, just as we would confide in our best friend: in seclusion, in the language and style with which we feel most comfortable. This is based on the advice of our sages, just to mention two sources: "Rebbe Yitzchak said: 'Why were our forefathers barren? Because Hashem desires the prayers of the righteous."' (Talmud: Yevamoth 64a) "Hashem seeks nothing other than to hear the prayers of Israel." (Medrash Tehillim 116:1) The following is an example of such a session: {O, L-rd], help me, through the power of the true Tzaddikim, to expel from myself and expel from all of Israel, the spiritual energies of Haman and Amalek [that still exist today], may his name be blotted out. And through their power, help me draw to myself the holy spiritual energies of the salvation derived from the miracle of Purim. Help me to greatly rejoice each and every Purim with an awesome jubilation. Help me to fulfill the commandments of listening the Megillah reading, sending gifts to my friends, distributing gifts to the poor, and participating in the feast of Purim with wholesomeness and with great joy. Help us merit to focus our thoughts upon the great miracle of Purim, so that we come to understand the awesome significance of Your deliverance on Purim. Help me to fulfill the commandment to get drunk on Purim as our sages have prescribed. However, when I am intoxicated, prevent me from harming my body or soul or doing damage to any individual or to property. Through the intoxication of Purim, help me come to reach such high levels of holy joy, that it enables me to draw upon myself the spiritual energies of the light of Mordechai, which is especially concentrated on Purim, and cannot be compared to any of the other spiritual lights present during the rest of the year. (2 Lekutai Tefilos 37)


Based on the advice of our sages (Talmud: Megilah 28b), Rabbi Nachman stressed that everyone should study at least one law from the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) [or its equivalent, other books which are based on the Shulchan Aruch] everyday without fail. (Sichoth HaRan 29) Every man and woman is required to hear the reading of the book of Esther (Megillat Esther) during both the evening and the following morning of Purim. On Purim, it is the duty of every Jew to send no less than two gifts to one s fellow Jew, as the verse says, (and sending gifts one to another. (Esther 9:22) [The plural gifts , implies at least two.] The more gifts one sends to his friends, the more praiseworthy. Nonetheless, it is better to give charity to the needy [after one has fulfilled the minimum requirement of two gifts to one s friend rather] than use [the excess money] to make a lavish feast and to send more gifts. Gifts to friends, must consist of portions of food, which can be eaten without further preparations, such as boiled meat, fish, candy, fruits, wine, beer, or other similar items. Everyone, even the poorest in Israel who is himself dependent upon charity, is to give on Purim at least one gift each to two poor persons, as it is written, (and gifts to the poor. (Esther 9:22) On Purim, whoever puts out his hand must be given charity and one should not investigate whether or not the beggar is truly in need. Purim must be celebrated by making a feast, eating, drinking, and making merry. (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch: 142:1- 3)

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