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Parshat Tzav and Purim: Giving
By: SFW Students & Alumna
Karen Steinberger (SFW 08)
This week’s parsha falls right after or, (if one lives in Jerusalem) right on Purim. What is the significance of this? If one looks at the holiday of Purim, its meaning and depth is connected beautifully through the action of giving. For now, let us look at the idea of giving and its representation in Megilat Esther.
Interestingly enough, the shoresh- nun, taph, nun which means giving seems to be placed throughout the megilah right next to the wicked Haman. For example, the ring that sealed the fate of Bnei Yisrael was given to Haman to enable his decree. The Megilah continues with the act of giving the decrees to the messengers while, juxtaposed alongside, Haman and Achashvarosh are seen drinking and celebrating while the capital of Shushan weeps. Numerous times throughout the megilah Haman is associated with giving. So the question is beckoned, why does this virtuous act of giving to another person seen repeatedly next to such a wicked man who hates without reason? Also, to add another fact, the only time the word taking, “lakach”, is used is right by Mordechai’s name.
The answers to these questions lies with a theme prevalent with the holiday of Purim – “Ve’na’ha’Foch Hoo”- “flipping around”. The action of giving, usually associated with good intentions, is juxtaposed next to Haman. The action of taking, which implies selfishness, is seen next to the righteous Mordechai. However, if one takes a closer look at what Haman is actually doing one may be surprised. Throughout the megilah, Haman only gives to gain for his own benefit. For example, when Vashti is sentenced to death (on Haman’s advice), a decree is sent out to all of Achashvarosh’s provinces saying: “All the women shall give honor to their husbands, from small to big”. This seems somewhat virtuous, that the women shall give honor to their husbands. However, it all stems from Haman who suggested the decree in order for his daughter to have a direct line to the kingship. Later, Achashvarosh gives over his ring to Haman as it says, “And the king removed his ring from his hand, and he gave it to Haman son of Hamdata, the Aggagite, who caused sorrow to the Jews”. The act of giving itself is turned into an evil act when Haman’s ulterior motives become fulfilled. In contrast, Mordechai takes Esther to Achachvarosh in order to do the ultimate kindness, the rescue of all the Jews.
This teaches us a very important point about giving itself. It is not enough to just relinquish an object or comment to someone without sincerity. There needs to be a good motive behind it. Haman used the disguise of the righteous act of giving to hide his malevolence. Of course, not one of us, chas ve’shalom, can be compared with Haman however we can learn something very important from him. To give and give truly requires some input from our hearts. It is not enough to give counting our own benefit, or even worse, with a sneer, but ideally it should come from our own selflessness. In that, lies the essence of “netina”- giving.
Rav Dessler, in Michtav M’Eliyahu, highlights an insight about giving. He writes that one can come to a true selfless love only through giving. Why is that? He writes “If I give to someone, I feel close to him; I have a share in his being”. When one gives of themselves, they are no longer just an individual but can see themselves now in someone else. Perhaps this is the reason that the four mitzvot are centralized around giving – mishloach manot, matanot le’evyonim, megilah, and mishteh. Within these four mitzvot one gives a bit of themselves either to another person or to G-d. This giving unifies the Jews in a way to combat the statement that Haman made that the Jews are “spread out amongst the nations”, uncaring and unworthy of redemption. Through these commandments one can discover that through true giving, a nation can be unified.
In conclusion, this relates with the parsha, Parshat Tzav. Throughout the parsha, it either describes the intricacies of different karbanot- sacrifices, or it deals with the dedication of the Kohanim. What is at the root of karbanot and the Avodah? Giving. In order to become closer to G-d and feel a true love for Him, we are told to give of our first crops and animals to serve Him. G-d Himself does not need karbanot, however, His people do. In order to feel a genuine love for G-d, we must give sincerely. This message is established throughout the parsha and the megilah in order to open our minds and hearts to each other, and give. Chag Purim Sameach! Happy Purim!
2: Parshat Shavua