The Masks that We Wear

The Masks that We Wear

Feb 26, 2021 By Ofra Backenroth | Tetzavveh | Purim

Growing up in Israel, Purim was a wonderful experience, full of fun and games. Dressing up, putting on masks, going to parties, and attending the Purim Parade in Tel Aviv—the Adloyada. This name is derived from a rabbinic saying in the Talmud that one should revel on Purim by drinking “until one no longer knows [how to distinguish between ‘cursed is Haman’ and ‘blessed is Mordecai’]” (BT Megillah 7b). Attending the parade was great fun, but also had a mysterious aspect. Who are the people hiding behind the masks? What are they concealing and what are they trying to reveal? It was all very colorful and happy but, in equal measure, scary and confusing.

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The Sound of the Bells

The Sound of the Bells

Mar 6, 2020 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Tetzavveh

At the core of Parashat Tetzavveh is a detailed description of the clothing worn by the officiants who will perform ritual service in the sacred space known as the Tent of Meeting (and later, the Temple). In the same way that holy space must be constructed differently from common space, so too must the priests and High Priest be “separate” from the common people. It is for this reason that Torah commands the fabrication of special clothing. Think of it as a holy uniform for holy ritual.

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Holy Work for God’s Creation

Holy Work for God’s Creation

Feb 15, 2019 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Tetzavveh

The most important headline of the week (and perhaps the year) did not appear in the top right column of the New York Times last Thursday. That spot—traditionally reserved for the lead story—was given over to the troubles facing the governor of Virginia, a scandal likely to be resolved and forgotten in a matter of weeks. Not so the fact that “the five warmest years in recorded history have been the last five, and that 18 of the 19 warmest years have occurred since 2001.” This story is likely to shape human history—and the life of the planet—for many years to come; it now seems indisputable that “the quickly rising temperatures . . . correspond with the scientific consensus that climate change is caused by human activity.”

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The Jewelry of a Master Teacher

The Jewelry of a Master Teacher

Feb 23, 2018 By Lilly Kaufman | Commentary | Tetzavveh

Without using alchemy, the 16th-century Italian commentator Seforno (1470–1550) turned gems into gold. Writing a few short words about the gemstones that adorned the clothing of the High Priest, described in Parashat Tetzavveh, Seforno shares a truly fine insight about achieving greatness as an educator.

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The Poet as High Priest

The Poet as High Priest

Mar 10, 2017 By Alisa Braun | Commentary | Tetzavveh

Robert Browning, the Victorian poet, puzzled many of his readers when he called one of his collections Bells and Pomegranates. The issue wasn’t that he invoked a biblical type; many poets preceding him had seen themselves in prophetic terms. They were heroic figures whose imaginative powers could transform the world; they spoke truths to inspire others and change society. But what did the design on the hem of the priestly garment (Exod. 28:33-35) have to do with poetry? The poet as High Priest, a figure associated with rules and ritual rather than creativity and imagination, seemed counterintuitive.

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What Our Clothes Can Do For Us

What Our Clothes Can Do For Us

Feb 12, 2011 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Text Study | Tetzavveh

I recall first grasping the wise adage that “the clothes make the man” in a dressing room at the Kennedy Center between acts of the Washington Opera’s production of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tsar’s Bride. After performing as a peasant child in the chorus, I needed to change quickly into the opulent regal attire for my other role as Tsareyvitch — the tsar’s son. Exchanging my drab brown clothing for a multicolored outfit of silk, sequins, and rhinestones completely shifted my sense of self and purpose.

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Four Special Sabbaths

Four Special Sabbaths

Feb 19, 1994 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Tetzavveh | Pesah | Shabbat Zakhor

Judaism does not allow Passover to catch us by surprise. Long before its arrival, while the ground is still covered with snow, the Jewish calendar alerts us to its coming. A series of four special sabbaths prior to the month of Nisan (Passover begins on the full moon of the 15th of Nisan) picks up the liturgical pace of the synagogue service. After a long and largely monotonous winter, the pace quickens as we are brought to anticipate the renewal of nature and the redemption of Israel. In the words of our tradition, “With the coming of Adar (the month before Nisan), we indulge in more merrymaking.” The last month of the year (Nisan is the first) goes out in a flurry of festivity which transcends the celebration of Purim.

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The Clothes Make the Man

The Clothes Make the Man

Feb 19, 2016 By Rachel Smith | Commentary | Tetzavveh

[The] unlikely alliance of diverse and superficially incompatible musical traditions, mysteriously accomplished under punk, found ratification in an equally eclectic clothing style which reproduced the same kind of cacophony on the visual level.
Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style, 26

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Garments of Light

Garments of Light

Feb 12, 2016 By Raymond Scheindlin | Commentary | Tetzavveh

Last week, we read God’s orders to Moses for the construction of the Tabernacle and its accoutrements. This week, our parashah continues on the subject of the Tabernacle and the preparations for starting the sacrificial cult, focusing on the Tabernacle’s personnel: the priests—particularly their vestments and the rituals for the priests’ consecration. These subjects will return, for after a week devoted largely to the story of the Golden Calf, the Torah will repeat the account of the Tabernacle nearly verbatim, not in the form of instructions for things to be made but as a narrative of their making.

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Holy Light: Remembering Sara Duker and Matthew Eisenfeld

Holy Light: Remembering Sara Duker and Matthew Eisenfeld

Feb 22, 1997 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Tetzavveh

This past week at the Seminary, we commemorated the first Yahrzeit of Sara Duker and Matthew Eisenfeld, whose young lives were extinguished one year ago (February 25, 1996) in Jerusalem by the bomb of a Hamas terrorist. Matthew was a second–year rabbinical student spending the year studying intensively at the Seminary’s Beit Midrash, and Sara, who had just graduated Barnard, was about to become his fiancee. We used the occasion of their Yahrzeit to dedicate in their memory a spacious room where Seminary students gather each day till late at night to study Talmud in small groups, havruta–style.

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