In the beginning of the Megilla of Esther it describes the decor, draperies, pillars and ambiance of the king’s palace. One of the materials mentioned is, Chur, which begins with the letter Ches. This letter Ches is traditionally written in a larger font.
The Rokaech enlightens us with the deeper meaning of the large Ches. Ches is the eighth letter of the Aleph Bais and its numerical value is eight. Achashveirosh threw a 180 day party while the Jews were in the Babylonian exile after the destruction of the first Temple in Jerusalem.
Achashvairosh wrongly calculated a Prophetic prediction of Jeremiah as to when the exile would end. After the time passed according to his calculation, he thought the Jews would never to return to Israel and rebuild the Temple.
During the destruction of the Temple many of the holy artifacts were looted and were in the possession of various ruling monarchs. For example, King Balshetzar was killed on the night he used the vessels of the Temple for personal use.
In the final seven days of Achashvairosh’s party, he felt safe to wear the eight garments that the Kohain Godol – high priest wore when he did the service in the Temple. The large Ches – eight –alludes to the fact that the king wore these eight garments.
Achashvairosh should have been killed immediately, as his predecessor Balshetzar was, however, G-d spared him because he would be the vehicle of the salvation of the Jews through his marriage to Esther.
Instead, G-d orchestrated that his wife, the wicked Queen Vashti, be killed instead, thus opening the slot for Esther to become queen and save the Jews from Haman’s decree of extermination.
G-d was not only angry that the despicable King wore such holy garments, but that the Jews also participated in the party whose purpose was to celebrate that the Jews would never return to Israel and rebuild the Temple of G-d. Thus the large Ches – also alludes to the word Chait – the sin of the involvement of the Jews.
G-d sent Haman and his decree to kill the Jews in order to generate a sincere repentance on the part of the Jews making them worthy of returning to Israel and rebuilding the Temple. The large Ches hints to the word Chesed that G-d bestowed upon the Jews – by giving them a chance to repair themselves and return to the land.
In this week’s Parsha, the Torah spells out the materials and describes the precise construction of the eight beautiful vestments of the Kohain Godol.
The Kohain Godol was obligated to wear these garments when serving in the Temple. Our sages teach us that each of the garments provided a measure of atonement for certain sins committed by the Jewish people.
For example, the Me’il – a turquoise woolen robe that had bells on its bottom, atoned for the sin of Lashon Harah – ill speech said about others.
Our Sages teach us, “Let the bells that give off sound atone for the sin of one sounding ill words concerning others.”
The Torah also provides the dimensions and states the materials needed to construct the golden altar where the incense was offered. The Talmud tells us that the incense offerings also atoned for the sin of Lashon Harah. In this case the Talmud tells us, “Let the incense which is performed quietly, atone for the sin of Lashon Harah, which is generally spoken in a hushed tone.”
The Torah recognizes the nature of the progression of Lashon Harah. It generally begins in a hushed voice yet eventually it spreads and becomes the talk of town. Both need atonement.
The Torah tells us that the function of the bells on the Me’il was that, “Their sounds be heard when the Kohain Godol enters the holies.”
For whom were the sounds for? There are opinions that say that the sounds were there for the Kohain Godol to announce to G-d that he was entering. Thus the lesson for us is, “If the All Knowing G-d requires the Kohain Godol to announce himself before he enters G-d’s sanctuary, certainly one is to exercise courtesy to announce his presence (by knocking) prior to his arrival in his own home to alert those who are inside.
Other opinions explain that the bells were sounded for the Kohain Godol’s own personal benefit. The sounds were to remind him to keep focused on his task at hand and that his mind not drift off to even holy thoughts that may inhibit his service that had to be extremely precise.
Just as these bells were needed so that the Kohain Godol would not be distracted from his holy mission, we have been given other types of reminder ‘bells’ during the course of our day to keep us focused on our relationship with G-d. We are provided with laws concerning our daily food intake; eating kosher and making blessings on food. We have laws concerning our speech and interaction with others. We have a protocol of moral and ethical conduct; we have daily prayers, and a mandate of Tzadakah and Chesed.
All this serves to keep us focused on G-d’s constant presence in our lives!