The True Champions

(Torah Portion Tetzaveh) The True Champions!

Today is the 7th day of the Hebrew month of Adar, the Yahrtzait – anniversary of the passing of our leader Moshe. Haman, the wicked nemesis of the Jews, drew lots in order to determine an opportune day to exterminate the Jews. The month of Adar was picked, and he became very excited, because he knew that Moshe the leader of Jews passed away in Adar, and feeling that a day of death was a bad omen, it was an opportune time to easily defeat the Jews. The Talmud tells us that Haman knew only half the story. What he didn’t know was that Moshe was also born on the seventh day of the month of Adar. The Amelakites were steeped in the power of superstition. In fact, during war, they sent to the battlefield only soldiers who were celebrating their birthday on that particular day, for they believed that one’s birthday is an omen that he would not die on that day.

Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried o.b.m. explains; had Haman known that Moshe was born on the same day that he passed away, he would have realized that a day of death of the righteous brings good fortune since it was also his birthday, and he certainly would have wanted to choose a different month. G-d kept this information hidden from Haman and the awesome salvation of the Jews in the Purim episode occurred specifically in the joyous month of Adar.

Throughout the story of Purim, which is contained in the Megilla scroll, one cannot fail to notice that whatever Haman cleverly and methodically planned against the Jews, in due time turned against him and brought him to his misfortune.

The Talmud relates that G-d brought the threat of genocide upon the Jewish people because they participated in a festive banquet that King Achashvairosh hosted on the day that Jeremiah the prophet predicted that the Jews would return after 70 year of exile from Israel.

The Jews, although they were served Kosher food, were in essence celebrating the hopelessness of returning to Israel and rebuilding a new Temple in Jerusalem. The Megilla tells us that at the banquet, Achashvairosh served/displayed confiscated vessel of the first Temple in Jerusalem. Our Sages tell us that Achashvairosh even donned the vestments of the High Priest. (Which are listed in this week’s Parsha.)

Rabbi Chaim Halperin explains that Achashvairosh was telling the Jews to give up on having a Temple and to focus on an alternative source of happiness: Achashvairosh’s kingdom. He therefore dressed up as the Kohen Gadol – High Priest to show that he was their new leader, and he served them in the Temple vessels to show that there was no point in waiting any longer for the Temple to be rebuilt.

When the Jews were pushed to the corner due to the threat of extinction, they rallied by praying, fasting and repenting and once again placing their hope in the Almighty and to the future of returning to Israel and rebuilding the Temple. This devotion brought their salvation in the Purim Story.

Modern day Iran is no different than Persia in the Purim Story. The horrible threat to annihilate Israel is as real as in the Megilla. As Jews, we know what offers us our greatest protection – Prayers, Torah, Charity, Repentance and the performance of Mitzvos!

This past week some heart-warming news gained national attention in the New York Times, Drudge etc. Headlines read: “In Texas, the Sabbath Trumps the Semifinals.” “Houston’s Beren Academy sacrifices game, not the Sabbath.” The Robert M. Beren Academy, an Orthodox Jewish day school in Houston, won its regional championship to advance to the boy’s basketball state semifinals in Dallas. But the team will not make the trip. The Beren Academy players are shomer Shabbos – Shabbos observant and do not play from sundown on Fridays to nightfall on Saturday. Their semifinal game was scheduled for 9 p.m. Friday.

“The sacred mission will trump excellence in the secular world,” Rabbi Harry Sinoff, Beren’s head of school, said Monday in a telephone interview.

The school filed an appeal to change the time of the game with the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, the group that organizes the tournament. On Monday morning, representatives of the school were notified that the association’s nine-member executive board had rejected the appeal. (Incidentally, games are not scheduled on Sundays.)

“We were hopeful that they would be able to work with us, but we respect their decision,” Chris Cole, team coach and athletic director of the school said. “It’s never happened where we’ve played during Shabbat, and it will never happen. The kids know that, and the kids are fantastic at understanding.”

To win a championship game produces a shiny trophy, but conviction to our morals, values, principals and the holiness of the Shabbat – produces eternal rewards and awesome protection!Thank you Beren School Basketball Team; you make us proud!

Wishing you a restful, peaceful and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks