Aziza al Tahmimi’s father had always told her that life wasn’t meant to be fair, and he sure got that one right. In November of 2013, he became a martyr by blowing himself up in the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem, winning the 2013 Martyr of the Year award, and ensuring that his family would get a steady stream of income from Hamas, but she never saw a shekel of it. Her stepmom was the one collecting the checks and she used it exclusively for herself and her two daughters from a previous marriage. 

They sat on the porch all day smoking hookah and playing sheshbesh, occasionally going out to the movies, mall, or mosque, while Aziza had to do all the cooking, cleaning, and laundry. Her days consisted of making heaping platters of pita, hummous, matbucha, and lamb for lunch and dinner, serving mint tea and strong black coffee throughout the day, refreshing the hookah tobacoo and coals whenever they ran low, and forever washing and ironing the richly decorated abayas they wore. Aziza felt like a slave, and her stepmom and sisters made sure to reinforce that feeling by yelling at her all the time, kicking and beating her whenever they weren’t pleased with her service. She was almost never allowed out of the house, she had no chance at ever getting married and escaping her slavery. 

With a life so miserable, Aziza dreamed of martyrdom. She imagined herself slipping into a Zionist wedding and blowing herself up right in middle of the ceremony. She would float slowly to heaven where her father would greet her with open arms, and bring her back to the palace he must be living in. There she would have seventy young men vying for her hand in marriage, and all of them would be amazing guys, the kind that hardly ever beat their wives! Back on earth, she would be given a hero’s funeral, posters of her face being held aloft by the thousands of mourners, and her stepmom and step-sisters could just eat their hearts out with envy. The only problem is that Hamas would never even consider her, she was just an uneducated filthy slave girl. Most of the suicide bombers they sent were educated, intelligent, and technically savvy

One day, while the ladies were out shopping there was a knock at the door. Aziza looked out the peephole, and standing in the doorway was Abdulla Talib, an old friend of her father’s, an electrical engineer who for a fee would splice anyone’s home electricity onto the electrical grid, giving them free energy for life. The electricity in Gaza came from Israel anyway, and Hamas almost never paid its bills to Israel, so why should anyone pay Hamas for electricity it was getting for free?

Aziza opened the door slowly, and Abdulla smiled warmly, “Aziza, my sweet girl, Asallamu alaikum! How are you doing?” He scooted through the door and rapidly walked into the living room, sitting down without being invited, and said, “Come here, come here, I need to talk to you about something important.” Hesitantly, Aziza sat down across from him. “I know what’s going on here, and it breaks my heart. I know how your stepmother and stepsisters treat you, and it’s just not fair. If your father was still alive, he would never let this happen. I’m here on a mission from heaven, I want to help you. You must dream of joining your father in Jannah Shahid, the martyr’s heaven, and I believe I have what it takes to get you there. Do you want to hear more?” Aziza couldn’t believe her ears, “Of course! Please tell me what you’re thinking of!”

Abdullah started explaining how he built a pair of beautiful boots with an extra thick sole made entirely of Semtex, a highly explosive material. They were wired so that you could activate the detonator by pushing a button taped to the  inside of your leg. Once they were activated, you had exactly twelve minutes to station yourself exactly where you wanted to be, and then it would explode with enough force to take out a city block. Aziza couldn’t believe her luck, this was everything she ever dreamed of! With tearful eyes she thanked Abdulla a thousand times, and asked when he could bring the boots. “They’re just outside in the car, I’ll get them right now, and hurry over to the Hamas Headquarters in the Al-Shifa hospital basement, hopefully you can be in heaven before your horrid stepmom gets home!”

Abdulla went outside and returned a few moments later with a beautiful pair of leather boots with unusually thick soles. They were connected to thin wires leading to a detonator box with Velcro straps she would use to attach the device to her leg. “Here you go, my dear, show this to the people at Hamas Headquarters, tell them you made it yourself because you learned engineering online, and they will surely give you a job as a Shahid! But remember! Once you hit the detonator, there is no turning back, you have until twelve minutes to get where you want to go, and then the magic happens!” With that, he gave a slight bow, and left the home. Aziza, still reeling at her good forturne, quickly went to her room and changed into her favorite burka, you do want to look your best when heading to Hamas headquarters after all, carefully put the bomb into one of her stepmom’s Burberry shopping bags, and hurried out.

In the Hamas bunker, deep below Al-Shifa hospital, Jabari Haniyeh sat chain smoking at his desk, a glazed look of boredom on his face. Being the son of Ismael Haniyeh, the Supreme Leader of Hamas meant that everyone expected him to follow in his father’s footsteps and find the next generation of great terrorists. In the streets they called him Prince Jabari and saluted him. But he was discovering that finding good quality terrorists was not easy. All day long, he conducted interviews of people gushing about why they wanted to kill the Zionists, begging him to pick them, but there was something so lame about all of them. Most of them didn’t know anything about bomb-making, they looked like cowards that were likely to chicken out at the last moment, and then he look like fool for recruiting incompetents.  

He had already interviewed twenty three potential recruits and was about to call it quits for the day and head back to his mansion for some swimming and a massage, when his secretary called in, “I’ve got someone here, I think she might be the one!” He highly doubted it, women didn’t usually have what it takes to be a true martyr, they cared too much about their families, but he figured he had nothing to lose. “Send her in!”

Aziza walked in, and immediately pulled the boots out of her bag. She began describing the electrical engineering, showing him the sophisticated wiring. She then proudly told him that she was the daughter of Mohamed al Tahmimi who martyred himself in 2013, taking 17 Zionists with him. She gushed about how she always dreamed of blowing herself up at a Zionist wedding, and how much she looked forward to the afterlife, reunited with her father. Jabari had to admit, this girl was remarkable. For her to have created such a sophisticated bomb she must be pretty intelligent, and there was a definite hunger in her eyes when she talked of her dream of martyrdom, this could be his big break! He had to move quick, you never wanted to take a chance of a shahid getting cold feet, and you didn’t want the word to get out, or some traitor would snitch to the Zionists. 

He told her to wait outside while he worked on the details. Aziza went into the hall, sat down and silently mouthed prayers, begging Allah to allow her to be a true Shahid. Two hours later, Jabari returned, and said the magic words, “Welcome Aziza to the ranks of Hamas, today you are going to join your father in glory!” 

He told her that he would take her to a tunnel not far away, which would lead straight into Israel, to a field just outside of Sderot, a Zionist city on the border of Gaza. He gave her maps showing her how to walk from the field to a wedding hall in the center of town, instructing her to memorize it perfectly so that she wouldn’t need to ask anyone for directions, she didn’t speak much Hebrew after all, and the minute she spoke she would give herself away. He then brought her to a different room with lots of clothing, and one of his assistants chose a long flowy dress, the kind the Zionist settlers wear to weddings, and instructed her to change into it. They had to wait a few hours until about six thirty pm, so that she could make it to the wedding just as the ceremony was starting. The excitement in the room was overflowing. They reviewed the plans a dozen times, going over all the contingencies, and finally at six thirty they headed to the tunnel.

Back in Israel, Shlomo Ben-Chaim was stressing out in a military base near Be’er Sheva. He was part of Unit 8200, the IDF’s top intelligence gathering unit, and there was a lot of chatter coming in, indicating that there was going to be a major terrorist attack that day, but no one knew any of the details. He had all his informants working overtime trying to get something, but nothing came back. In desperation he remembered the words of his 6th grade Rebbi, “Yisrael, ain kocham ella b’peh, The Jewish people, their strength is only with the mouth.” With nothing else to do, he took out his Tehillim and started praying his heart out, tears rolling down his face, begging G-d to not let anything happen that night to His people.” 

At exactly that time, Aziza was following Jabari down one of the tunnels, heading into Israel. Going down a long sets of steps strewn with construction rubble, she tripped on the hem of her flowing dress and tumbled down the steps. She was not harmed, but she felt a slight vibration on her leg, and in horror realized she might have triggered the detonator during her fall. She pulled off one of her boots, looked inside, and there it was, a soft green light blinking in the sole. The detonator had been triggered. NO!!!! She dropped it in horror. 

She was in a total panic, but one thing she knew for sure was that she was not going to let this stop her from getting to heaven, no, no, no! She had to get back to the bombmaker and he would just reset the detonator! “What’s wrong, are you hurt? It’s no big deal, you just tripped?” Jabari asked, concerned at her ashen look. “Nothing is wrong, I’ll be right back…” was all she managed to blurt out before she took off running back down the tunnel to Gaza, leaving the other boot on the floor. She ran as fast as she could, emerging from the tunnel and running toward the bombmakers house. 

Jabari stood there in the tunnel, angry at himself, how could he have been fooled by another woman who promised she wanted to martyr herself and then got cold feet at the last minute. Looking at the single boot on the floor, he suddenly sprang into action. He pulled out his walkie-talkie and yelled, “Code Red! Code Red! I’m looking for a woman running through town wearing a long flowy dress and only one boot, with the other leg barefoot! Find her immediately and bring her back to me! I need the woman who has just one boot! All units respond immediately!”

Up above the tunnels, tens of Hamas operatives sprang into action, looking for the strange description given to them. One of them saw Aziza running through the streets and called it out on the radio. Dozens of Hamas operatives started converging on the girl, who had run into some small nondescript house on the side of town. Aziza flung herself at the feet of Abdulla, “Please help me, I detonated it by mistake please reset the detonator!” Abdulla’s eyes grew wide, “But I told you there was no way to reset it! Take off the boot, fling it outside! Quickly!” Just then, the front door burst open, and Hamas operatives spilled into the house, guns drawn. But exactly then, twelve minutes struck, and both boots went off simultaneously, one in Adullah’s house, and one in Jabari’s hands, in a tunnel deep below Israel…

This coming Thursday is Purim, the day we celebrate the miracle of G-d saving our people when we faced total annihilation at the hands of Haman and Achashverosh. One of the amazing things about the miracle of Purim is the fact that all the details needed for our salvation were already put in place well before the decree of annihilation was sent out. Esther was already the Queen, Mordechai was already owed a favor by the king for saving his life, but the salvation only came about when the Jewish people activated those pieces by pouring out their hearts to G-d in prayer and unity. 

We have a rule in Judaism that G-d always prepares the salvation before putting the challenge in our way. Because of this, if we get right with Him, He doesn’t need to put a whole salvation sequence into motion, it’s already there, all He needs to do is activate it. This is incredibly meaningful for us. It means that whatever challenge we are currently facing, no matter how daunting it appears, the solution is already out there, all we need to do reach out to Him, improve ourselves, pray, and we will see salvation.

This is why Purim is such a joyous holiday, it is the time that we recognize that all our problems are not really the unsurmountable obstacles we think they are. Our problems are just wearing a mask, appearing to be huge and frightening, but on Purim we pull back the mask and see the world for what it truly is, a place where G-d holds ALL the strings, and He can turn suffering into joy in a moment. 

Purim is also a supremely powerful day, on which our prayers carry extra weight. “Anyone who puts out his hand, we give him,” is one of the laws of Purim. While that is said about giving charity, the Chassidic masters say that this applies to G-d as well, whoever puts out his hand to G-d with real supplication on Purim, G-d will give him what he wants. The solution is out there, and Purim is the day that our requests don’t come back empty-handed. Let’s make sure we ask!

A Freilichen Purim!

Parsha Dvar Torah

In this week’s Torah portion, the Torah describes the different vestments worn by the Kohanim, the priests, in the Temple and Tabernacle. There is incredible detail given to the various vestments, from the ornate golden breastplate inlaid with twelve priceless gemstones, to the turquoise robe, or the golden forehead plate. The Torah describes the measurements, the materials, and even the particular weave technique used in each garment.

The Sagrs tell us that these garments were just as important as the sacrifices brought in the temple as the garments themselves were able to effect atonement for various sins. This seems a bit difficult to understand. We can appreciate how bringing a sacrifice would effect atonement. A person would have to spend money, shlep an animal all the way to Jerusalem, all the while thinking about what he did. Then he would bring it to the Temple, and the Kohain would have a long discussion with him before bringing the sacrifice which was supposed to represent him sacrificing himself. But how could the High Priest wearing some dazzlingly beautiful clothing help us atone for our sins?

Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman of Monsey, NY explains this idea with a beautiful concept. There are two motivators behind a person changing his ways. One is the person realizing just how negative his actions are, and what they have been doing to his life, his social circles, and most importantly his relationship with G-d. The other way is a person realizing just how great he truly is inside, and how great his potential is. This alone can motivate a person to reach higher.

The garments worn by the Kohanim, were external representations of what a person should like on the inside. When a person saw the High Priests golden breastplate with the names of all the Jewish tribes engraved on gemstones, he knew that his heart was really a golden receptacle of love for his fellow Jews. When a person saw the forehead plate of the High Priest with the words, “Holy to G-d” on it, he understood that his brain is supposed to be a supercomputer filled with holy thoughts and intellectual pursuit of G-d. Seeing the extreme modesty incorporated into the vestments, showed one the modest nature of his physical body. Thus the garments were able to motivate people to change by showing them how great they were, and inspiring them to rise up to the greatness they had. 

Interestingly, Rabbi Shlomo Friefeld, OBS showed us time and again that a great man was able to motivate someone to change by showing him how great he was. There was a young man who grew up religious but left disillusioned and sought meaning and purpose on Native American Reservations in the American West. He was sent back home by a tribal elder, who told him to come back and explore his own roots first. He had just come back to NY after being on an Indian reservation for years. He circled the Jewish neighborhoods, trying to reconnect, but found himself not connecting with anyone. Then he was told to meet a Rabbi Shlomo Friefeld from a yeshiva called Shor Yoshuv. He went to meet with him, with his dog Chika in the back of the pickup truck. The Rabbi received him warmly and treated him with great respect. He had never felt so esteemed by anyone and promised to return on the morrow. 

The next day when he came to the yeshiva there was a bris going on. Rabbi Friefeld called sent someone to bring this ponytailed man in jeans and a T-shirt to the come stand right next to the Rabbi, and by now he was starting to feel like there was some greatness this Rabbi saw in him that he wasn’t even aware of, a greatness worth exploring.

But the act that changed him forever happened a few days later. On one of his visits with the Rabbi Friefeld, the Rabbi was called out of the study for a moment, and this man decided to poke around the office a bit. He noticed with surprise a pile of books on the floor, and knew that the Rabbi would never leave holy books on the floor. Intrigued, he picked up the books, and saw that they were all about Native American culture and life.

He realized that Rabbi Friefeld valued him so much that he had taken out time to try to understand who he was and what made him tick. If the Rabbi saw so much value in him that he went to such lengths to be able to interact with him in a way he could understand, there was clearly some untapped greatness in him. He set about finding it, and today is a great Torah scholar, another person motivated by the greatness Rabbi Friefeld showed him he had. 

Parsha Summary

This week we read from two Torah Scrolls. From the first one we read Parshat Titzaveh, the weekly portion, and fromthe other one we read Parshat Zachor, a special parsha that is always read the Shabbos before Purim. 

Parshat Teztaveh begins with the commandment to bring only the purest olive oil for lighting the menorah. It then continues with the vestments worn by the Kohanim and the Kohain Gadol, the regular priests and the High Priest. Here is the basic breakdown: all priests wore white linen pants, covered by a white linen tunic, wrapped up in a multicolored belt, and a white linen hat (the shape of the High Priest’s hat differed slightly from that of the regular priests.)  The Kohain Gadol wore 4 additional vestments; a blue robe, an apron-like garment, a breastplate made of multicolored wool and containing a gold plate with twelve precious stones, and a gold head plate with the words “Holy to G-d” engraved on it. After Ha-shem tells Moshe what the Kohanim will wear, He commands him about the sacrifices and services that will serve as the inauguration of the Msihkan, the Tabernacle. 

Quick lesson: Contrary to what many would like to believe, the clothes we wear make a big statement about who we are, as they are the primary way we represent ourselves to the outside world, who don’t know us through any other medium. It is for this reason that the discussion of the inaugural service can come only after the commandments telling the Kohanim how they have to dress during the service. One cannot say on the inside I will serve G-d, but to the outside world I can appear any way I would like. The Torah here tells us that au contraire we must first ensure that the way we portray ourselves is consistent with our ideals, before we go in to serve G-d!

The parsha continues with the description of the Tamid, a twice-daily sacrifice brought in the Mishkan or Beit Hamikdash, and finishes with a depiction of the Incense Altar.

Parshat Zachor is a special portion read once a year on the Shabbos before Purim as part of a Biblical commandment to remember Amalek. The portion we read reminds us of the battle that the Jews waged with the Amalekei nationwhen we first came out of Egypt. It tells us to never forget Amalek, and to remember that Ha-shems throne will never be complete as long as Amalek survives. The connection to Purim is obvious, as the archenemy Haman of the Purim story is a descendant of Amalek.

Quote of the Week: None are so blind as those who will not see. – A. Gambiner

Random Fact of the Week: About 200 million tires are discarded each year in the US.

Funny Line of the Week: Shin: a device for finding furniture in the dark.

Have a Smashing Shabbos,

R’ Leiby Burnham

Print this article

Leave a Reply