Hello Everybody,

Los Angeles International Airport, July 2029

As he stepped onto the curb, David waved Josh a hurried goodbye, hoping he’d get out of the airport before the five minute mark when he’d get hit with another $5.20 in parking fees. A few years earlier, the airports decided that it wasn’t fair that airplanes were charged for parking and unloading passengers while cars weren’t, so they added automated systems that tracked each car’s license plate, and billed the owners based on the number of minutes the car was in the airport. Someone had to pay to pave all those roads; they sure didn’t grow on trees!

David had checked in the night before online, so that when the camera above the door to the security screening room recognized his ID features, it opened to allow him in. Unwilling to waste $25 on the express security line, David resigned himself to the forty five minute wait he would have to endure on the standard line. David prided himself on being a thrifty and prudent traveler, eschewing the luxuries so many people indulged in. As he got closer to the front of the line, he made sure to remove every bit of metal he could find from his body, clothes and briefcase. He did not want to set off the hypersensitive metal detector, because the Transportation Security Administration agents would haul him to a side room and ask him questions while monitoring bloodflow in his brain with a portable MRI machine to ensure he wasn’t lying. It was uncomfortable, but worse than that, the TSA would charge him $48 for the questioning. Someone had to pay the TSA officers who protected our travel; they didn’t grow on trees (sometimes I’m not so sure!!!)!

The terminal was busy as usual, overflowing with people of all sizes, shapes, colors and odors, but David refused to pay $9 to get a seat in the seating area. He only had forty minutes until his flight, and he didn’t mind standing in the dim, hot, and humid holding area. No, it wasn’t just his frugality; he felt it was good to be together with the salt of the earth people from Main St. He didn’t need to be in the well lit, air-conditioned, clean seating lounges like all the bourgeoisie and Wall St. types.

Boarding his plane, David passed the business class seats filled with important looking people reading The Financial Times, the Economist, and the Wall Street Journal. He passed coach class filled with the middle class; computer programmers, soccer moms, teachers, and middle level managers. He always wished he could sit in coach class, where you had so much leg room, and could get up and move around. But he wasn’t ready to splurge $45 each way on that. No, he sat in basic economy class, even though by the time he got there, all that was left was the third bunk. The only extra money he would spend on the flight was here; he had to cough up $6 for some space in an overhead compartment. He hated doing it, but it was unavoidable. He couldn’t travel without any clothes!

Strapping himself into the awkward slanted position of the basic economy bunk slots that did nothing for comfort, but allowed the airlines to fit sixty passengers where twenty should fit, he began focusing on his lung-lining deep breathing techniques. Once the airplane took off, oxygen would start getting sparse, and he needed to line his lungs with extra oxygen. He wasn’t about to spend $9 just to get an oxygen face mask. He was pretty good at handling the thin air- he had only fainted twice, and each time he snapped out of it quite quickly!

David usually didn’t drink a lot of fluids in the twenty four hours before flying, to keep him from having to use the restroom ($5 per use, soap $1 add.) but it could get challenging on a seven hour transatlantic flight. Sometimes he got thirsty and hungry, but the ridiculous price for drinks and snacks ($11 for a  12oz can, $6 a snack) kept him far from the galley. The soduku boards he kept in his pocket would have to occupy him throughout the flight, and if he got lucky, someone in one of the seats in front of him would order a movie ($9), and he would watch it over the seatbacks.

Strapped into his cramped slot, halfway across the Atlantic, David caught sight of the ocean below through an open window. The setting sun was painting it a complete palette of shimmering pastels, and David couldn’t take his eyes off its radiant beauty. At least nature was still free.


Someone has to pay for all those seats, someone has to pay for the jet fuel, someone has to pay for the baggage handlers, for the guy who waves the orange batons to tell the plane where to dock, for the gate attendants, for the paper towels in the washroom, for the fluorescent bulbs, for the window cleaner, for the rows of self-check computers, for the baggage carousel belts and even for the mops that clean the floor at night. There are so many thousands of details that go into making air travel run smoothly, details we totally miss when we rush through, JFK to LAX, TLV to EWR, DTW to FLL.

Unfortunately, the only way we would ever begin recognizing these details is if we had to pay for each of them. Then, suddenly, we would realize everything we get. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We could walk through an airport terminal and be amazed by all the thought and effort that went into designing it, and astounded by the levels of comfort it offers to the millions of travelers that pass through it annually. We could take a flight and marvel at the efficiency and relative comfort of air travel. Our ancestors would trade their months-long Conestoga wagon journeys for our five hour transcontinental flights in a heartbeat! But seeing all the details requires a little looking beneath the surface.

Air travel is just an analogy for all of life. We are the recipients of so much every day of our lives. The air we breathe, the food we eat, the structures we live in, the people we know, the clothing we wear, the religion we have. And each one of those is just a category comprising infinite wondrous details. But then to top it all off, they all come together seamlessly! It’s like there is this omnipotent dream weaver, silently creating realities for us, realities that defy imagination, realities that are larger than life. The truth of course is that there is such a Omnipotent dream weaver, our impossibly complex world couldn’t happen otherwise, and Purim is when we celebrate Him.

Today is Purim Katan, exactly a month before Purim and the 14th day of the first Adar. In a leap year like this one, Purim is celebrated in Adar II, but we commemorate Purim on the day it would have been in Adar I, which is today. So here is a little bit about Purim.

Purim is the day we celebrate the Hidden Force that makes everything  happen. Purim is the day where we read the story of how G-d wove together a most beautiful tapestry of Jewish salvation and redemption while remaining behind the scenes the entire time. He made sure that Esther was in the right place to plea on behalf of her people, He made sure that Mordechai would save the king’s life so that years later he could be rewarded at the most crucial time. He made sure that the king’s attendants would be reading the very section of his diary dealing with Mordechai’s act on behalf of the king when Haman would come to request the killing of Mordechai. He put all the thousands of small details in their exact place so that together they allowed the Jews to emerge triumphant in the Purim story.

Purim is the day we recognize that the whole world is a masquerade, and that if we could only get behind the screen, we would see G-d spinning an infinitely complex world, making sure that everything is in place so that you and I can enjoy our lives in His universe.

On Purim we give freely of our money to the needy, because who really is taking care of our finances? On Purim we can afford to let down our guard a bit, we can have a few too many L’chaims (in a safe way of course!) even though it would cloud our thinking. There’s nothing to worry about, we’ll be OK. After all, who is really protecting us, is it really our great intellects and wise precautions?

The true treasure of Purim is being able to tear down the walls, to see the vast and complex infrastructure supporting everything we do, but also being able to see that it is all in the hands of the eminently capable Master Weaver.


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.

There is a story about a Jewish boy who went off to find G-d on a Native American reservation, where he lived for years. After a very strange sequence of events, he was directed by a very revered shaman to go back to his people. He came back to NY, where 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 from the 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 additionalvestments; 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” engravedon it. After Ha-shem tells Moshe what the Kohanim will wear, Hecommands 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.

Quote of the Week: If you are doing your best, you will not have time to worry about failure. ~ Robert Hillyer

Random Fact of the Week: When hippos are upset, their sweat turns red.

Funny Line of the Week: I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.

Having a Joyous Shabbos,

R’ Leiby Burnham

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