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Shedding Costumes

Friday, 18 March, 2022 - 7:28 am

Over 150 people gathered together at the Chabad Jewish Center to celebrate Purim yesterday. The energy was electric, with some people showing up for the first time in two years. Many donned costumes, hiding their identity – at least on the outside.

Yesterday, we celebrated with delicious food, dancing, and song. Most importantly, we celebrated by listening to the Megillah and by giving gifts to the needy.

Today is Shushan Purim. Purim is a unique holiday. It is observed in most of the world on the 14th of Adar. In Jerusalem, and in other qualifying walled cities, Purim is observed a day later on the 15th of Adar.

We like to feel connected to the international capital of the Jewish people. The Code of Jewish Law instructs that – although not observed with Purim rituals in other locations - this day should nonetheless be marked by some increase in celebration and feasting.

Tonight, we usher in the spirit, delight, and tranquility of Shabbat.

I guess it’s fair to say we Jews just don’t stop. From Purim to Shushan Purim to Shabbat. And, then it’s time to prepare for Pesach.

How do we shift gears so quickly and peacefully? How do we transition from joy to tranquility? From earnestness to jubilation? From Shabbat to weekday?

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In this week’s parsha Tzav we learn about the korbanot (sacrifices) offered in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple).

One of the daily duties of the priests was to clean out the ashes that gathered under the altar. The Torah instructs that the kohen (priest) must “take off his garments and put on other garments, and he shall take out the ashes to a clean place outside the camp.”

Why were different garments needed to perform this particular task?

The Talmud explains, using a parable, that clothes in which he cooked for his master should not be worn when serving a goblet to his master.

As I read this comment from the Talmud, something struck me. It’s quite common for nobility to have both a chef and a waiter, each performing and exceling at their own role.

Yet, the Torah’s version of serving our Master in Heaven mandates that the same person can and should perform all tasks. A change of clothing is necessary, but not a change of person.

The fundamental key to shifting gears from one job to the next is the keen awareness that it’s only the clothing – the external garments – that change. Inside, I am always doing the same job – fulfilling my G-d-given assignment and privilege to make this world a holy place. Sometimes I need to wear one garb. And, at other times, a very different garb. But, inside, I am marching forward with the selfsame mission.

As we shed the Purim costumes and don our Shabbat finest, let’s remember that all celebrations, rituals and acts of kindness are equally in service of the same sacred and G-dly goal.

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